Chain Store Age: IT Trends in Retail

Advances in technology are changing the way that the omni-channel shopper goes about their business. Does your business have the IT processes in place to keep up with the evolving marketplace? Jill Standish, Senior Managing Director of Retail for Accenture Consulting spoke recently with Chain Store Age regarding the major IT trends facing the industry.e-commerce

Video: Standish predicts that the digital space within retail will become more and more visually oriented. And you’ll see that through the evolution of video as a means to sell product.

“I don’t just mean changes in devices, but Millennials and Gen Z get their inspiration from YouTube,” Standish said. “How do you leverage that? Video will become a means of buying goods, rather than an influencer as it still mostly is today.”

Analytics: How do retailers gather information about their customers? Beacons and in-store WiFi are a couple of ways, but retailers have to be careful to not overstep their bounds.

“How do you do analytics in such a way you don’t become creepy?” Standish asked. “At the recent Millennial 20/20 Summit in London, there was a demonstration of technology that looks at the shoes of customers as they walk into the store. You can actually get a lot of pretty accurate information about the customer based on their shoes, such as age, whether they’re male or female and even income status. And it’s not that intrusive, unlike facial recognition.”

Innovation: Standish expects that retailers will enter into more broad-based start-up pitch competitions to discover new and innovative technologies.

“The wave of the future is for retailers implementing new technology is a fast approach,” she said. “Doing things and failing fast. Try things, and if they don’t work, stop. Normally retailers pilot, then roll out.”

The yearly visit to Silicon Valley to see the new technology just won’t cut it anymore.

Fulfillment: Letting the customer decide what type of fulfillment option that they would like, or flexible fulfillment, is probably the biggest technology issue right now. That could be curbside service, in-store pickup or traditional delivery. It may be easier said than done, however. The IT processes have to be in place to meet these multiple options.

Standish further explained the importance of available inventory levels for customer access. They may be more likely to schedule an in-store pickup if they know an item is readily available. But, retailers need to invest in the back-end technology, like order and management software, to provide accurate information and capture this interested buyer.

We all understand that video will become a greater demand from shoppers, but the real question is what type of videos will shoppers demand. Omni-channel shoppers are self-sufficient and are utilizing video media to gain more insights to products/services that can solve their problems. They are looking for information, education, how-to’s, FAQ’s and troubleshooting. The manufacturer can play a significant role by producing videos that answer questions/comments that the shopper asks through consumer generated content (reviews and social media). Brands should also look at collecting shopper product testimonial videos – an authentic approach that adds tremendous credibility from the omni-channel shopper’s point of view.

Video, analytics, innovation and fulfillment are dynamic and rapid from the retailer’s point of view. Retailers are reacting constantly to shopper demands, and we’re really looking at one of the fastest-paced revolutions in history – how to accommodate such an unpredictable target. Manufacturers should not focus on which medium works best. They should focus on optimized and enhanced data and content for every product. Whatever changes in technology, channels or fulfillment come into the mix, data and content will be needed.


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