IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Personalization, Customer Bonding Experience Drive Retail Tech Spend in 2018

Brick-and-mortar retailers can still be competitive in an online world. By Ellen Muraskin

CHANNEL PROS WHO SPECIALIZE in retail know that most big tech purchases tend to come early in the year, so deployments are ready for the end-of-year shopping crunch. That means the time to start investigating the kinds of solutions retail clients are likely to be purchasing in 2018 is now.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, those are likely to include systems aimed at bonding with customers through personalized and streamlined in-store shopping experiences. It’s no secret that store operators feel the heat from Amazon, which has cut where the effort involved in looking elsewhere—or everywhere—to mere keystrokes. Solutions that optimize and enhance previously implemented customer-facing technologies will therefore be in high demand next year.

Mobile point-of-sale products are another good bet for the year ahead, according to Carl Mazzanti, CEO of eMazzanti Technologies, an MSP in New York with a significant base of retail customers. His firm has been selling a growing number of “mPOS” solutions lately thanks to improved reliability and battery life, not to mention price points and device weights that have become more attractive to SMBs. The ability to pay wherever you’re standing using mobile devices takes the wait and the pinballing out of in-person shopping, Mazzanti notes: “You don’t have to go to multiple counters anymore.”

Technology contributes to customer satisfaction in other ways as well. A National Retail Federation survey finds that 75 percent of online buyers pick up their purchases in-store, and that they want notifications—preferably by SMS—when their order is ready. Solutions that synchronize e-commerce and inventory tracking can help retailers meet those expectations.

Information Is Essential

As retailers begin improving the customer experience, “they need a feedback loop,” says Mazzanti, which is bringing analytics into play. “What is the [physical] browse time? How many people are entering? What placement is working best?” he asks.

Store owners want that data fast. They used to buy inventory six to nine months in advance, but retailers like Zara and H&M now want suppliers manufacturing what’s hot in their stores today.

“If you adjust product mix closer to the time of purchase, you can protect the brand, have fewer sample sales, and lessen discounting,” Mazzanti notes. “We can build them a data warehouse and use Microsoft Power BI or Cognos, Jet Reports or SQL [Server] reporting services to do data modeling.”

Experiential technologies that retailers will be eyeing next year include traffic counters, on-demand ads, geo-targeted coupons, and cross-selling suggestions at the credit terminal. Augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and self-checkout are further out in the pipeline as well, according to analysts at Forrester Research.

About the Author

Ellen Muraskin is a freelance writer based in Morris Plains, N.J.


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