New thinking for the new age of commerce
Customer journeys are in the midst of a fundamental shift. Where once consumers could only buy at a manned register in-store (mail order purchases aside), there are now myriad ways to pay and engage; think social media browsing, online ordering, scan and go shopping, home deliveries… or any combination thereof.
But while today’s customer journeys have blurred the lines between physical and digital, are retailers really ready to serve their customers in a more social, interactive, globalized, and brand-aware 24/7 environment? PCMS Chief Digital Officer Tanya Bowen discusses how the use of unifying technology will determine tomorrow’s winners and losers.
What’s keeping retailers awake at night?
“Change. It’s everywhere and coming at a speed we’ve never seen before. Retailers have an incredible range of new technology and consumer behavior to get their heads around. To give just three examples of seismic technology trends in retail: ‘conversational commerce’ is enabling sales via the use of chatbots or smart home voice recognition, ‘immersive commerce’ is using technology such as Endless Aisle to build and convert demand, and ‘thing commerce’, where fridges and household items auto-order products via the Internet of Things (IoT), to automate sales. Each one of those capabilities requires new thinking about technology and business models. The pace of change can seem overwhelming. But it’s full of opportunity, too.”
How do retailers get onto the front foot?
“Aside from some experimental efforts, to date much of the digital investment in retail has been to ‘catch-up’ with consumers’ busy lifestyles; for example accelerating purchases during lunchtime peaks through self-scan technology, or Click and Collect. But the true innovators – those leading the pack – are the businesses that are thinking way ahead. They’re the ones adopting flexible commerce platforms that will allow them to become more capable now, but innovate and influence consumer behaviour long-term.”
Who stands to benefit from this new technology most?
“Customers – which is how it should be! But unifying technology into a new age of Engaged Commerce is a win-win for everyone. Consumers are already enjoying swifter, more satisfying, more compelling and consistent shopping experiences. Soon they will be much better rewarded for their loyalty, and engaging more personally with their favourite brands. For retailers, the benefits are legion: massive cost savings, more understanding and control over customer journeys, opportunities to reach new audiences at minimal cost, and a more empowered and engaged workforce. Retail employees will also stand to benefit.”
How are retailers reacting?
“As with any big shift, we can see the early adopters experimenting and gaining ground. These early adopters tend to be the biggest retailers and shopping destinations, those that have large numbers of consumers and partners. Typically, they already have a sound customer-first strategy and allocated investment for innovation. Part of this early adoption is driven by new technology, but part is also prompted by the threat of (relatively) new entrants such as Amazon or Alibaba. The big challenge is connecting the dots between siloed systems – and that’s where PCMS comes in.”
How has PCMS adapted to the changes in retail?
“We know retailers want to achieve true Engaged Commerce; open and collaborative platforms that give them fluidity for innovation and easy access to appropriate sources of customer, product, order and basket/cart services. To do this, silos need to be forgotten. PCMS has been building platform capabilities for some time. For several years now, we have been enabling our customers to tap into rich microservices to provide a unified basket for numerous channels to access. We support our clients with out-of-the-box solutions that tap into our Engaged Commerce, but are equally supportive to clients who are looking to develop their own apps that leverage PCMS microservices technology.
Underpinning it all, retailers have three key needs: easy access to clever technology which is open and non-proprietary; flexibility of choice for colleague and consumer apps that tap into Engaged Commerce microservices; and collaborative partners that share their goals and digital vision and have the expertise to enable it to happen. We’ve looked at these three core needs, and over many years have shifted our business model to become true digital enablers, offering rich microservices; out-of-the-box apps such as Endless Aisle and consumer scan/pay/go; and best practice services to share our learnings and innovate with our customers.”
What are some of the misconceptions around adopting new technology systems?
“That technology on its own will solve a business challenge. Often, business process is the most profound change a retailer needs to make, not necessarily the technology stack. Another misconception is that it’s difficult. There are some amazing out-of-the-box solutions available. We’ve shown that proof of concept trials can be achieved in-store in an agile and flexible manner. These showcase real, quickly-realized benefits, for example making more floor space available through consumer-enabled mobile scan/pay/go solutions that remove fixed registers and cut long queuing times.”
Any final thoughts?
“The retail technology of tomorrow is all about togetherness. That means eCommerce, social, in-store, mobile and emerging channels that can cleverly shake hands with each other. Why? To deliver a fluid, frictionless experience for the consumer, and our retail colleagues, especially those interacting with the consumer. Critically, for retailers, their channels must create, and take demand from anywhere and seamlessly convert that to a sale. And that key step, from ‘basket build’ to ‘purchase made’, without the silos, means PCMS.”
++ Tanya and the rest of the senior PCMS team will be at the Retail In Rhythm conference in Nashville in April. To book an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.