Never before has there been such a robust market of technical solutions for retailers. Although you would think that these solutions would be accelerating the industry’s pace of innovation, this is only true for giant retailers, which poses a problem for everyone else.
The pandemic has exposed a major crack in the system’s foundation for most mid-sized retailers. The integration of these solutions is too challenging for most IT staff to deliver. We often hear retailers postpone promising touchpoint projects because they are too costly, risky, or too ambitious. This is not a recipe for success in pandemic retailing.
This blog focuses on the challenges of innovating your customers path to purchase in the current retail landscape.
Touchpoint marketplace. Back in January, we explored the exhibitors at NRF 2020 in New York to get a sense of what is now available and packaged as a software or SAAS offering. There were at least 300 companies selling point solutions, typically addressing a single customer touchpoint or use case. They ranged from chatbot to commerce, from shipping to spending, from returns to recognition, and from warehouse to warranty. These solutions are leveraging the incredible technology we have today: machine learning, mobility, facial recognition, image analytics, robotics, digital sensors, IoT, RFID, and the like. To learn more, you might want to get a copy of our Infographic identifying several dozen uses cases or customer touchpoints: LINK
To further illustrate the robustness of the touchpoint market, we looked at one of our favorite retail tech sites: LINK (www.RetailTouchpoints.com). In the last eight weeks, the site’s “Solution Spotlights” has featured 20 different solutions. All were pitching what we call “Touchpoint Solutions”, designed for retailers to enhance their shoppers’ experience. These solution areas include:
- Store productivity
- Return management
- Suggestive selling
- Customer review
- Fitting Room
- Customer call center
- Customer chat solution
- Conversation chatbot
- Geo location
- Shopping app
- Product location
- Endless aisle
- Facial recognition
- Movement tracker
- Curb side pick up
Barriers to innovation. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have brought to market well-designed, fully functional solutions concentrating on a narrowly defined retail use case. Each one brings measurable benefits. The trouble is that these solutions usually require a significant amount of data integration. You’d think that the benefits would outweigh the cost and uncertainty of the data integration project, but these projects are often delayed because internal IT resources are stretched too thin. To take full advantage of the opportunities, you must prepare the key enterprise tables that typically interact with the touchpoint solution. This is essential plumbing for the innovative retailer.
These enterprise tables typically include: Sales, inventory, associate, price, customer order, and product. That shouldn’t be much to ask, but it is for retailers who have yet to expose this data- fully synchronized, secured, and available in the cloud.
At RIBA-Aydept, we have equipped dozens of retailers with the necessary back-end infrastructure to stand up a touchpoint solution in a real retail environment. This has enabled our clients to experiment with different touchpoint solutions and fully understand the experience of their associates and shoppers. Preparing retailers for innovation is a major focus of our work.