In the meantime, Cloud Sherpas just published this article, which has a good overview of the challenges (and opportunities!) ahead in retail.
Let's talk more about this soon. For now, here are some bullet points to consider:
- The extreme personalization trend I've written about before is finding an exciting expression: the growing realization of the coming power of artificial intelligence (AI.) Especially for lower value transactions, the day will soon arrive where an AI interface with the customer will be more satisfying to customers than one with a low-motivation, low-authority frontline staff member.
- But...you will still have real live, look-customers-in-the-eye frontline staff. A huge opportunity awaits to empower your live front line to delight customers: with more authority to make customer service decisions, more information with which to satisfy customers, and a commensurate higher wage, reflecting the high value of interpersonal sales skills.
- In the meantime, as the Cloud Sherpas article explains, there are a lot of ways to help your current staff add more to the bottom line. This means real time access to inventory information, a genuine full-view-of-the-customer-no-I-really-mean-it-this-time CRM system, and tight integration of your social media, marketing, and e-commerce presence with your bricks and mortar stores. In fact, these will build the foundation you need to welcome the future.
Remember, all this discussion is only about technology as a matter of peripheral interest. The real heart of the matter is this:
Going forward, retailers, even very large ones, have the technological power to make every visitor feel as if they have stepped into a small neighborhood shop, where they're known as an individual, valued as a friend, and treated like the most important thing in that retailer's existence. In a world of everpresent mobile access and online shopping opportunities like Amazon, that's the mandate. What will you do to take advantage of that power, and when?
By the way, the article I'm working on will present a simple report your IT department can add to your POS system and put in sales associates' hands. It won't change your life, but I estimate it will save each of your retail locations several thousand dollars a year in lost staff time and lost sales. I know this, because I was one of those associates who ranted when I spent hours of extra work because this report didn't exist.