Have Tech, Will Shop

In a recent study conducted by the Newton Upper Falls, Mass.-based Retail Systems Alert Group, retailers reported that their No. 1 store-related challenge was responding to customer complaints about the in-store experience. Since bricks-and-mortar retailers are still barely rating a C+ in customer service, they clearly have reason to be concerned.

All retailers, including “retail winners,” or those who outperform their peers in year-over-year comparable-store sales, are concerned about these complaints. And the phenomena of social networking, open blogs and other Internet-related forums are making those complaints accessible to current and future customers.

While overcoming these kinds of challenges is not easy, retail winners appear to have found a key to improving the in-store shopping experience: They are empowering their employees and customers with technology.

While most retailers believe the best opportunity available to improve the in-store experience is through a mix of bringing the right product to the right location at the right time and for a reasonable price, a definitive 90% of retail winners said they are improving customer satisfaction by educating and empowering their in-store employees through the use of technology.

In addition, these same retail winners believe the second-greatest opportunity for improving the in-store experience is adding self-service customer-facing technologies ranging from self checkout to self-service kiosks, so that customers can take care of themselves.

Make no mistake that this data does not discount that in the minds of these retail winners, product mix and personalized attention from employees is still important. More importantly, this group believes that their primary opportunities lie in using technology to facilitate the in-store shopping experience.

Along with providing technological support to employees and customers, the most critical step a retailer can take toward becoming more customer-centric and improving their top line is to get store management back on the selling floor.

This can be a successful business strategy as long as retailers can provide their managers with the critical data and alerts they need to respond to events that may be beyond their line of sight. This point alone highlights the critical importance of adding mobility applications at store level.

Michelle Pagliarulo is research manager of Newton Upper Falls, Mass.-based Retail Systems Alert Group.