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Giovanni DeMeo is vice president of Global Marketing and Analytics at Interactions.
Wearable technology is not only changing the way in which we interact with technology, it’s also providing retailers with benefits they never thought possible.
To best explain, let me guide you through a hypothetical retail journey. As I get into my car, wearing my smart glasses, a message pops up in front of me informing me that my wife just added paper towels to our grocery list. Instantly, a message from my local grocery store appears and lets me know that not only are Bounty paper towels on sale, but also that a new shipment of Honey Crisp apples, also on my shopping list, was just rolled out onto the floor.
Once in the store, a customized shopping path pops up based on the items on my grocery list and guides me to the most efficient route. My smart glasses also notify me of in-store events, samples, and new product demonstrations. In real time, while picking up my usual canned soup, I see a message informing me that a competitor’s canned soup is on sale. As I walk through the snack aisle, I remember that one of tonight’s guests is gluten intolerant and I have to buy appropriate snacks. By simply asking my smart glasses to find gluten free items, I see over 20 gluten free items virtually floating throughout the aisle.
Think this is unlikely? Think again.
This scenario is absolutely possible given the advances in wearable technology, such as Google Glass. As consumers become accustomed to the convenience of online shopping, accessibility of product information, and the availability of new technologies, a common challenge among retailers is keeping foot traffic flowing through the doors of their brick-and-mortar locations. Shoppers are savvy, empowered by the information at their disposal, and demand convenience. They know what they want, the price they’re willing to pay, and know they have the power to choose from various retailers and hundreds of online stores.
Retailers have to be responsive, quickly adapt to changes in the ways consumers communicate, and adopt technology driven strategies to engage consumers. As wearable technology gains popularity and becomes integrated into everyday life, retailers who take advantage of wearable technology’s ability to make interactions effortless for shoppers can benefit in two ways.
The first benefit is the opportunity for retailers to establish a strong connection with shoppers. Wearable technology serves as a conduit for retailers to offer a more personalized experience than what is offered through mobile technology alone. It gives shoppers the convenience they demand, makes integration among their technologies seamless, and ultimately makes them feel understood. Communication with shoppers is done directly at all levels of the shopping cycle and content is customized based on information gathered from omnichannel sources. This ultimately results in an enhanced shopping experience and as a means to increase sales to the retailer.
The second benefit is closely associated with the first and is derived from being able to provide a unique and improved shopping experience. By synergizing the best of mobile technologies, online convenience, and the experience of in-store shopping, retailers will be able to create a revitalized in-store environment that incorporates multichannel resources and engages customers.
For example, my past purchase history indicates that I purchase steak every Friday. As I walk through the meat section, my smart glasses display a recipe for a complimentary steak side dish with photos of the exact product locations in the store. By enhancing the retail experience and making routine shopping trips to the store seamless and convenient, retailers can benefit from keeping customers engaged and driving conversion by expediting customer retail activities, and maximizing loyalty programs. The possibilities of customization truly are endless and can strengthen the retailer’s connection with the customer.
Taking direct communication one step further, retailers could soon benefit from hyper sensitive context-advertising. By tapping into the present-time activity customers partake in, retailers could offer targeted products at just the right time and without disrupting the consumer’s behavior. As I log on to my watch app to track fitness goals, for example, or check into the gym, an active gear retailer may generate a running shoe ad and choose to include a coupon to spark my interest.
All of these benefits pose one of the biggest challenges retailers face today. It’s slow to integrate new technologies with older legacy systems that most large retailers currently have in place. At the same time, it’s not easy to replace or modernize current legacy systems. But newer cloud technologies like Platform-as-a Service and Mobile Backend-as-a-Service provide cost-effective ways to enable retailers to quickly build apps from the ground up, while still maintaining the older IT infrastructure.
Switching over to something completely new may cause a few rollout headaches at first, but it really depends on the appetite for delivering a better technology experience for customers. Ultimately, retail systems built from the ground up will be the faster, more efficient way to get these new technologies out into the mainstream.
Retailers will not find benefits in the technology itself, but rather from embracing consumer’s evolving mobile lifestyle and leveraging wearable technology to provide customers with a seamless technology integration that enhances their lives and makes shopping easier. Critics argue that there is no revenue benefit or new data that arises directly from wearable technology, and dwell on the limited opportunities consumers have to use it. The truth is that technology is constantly evolving and becoming a more integral part of everyday life; wearable technology is at the forefront of the next technology wave.
Forward thinking retailers that are quick to react and embrace these changes in technology will be the first to benefit from creating a novel retail experience that engages their customers and utilizes existing data to optimize conversion and eventually drive sales. They’ll stay relevant by communicating in the ways that shoppers demand. They will also enjoy the benefits of lowering their supply management costs and increasing customer conversion by offering individualized pricing – both of which are content for a future article.