It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, we lived and enjoyed a physical store only experience of shopping. However, more recently commerce is going through a major upheaval as it flows towards distributed channels via mobile phones, social apps, in-store experiences among several others – all supported by disruptive technology. This is why it is integral for retailers to think ahead of the curve to prove out the innovator’s dilemma – When new technologies cause great firms to fail. It’s now survival of the fittest and it isn’t getting any easier.

So what can we do?

I’ve listed out 8 principles that pave the path to a successful roadmap for a retailer to become more like a disruptive tech firm:

    1. Platform Thinking: Traditionally a linear-flow of information exchange between customers and the brands has been the dominant way to engage. Unlike older times, platforms in this day & age of internet do not solely just create information & push them out. This enables users to interact, create & derive value from their system. A platform also allows you to extend functionalities with API and best in class capabilities of 3rd party solutions. Hence, when you build your e-commerce destination as a platform, integrating best in class search and pricing, you can easily bring personalization on-board.
    2. Math to the rescue: You’ve created a platform. Great? But is your platform enabled to collect data? Today, like e-tailers, brick & mortar stores are taking a leaf out of their book and using analytics from sensors, beacons and even e-store information to improve in-store experiences. By joining the dots between data & analytics, brands are able to better understand consumer needs & behavior, improve customer experience by analyzing purchases and past history, store traffic patterns, employee performance – significantly contributing to a great omni-channel strategy.
    3. Your store speaks for you: 71% of smartphone users say their device has become increasingly more important to their shopping experience in-store. So how can retailers capitalize on this behaviour and grab those purchases? Imagine a customer who is in the vicinity of your store automatically receives a notification on a sale? Or places like Coffee on Canvas, a restaurant which doubles up as a place to work, a community table, a place where people can eat together & exchange ideas. Overall, once inside your physical store, consumers want more of a personalized experience, using devices as the fastest path to research additional products they are already considering.
    4. Organized innovation: It all comes down to the basics. Providing the customer value that wasn’t present earlier. For new age successful retailers, weaving in innovation, process and technology is the core of their business. This refers to new or differentiated ways that the retailer delights the shopper across all touch points. What companies like Apple, Facebook and Nike are doing right is to attract a winning mix of talent that spreads across disciplines and nurtures a non-linear, interactive organizational structure. Try to innovate in the space of identifying better customer experience, building an omni-channel approach by syncing in your brick & click purchases and building great products.
    5. Go High Tech: Leverage high end technology to tackle every challenge thrown up by your customer. Whether its touch screen or swipe, what this means is anticipating what the customer might expect from your product and enabling the product of providing this expectation exactly to suit their needs. This builds trust & confidence and makes their next action easier.
    6. Not just features & Prices: If you carefully look at Amazon, you will notice that their customer experience is constantly being altered to make purchases through its store convenient with the click of a button, as compared to making purchases from a physical store down the street. What we notice is that the marketplace does not just leverage technology to speed the process of selection, ordering, payment and delivery, but also by automatically comparing products for customers, retaining shipping and payment preferences and anticipating what you might need in the market of the future.
    7. Release and tweaks: Tech companies often focus on rushing solutions to market and then work on improving them based on real-time usage and customer feedback. The process enables these companies to both innovate—and improve—while deepening relationships with users by actively listen and respond to their needs. This is why many firms have stopped treating their websites as static creations and have started experimenting with them and adjusting to user analytics instead.
    8. Provide affirmation: Consider how tech giant Apple is so high on customer delight. Not only does each product comes packaged in a way that makes a purchase feel like a special gift, there are affirming emails and enthusiastic support staff in the company’s stores who congratulate you on your choice. This builds great enthusiasm & the feel good factor, a great way to increase customer experience.

The true modern retail is all about the blend of design, technology, products, brand, constant experimentation, and a seamless integration into the consumers’ life, regardless of whether they are online or your physical store.  While there’s always an element of uncertainty to the future and sudden disruptions can change everything, the above is a glimpse into what lies ahead in the world of commerce. Innovative technology will drive change and create new ways for consumers to shop online and in-stores. Retailers must respond to emerging trends and continue to keep pace with brisk changes in the commerce space.

Mark your calendars for 1st Sep, 2015 as Kuliza will be at the iMedia Summit for an all exclusive workshop ‘How Technology, Design and Product mindset can help retailers create smart e-commerce stores’. Don’t forget to register yourself! Kuliza builds world class digital products for commerce & media centric businesses.