Now is the time that many retailers plan their budgets for the next year but with tight trading conditions and ever more ways to spend the budget how do they make the best investment decisions?
In the last couple of years the big investments have been refurbishing stores to make them more attractive places to shop and improving back end systems to be more efficient and flexible. In addition the last year has also seen a huge increase in the amount of money spent trialling and installing various types of new technology in stores.
The overriding priority for almost all retailers in 2013 is to get more shoppers into their stores. Once inside the store retailers want as few shoppers as possible to leave without buying anything and the average number of products purchased to increase. Various technologies such as the ability to take payments on the shop floor and even free in-store WiFi will help and in some sectors will become mandatory no matter what the ROI. Mandatory technologies have to be a high priority in 2013 and their number will increase every year. The challenge is deciding which will be mandatory, which will give a competitive edge and which are just not for their business.
The scale of investment in technologies means that retailers have to be sure that a technology is right for them before rolling out what could be multi million pound investments. This means agreeing a budget for rapidly testing and evaluating new technologies where projects can be turned on quickly without detailed cost justifications. These projects don’t just test the technology but must also produce an ROI and explain why it should or should not be rolled out to all stores. Kiosks, electronic shelf labels, screens, magic mirrors, new payment methods, interactive video, gamification, iPads, virtual reality, apps, store navigation tools and customer reviews are all potential technologies to trial.
Technology is very exciting but in terms of priorities it’s vital not to forget what customers actually see before selecting a product to purchase. It’s the paper price tickets and promotional materials at the shelf edge that give shoppers reasons to buy. If they can’t see the price, product information and specifications they simply will not buy, no matter what other great technology is around them. Getting this basic customer need right has to be very high on the priority list and for some retailers needs to be ahead of most technologies.
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