Technology Trends in Retail

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As technology transforms the retail landscape, survival in the industry is contingent on the ability to adapt. Targeted software solutions are key to accomplishing goals of maximising profit margins and reducing costs, with recent improvements designed to streamline operations and advance customer relations management. 

Updating to retail-focused business intelligence software can bring improvements in the areas of supply chain administration, inventory management, customer relations and order tracking. 

Some of the key technology trends to assist retailers in achieving these goals include the following:

Business intelligence

Recent developments in business intelligence (BI) software are set to increase the profitability of the retail industry, cutting transaction costs and improving on customer management applications. 

Retailers must make sense of massive amounts of data, including changes in sales, customer demographics, fashion trends and shifting product preferences.  Without easy analysis of this information, retailers are limited in their development of effective strategies for growth and dealing with market fluctuations.

The search for cost-effective processes has led to integrated systems and a renewed interest in analytics and BI software.  New data analytics technologies allow managers to handle expenses, improve product development and track orders. In the end, these improvements help businesses better understand and respond to customers’ needs. 

Improved mobility 

An effective mobile strategy is no longer something ‘nice to have’ but is fast becoming a necessity for retail business growth.

New developments are combining BI software with wireless technologies, allowing communication between support staff and on-site employees anywhere in the country, with ‘anytime, anywhere’ access.  Other wireless technologies are being adopted as part of the networking infrastructure to support enterprise applications such as inventory orders and file management. Fully mobile point-of-sale technologies using tablets, scanners, and credit card readers offer on-site sales representatives greater flexibility and ongoing support. 

Real-time inventory and stock control 

With the help of enterprise software solutions, retailers have greater control over inventory management.  Solution improvements have streamlined the inventory system and offer sales representatives real-time information about the products in stock. By accessing online inventory systems, staff can find real-time information about stocked items and track customers’ orders wirelessly. Other forms of inventory management software allow invoices to be billed directly to a store’s accounting system. 

Omni-channel retailing 

An omni-channel solution provides a tighter integration between the online presence and the physical store.  Multiple channels are not only assisting retailers to connect with consumers outside of the store but also increasingly, within the physical store environment.  Customers expect today’s retailers to deliver through one voice and one brand, and today’s technologies allow the customer’s experience to continue from one channel to the next. 

During the past 2-3 years, new mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have gone from zero penetration to adoption by well over half of the Australian online population.  Nielsen estimated 64% personal ownership of smartphones and 39% household ownership of tablets at the end of 2012. 

Mobile devices provide a range of opportunities to support consumers’ discovery of what to buy and where to buy it from, not to mention facilitating a means of purchase. 

Consumers want personal and engaging experiences from retailers at each touch point. Rather than diluting the store experience, the integration of channels throughout the shopper journey instead creates a strong design language that sits across all channels.  

Web stores

Over one million Australians buy goods online. Meet them there and seize new markets, greater sales and more satisfied customers.  B2C e-commerce sites allow retailers to reach previously untapped markets and consumers, in addition to enhancing the in-store experience and delivering greater convenience for customers.

With live inventory becoming more prevalent, and 60% of shoppers using the internet for pre-purchase research, retailers must at least have a meaningful online presence to remain competitive.

The emerging trends in retail-based software can be partially attributed to a response to changing economic conditions and the growing number of tech-savvy customers.

Retailers who fail to respond to market demands with advanced data management capabilities risk losing customers and sales in today’s increasingly challenging retail environment.