The Customer is Wired... Are You?
This week, Target announced that their customers can now upload gift card balances to their mobile device, which can then be scanned and redeemed in-store. This represents the latest addition to Target’s suite of mobile programs that also allow their customers to view online product assortments, check product availability and store locations, manage their Target gift registry and lists, browse the weekly ad, and receive text and email notifications of promotions, all via their mobile phones.
The Target initiative is yet another sign of a heated retail technology arms race and raises important questions about how or even if the independent retailer can compete in the face of it. When you add in the developments that have taken place in other technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), near field communication, augmented reality, and QR code scanning, to name only a few, it’s daunting to say the least.
I'm frequently asked what minimum level of technology small and medium sized retailers need to survive. I’m not sure that trying to achieve a minimum threshold is a productive technology strategy. Instead I feel that the technology you bring into your business (extensive or minimal, expensive or affordable) should directly support the customer experience you’re setting out to create. In other words, the correct minimum level of technology is that which enables the desired customer experience.
Start with the Experience
There's an impending “parting of the seas” taking place with respect to the nature of in-store experiences as we move into the future. It's creating an ever widening gap between what I refer to as “fully automated” experiences on one side experiences and “fully animated” experiences on the other.
The fully automated experience will involve in-store systems that enable consumers to self-manage every aspect of their shopping venture, potentially without ever seeing store staff. Each element of the shopping experience will be self-serve, seamless, and efficient. In these environments technology is the hero and is merely supported by people.Continued on the next page