Success in business means being able to constantly anticipate what’s coming next and adapt to those changes before they make their impact. This is how a company can stay current, avoid pitfalls and spot opportunities ahead of the competition.
If you run a retail store then there’s a good chance that you won’t have paid that much attention so far to modern technology. The web may be stealing some of your customers, but other than that you possibly haven’t thought much about how new gadgets and connectivity affect your business. This is all going to have to change though moving forward as there will soon be a slew of developments particularly with regards to mobile technology that will affect the retail industry in a big way. As a shop owner your challenge is to watch these developments and to be prepared for the changes they’ll bring…
NFC stands for ‘Near Field Communication‘, and it’s important for shop owners because it allows for wireless transactions using mobile phones. This is something that Starbucks is already taking advantage of – with the Starbucks app smartphone owners can now pay for their drinks by swiping their phone which is even more practical than having to get out their debit card while allowing Starbucks to collect more useful data and provide all kinds of rewards for customer loyalty. Eventually the majority of stores will use NFC, so make sure you’re one of the first rather than one of the last.
Something a little more science fiction meanwhile is augmented reality. Essentially this describes hardware and software used in conjunction with the aim of displaying digital information over the top of live footage/sound. The way this could work for stores is to allow a smartphone user to hold up their phone to look at the high street in front of them (using the built-in camera) and then see all the special offers and exciting products that each store had. Some apps already exist that try to do this such as ‘Layar’ and ‘Wikitude‘, but the concept is likely to explode once Google Glass is released. Again you want to make sure you are there when it happens so you can take advantage of this brilliant marketing opportunity before there’s too much competition to stand out. You don’t want to be the only store on Google Glass that doesn’t have any special offers on display…
It’s also important for stores to pay attention to the mobile devices themselves and the tablets and smartphones that are being released. This is relevant because of the many uses that these technologies have in stores – from being used as self-checkout kiosks to POS systems/tills. Many companies for instance are now using iPads in both these roles, which allows them to serve customers in a more natural way and to clear up space. These devices are only likely to get more powerful though and more compact, so that eventually you can manage your entire store with a palm-sized screen. The more you stay on the cutting edge, the better the experience you’ll be offering customers and the quicker you’ll be able to start taking advantage of faster turnovers.
The mobile app scene is one that every business should already be interested in and if you don’t have an app already then it’s very much worth getting one. The best mobile apps will allow your customers to browse your stock, to find your store, to make pre-orders (click and collect is something that is very beneficial to offer) and even to make transactions in person as is the case with the Starbucks app.
In short then, mobile technology is already changing the way that stores do business and this is only likely to increase with time. As a shop owner it’s crucial that you stay up to date with these changes 9lest you fall behind…