As shoppers swop brand loyalty for speed and convenience, how can retailers use technology to ensure their in-store offer is up to scratch?

It’s a nightmare scenario for any retailer. There’s been a mistake with a customer’s click-and-collect order, and you now have an angry customer waiting on the shop floor impatiently because they ‘need it now’ – while your staff are rushed off their feet trying to find the missing product in the stock room.

“The retailers successfully gaining our custom are the ones that make shopping as convenient as possible and technology is often the driving force behind this”

Craig Bevan

I’m sure most of us can recall a time when we’ve had a bad experience with a retailer. It’s these experiences that are harder to forget and there’s enough competition out there to make it easy for consumers to go elsewhere.

Consumers today have choice and transparency about the products they buy, the prices they pay and the channels they use. Consumers are task-heavy and time-poor. As a result, traditional brand loyalty as we know it is becoming a thing of the past – replaced in favour of convenience.

The retail industry needs to acknowledge that shoppers are beginning to favour retailers that can match their lifestyles. It therefore stands to reason that the retailers successfully gaining our custom are the ones that make shopping as convenient as possible and technology is often the driving force behind this.

So what should retailers do to encourage customers to come back?

Facilitate instant decisions

The time between deciding to purchase and payment is getting shorter. When a shopper picks up an item, they want to pay for it instantly rather than join a lengthy queue.

In response, retailers need to be providing choice for shoppers on where and how they want to pay.

To be even more convenient, mobile payment options enable customers to skip the physical check-out if they are only picking up a few items, while still offering the cashier option if the customer prefers face-to-face interaction.

Integrate your systems

Retailers are discovering the benefits of having the right back-end systems in place to support customer convenience – as well as the dangers of operating without them.

It’s convenient for customers to check stock online, and then quickly locate the product when they arrive in-store.

If all goes well they may repeat the process in the future, but if the stock and merchandise management system isn’t up to the task, or if staff in-store can’t help locate the product, they will easily get frustrated and go elsewhere.

Get your staff up to speed

Consumers are researching before, and during, their browse in-store. So staff adoption of technology is increasingly important. Data can be used by staff to notify who their customers are and what they are looking for; improving the experience, increasing convenience and, hopefully, inspiring loyalty.

Customer priorities are changing and understanding these will be key to the industry keeping pace with their expectations. Convenience is now the driving force behind sales. Get it wrong and your customer may never come back. Get it right again and again and that customer might just become a loyal one.

  • Craig Bevan is managing director of UK & Ireland retail at Wincor Nixdorf