For years the rallying cry in retail surrounded the decline of brick and mortar against the rise of online shopping. As the years have rolled by, brick and mortar has failed expectations and refused to die. This is a good thing.
In more recent times, “showrooming” has entered the buzzword battleground. This has proven to be a shorter term battle within the bigger war, but relevant nonetheless. Customers make use of brick and mortar to test drive products that they ultimately buy online for a lower price. This frustrating behavior leads the drive against digital by many retailers, and there has been enough impact to sales in certain product segments to validate it. Even so, this argument seems to be losing steam.
Fast forward to the now and we find a new movement. Traditional retail adopting and even befriending the digital not-so-new kid on the block and finding harmony. A recent posting of research by Deloitte illustrates clearly what is going on:
Our retail world is no longer in question of one versus the other, online versus physical location. There no longer needs to be a winner in how retail happens. Shoppers are in control and the more stores appeal to how they want to shop, the better sales results will be. I think the Deloitte research clearly shows that there is a payoff in enabling access to information while shoppers shop in store. For myself, I know that I am far more likely to complete a local purchase, support a local store, and avoid waiting for a delivery if I can access answers on my own.
But where can a positive swing to a negative? Well, how often do you find yourself frustrated at a place without Wifi? Or, even more frustrated that it is there but ineffective through either connectivity issues or lack of speed. What is your customers expectation? Sure, cell signals reach just about everywhere these days, but once inside the confines of concrete and steel, things become unpredictable. Businesses these days can win on a couple fronts in providing the wireless access their customers desire:
1. Avoiding brand deterioration by providing a consistent, stable, and secure way for customers to access what they want. Information that helps them make a buying decision. Information that keeps them your customer. Information that gets you sales.
2. Reporting. Do you have multiple departments? Sales areas? Would knowing how often customers shop those parts of the store be helpful? The right wireless solution with the right software can bring you more information to help make effective (and profitable) decisions around merchandising and product placement. Suddenly that free service you provide your customer is not only enabling them to shop their way and possible rewarding you with sales, but it is also bringing you in depth (yet without invading privacy) traffic and reporting data that you can use in many ways.
In the drive to digitize retail (and the world) there are many ways to allocate a budget. Converting in-store systems to mobile devices is a huge driver these days as it impacts customer experience, employee experience, and the overall brand as a result. Of course that can only happen if the multitude of other budgetary vampires are controlled enough to free up the funds in the first place. It is imperative that somewhere in the priority list room is made not only for devices, but in the infrastructure that supports the store and its customers efficiently and reliably. Once there, digital and physical can live happily together and prosper.