Retail is advancing to better serve the customers’ expectations for an efficient, fulfilling shopping experience in an omnichannel retail ecosystem. Technology is a big driver of this advancement, allowing retailers to stay abreast of quickly changing consumer tastes, preferences, and expectations.

To keep up with the changes, many retailers have added new systems to their technology portfolios. While it makes sense to adopt technology one step at a time, your technology platforms should be seen as one, harmonious retail ecosystem, with each part supporting the other to provide a seamless shopping experience for customers.

  • Infographic

Retail Ecosystem Infographic

Just for you! An infographic that shows the way to omnichannel retailing.

What is a Retail Ecosystem?

A retail ecosystem is the term used to describe all of the hardware and software a business uses to run retail operations. It is most often applied to an integrated omnichannel strategy where the systems used to run the retail business like the ERP, point of sale, CRM, eCommerce engine, mPOS, loyalty programme, and marketing platforms are all integrated together so that data is shared for increased operational visibility.

When technology systems operate independently of each other, you can improve the customer experience, but the results will be limited. When systems work together, you can unleash the power of your retail ecosystem to help deliver more for your customers.

The Building Blocks of a Retail Ecosystem

iVend Retail conducted a survey of more than 2,700 shoppers worldwide to help retailers better understand exactly where they should focus their efforts to create a thriving retail ecosystem. In addition to making sure that the ERP is integrated with your retail management system, here are some recommendations of where to focus your ecosystem building efforts.

Building Block 1: The Point of Sale

You can win or lose customers at checkout. Delays, long lines, and obsolete payment methods add friction to the customer experience, which will reflect poorly on your brand.

According to the iVend survey:

  • 83 per cent of customers value quick and easy checkout above all else
  • 44 per cent prefer self-checkout stations
  • 39 per cent prefer contactless payments and mobile wallets

For retailers, a modern POS system that integrates with ERP helps companies get better visibility into forecasting, inventory and supply. For example, when POS, inventory and financial systems are linked, each sale automatically subtracts the stock items from inventory, and can trigger other activities, such as reordering.

Building Block 2: Mobile POS

Mobile POS for store associates is becoming a big attraction for customers. Last year, about half of consumers looked for sales associates armed with mPOS devices. This year, that number shot up 84 per cent. Clearly, this is a big opportunity for any retailer that wants to build customer loyalty.

The most common services customers look for in mPOS is fast checkout or payment processing (57 per cent), check availability of inventory (47 per cent), and arranging to have items shipped to their home (46 per cent). About one quarter of shoppers also ask for purchasing suggestions and inquire about their purchase history.

Building Block 3: Digital Passes

Digital passes connect customers directly to your retail ecosystem by sending them digital coupons, gift cards, loyalty cards, sales updates, and special offers. As more shoppers use their smartphones for more convenience, digital passes help you deliver the convenience they want.

Customers can save digital passes in their digital wallet, such as Apple Wallet or Android Pay, which can be redeemed at any point of sale.

Digital passes help retailers market targeted and relevant digital offers without the hassle of a custom mobile application. Offers can even be delivered based on a customer’s location, for example, if they’re near a store.

Building Block 4: Loyalty Cards

The survey showed that 83 per cent of global consumers use loyalty cards to earn discounts and freebies, up from 65 per cent last year. More than one-third use loyalty rewards for exclusive product updates, one-quarter like access to VIP events and benefits, and about one-fifth like loyalty rewards because they are fun.

Building Block 5: eCommerce

Who would have thought that giving ecommerce customers the option to pick up in-store would be popular? Well, it is, and it’s an opportunity to give the customer a great in-store experience. This year, there was a 62 per cent increase in customers opting for in-store pick up, mostly to save on shipping.

When technology solutions work together, the synergies can facilitate a higher level of in-store service. By integrating omnichannel retail systems, retailers can attain a successful retail ecosystem that improves the shopping experience and builds customer loyalty.

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