Our fearless leader, Adam Roozen, recently sat down with Adam Shapiro of Mozu to talk retail technology (“to talk shop,” one might say). Adam posed a number of questions to Adam, and Adam’s responses shed some light onto the direction of retail technology and where it might go in 2015. You might have noticed that the previous sentence was purposefully confusing, but to be clear, the following are the thoughts of our own Adam Roozen.
The bridge between digital and physical is finally being built in a meaningful way. While ideas and excitement have been around for many years, the technology is beginning to emerge in a market-ready way. Simple examples are Apple Pay, Uber and Cover. Newer entrants include interfaces that extend the in-store experience by appending it with digital inventory (Echidna is building one for a new start-up) and enabling payment by digitally-stored payment methods.
Similarly, wearable technology is appearing in some retail locations, specifically fitness locations. This wearable technology is streamlining membership validation, access to facilities, and even food and equipment payments.
The worldwide web itself started a phenomenon that is being replicated across apps, wearable tech, the internet of things, and various other connected technologies. The burden of entry to the market is relatively low, enabling a tidal wave of new technologies. Simple awareness and triage of all of these options is cumbersome for all retailers.
Specific to the implementation phase, flexibility of platforms remains a hurdle. As online commerce becomes more defined, more platforms are implementing best practices into a one-size-fits-all platform. They can offer a rock-bottom cost to retailers, so retailers are piling onto these platforms. Unfortunately, as retailers adopt these low-cost platforms, they lose flexibility. They are literally not technically able to implement new technologies due to the platform’s limitations.
NFC payments continue to be hyped, but we don’t see any traction. Apple Pay is a major question mark. Will it revolutionize in-store payments, or will it falter due to security concerns and consumer density issues?
This one will be a surprise to most people. In our usability studies, we noticed a lot of people using their browser’s ability to store credit cards. For years, companies have attempted to create digital wallets so users didn’t have to re-enter their credit card number on every site they shop. What they’ve struggled with — distribution — browsers have in spades. We are seeing more people store their credit card in their browser instead of using other digital wallet tools. Overall, this removes significant friction from the checkout process for all websites.
Find a partner who has “been there and done that”. Technology is continuing to evolve into “self-service” products to reduce implementation complexity. That doesn’t mean there isn’t complexity. It is common for a retailer to underestimate complexity by overlooking considerations due to lack of experience integrating technologies. While even agency partners have learning curves and run into issues, the magnitude of the learning and the issues is typically significantly lower, reducing cost and time-to-market for the retailer.
This answer needs to be tailored to a retailer’s specific goals and capabilities. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. There is, however, a lowest common denominator that all retailers can pursue. It all starts with the integration of systems and data. Whether that means consolidating systems and data into a master system, or aggregating systems and data via a new layer in the technology stack, it is a critical step to either consolidate or aggregate systems and data. It is important for a retailer to consider whether they want to consolidate or aggregate by modifying their existing systems, or whether it is more impactful to move to a new system altogether to facilitate the consolidation.