I just returned from the National Retail Federation (NRF) Retail’s BIG Show in New York City January 15-17. It was a very successful show, full of energy — and full of people! This year’s unseasonably mild weather seemed to bring a bigger crowd to the Javits Center to walk the floor and see the latest retail software solutions and other innovations that can help retailers grow their businesses.

Meeting with retailers and other players in the industry year after year at the BIG Show, I noticed a few ways retailers’ relationship with retail technology is changing. Here are three notable omnichannel retail trends this year:

A Different Vocabulary

Retailers are beginning to talk about retail technology in different terms. For the first time this year, retailers stopping at our booth were looking for “omnichannel retail software solutions” not “point of sale” or “POS” solutions. When I drilled down a little and asked specifically what they were looking for, it turned out some really only wanted POS, but many were looking for ways to manage connected retail such as Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS) or consistent customer experiences across channels.

Old: Omnichannel = eCommerce. New: Omnichannel = BOPIS

A few years ago, retailers equated adding an eCommerce channel as joining the ranks as an omnichannel retailer. Now there is a general understanding that there’s more to omnichannel than just having different channels: They need to work together in the sense of connected commerce.

BOPIS is a growing trend. Our 2016-2017 Great Omnichannel Expectations Shopper Survey Report reveals that, now, more than 57% of North American consumers have ordered online for in-store pickup. Our research also found that although 67.8% of online shoppers describe their experiences as “smooth,” only 31.6% of shoppers consider in-store collection of items ordered online as a smooth process.

Retailers want to master BOPIS and provide the great customer experiences shoppers are looking for, but it’s obvious that this is a first step for many retailers into the omnichannel world. Much more can be done to connect channels so when the shopper’s journey takes a customer from channel to channel and from device to device, the overall experience is one that will delight customers, increase sales, and help build loyalty.

Retailers Need the Nuts and Bolts of Retail Technology First

Retail’s BIG Show is a prime opportunity to see what’s new in the world of retail technology. Retailers had the chance to explore how advancements in automation, robotics, virtual reality, and various retail software solutions can impact the retail environment.

Retailers, however, seem reluctant to “rip and replace” to upgrade from current systems to new tech. They are more likely to migrate to new technology in stages to avoid disruption to their business processes — and probably to avoid the shock of having to learn a completely new system all at once. The problem with is plan, however, is that retailers can sometime find themselves with disparate systems that don’t work together and aren’t integrated, which can keep their data siloed and slow down customer service.

I was impressed by a Tier 4 retailer planning to expand who spoke with us and expressed interest in finding the right system now, before their business grew larger. They were wise enough to know it’s important to have the basics, such as a single inventory stock pool and a central source of data to fuel all channels, to assure scalability —  and before adding the bells and whistles.

Progress in the Right Direction

A media representative asked me during an interview if omnichannel really is possible. The answer is yes, with the right retail software solutions and the right strategies. It was good to see retailers this year making progress toward the omnichannel “ideal” of seamless engagement across channels and developing a complete picture of customers based on all the ways they engage with a brand.

A great place to start when you want to improve the customer experiences your omnichannel retail provides is understanding what customers want. Our 2016-2017 Great Omnichannel Expectations Shopper Survey Report is filled with valuable insights that can help you steer your business in the right direction. Download the report and contact us to learn how technology can help you deliver on shopper expectations.

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