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Advances in retail systems

Posted: 28 Nov 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:retail technology? Customer Relationship Management? Content Management System? CMS? LCDs?

The latest developments in retail technology are delivering greater power for companies to communicate with audiences and customers, deliver targeted messages that save advertising spend, recognise returning customers, personalise offers, and measure results.

In addition, important powerful technologies now available to consumers, such as the mobile web, location services and social media, present both opportunities and challenges to retailers. Location services, for example, provide the possibility to present offers to customers in the vicinity of a store, while social networking provides a convenient channel for customers to share information and opinions about their purchases. Accordingly, retailers must establish strong presence in an increasing number of channels, and ensure customers perceive a superior experience at every 'touch point'.

An interesting trend is the transition from multi-channel retailing across physical stores, catalogues, telephone sales and online to a new approach based around the notion of the omni-channel shopper. Omni-channel shoppers use all available channels, including mobile, simultaneously to access the goods and services they need. This type of shopper is an attractive target for retailers; purchases researched on the internet and then completed in store outnumber e-commerce sales by as much as four to one according to some sources. Omni-channel shoppers are also reckoned to spend around 15-30% more than other customers.

New technology in-store
Clearly, in-store remains a popular channel for today's shoppers, despite the rise of online commerce and internet-only retailers. But the environment is changing, not only providing a more up to date and compelling customer experience but also ensuring consistency with other channels and connecting more closely with individuals. The changes can be seen in increasing use of interactive fixtures providing access to online information and digital signage offering promotions and messages that are tailored to certain audiences and consistent with other channels. Retailers are also equipping employees with advanced technology such as handheld devices for logging customer requirements and quickly checking stock levels on-site or at other stores in the network.

With such changes now in progress, it is critical for retailers to have a competent technology platform supporting the convergence of multiple activities such as transaction processing, loyalty/gift-card handling, inventory management and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). By connecting activities such as these, retailers are able to manage inventory in real time, create better promotions and sell-through strategies, recognise returning customers and deliver more consistent, personalised and rewarding experiences.

Platform for converged commerce
Historically, the industry has been moving towards the ideal of delivering a seamless experience through the adoption of bespoke systems developed closely with dedicated technology partners. Although successful, in terms of achieving functional objectives, projects can demand heavy commitment of time and resources on the part of the retailer. Solutions also tend to be expensive financially, and slow to develop. Using off-the-shelf retail-oriented software such as Microsoft SQL Server supporting intelligent capabilities and Windows Embedded POSReady, which is optimised for retail applications, developers can now realise individually tailored retail-system solutions quickly and cost effectively.

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