Technology in Retail: The Wizard Behind the Curtain

Over the past 10 weeks, we’ve looked at the threat to retail caused by COVID-19 and examined several ways retailers can not only survive but thrive in this new normal.

Now it’s time to look ahead.

In the months and years to come, I think it’s safe to say that one of three things is going to happen.

Option 1: This is just a temporary disruption and everything’s going to go back to the way it was.

Option 2: All the conveniences people are asking for today, like curbside pickup, home delivery and other services, are going to become the new way of shopping — and customers won’t come into stores much at all.

Option 3: Shoppers will still want to come into stores, but differently than they have in the past. They’ll seek out an experience they can’t get online, but with less product, fewer people, and maybe without interacting directly with a salesperson or maybe without being in touch with a salesperson the way we used to.

I like option three. I believe in option three. As a matter of fact, option three is pretty exciting and offers those of us who have built Hi-Touch retail experiences some pretty exciting opportunity.

It’s now clear that this is more than just a temporary disruption — but it doesn’t have to mean the end of in-person shopping. You can leverage digital technology to remind your customers that shopping in store is a fun and fulfilling experience.

Because right now, it isn’t. For many people, it’s just not worth the risk to come into a store today — and as those habits become increasingly ingrained, high touch retailers have got to find ways to turn the tide and inspire shoppers to return to their stores.

And the consumer’s own mobile device can (will) be the key to all of this.

Here’s the thing: everybody’s walking around with a supercomputer in their pocket that knows more about them than anything else on the planet — but we don’t ask that device to participate in the shopping experience.

Once we start to, the possibilities are limitless.

When the shopper enters the store, she can instantly be presented with offers based on the research she did before she walked in.

Or a customer can preselect the kind of stuff he wants to see on his mobile device, then find it waiting at the store for him to look at when he arrives. Sanitized. Personalized. Ready to seek the thrill of discovery.

We can take this device in people’s pockets and turn it into a super-powered sales engine by encouraging people to take their phones out of their pockets, and by using QR codes and in-store beacons and prompts to generate a flood of data that will empower you as a retailer and help you respond to the shopper as a person.

Because this isn’t just about deploying technology — it’s about using technology to make a personal connection.

It’s about making the shopping experience smoother, more personal, and more efficient. And it’s not hard to do if you’ve got the right digital tools working for you.

And The Industrious can help you get there. We’re retailers first, and we believe in leading with experience, not technology. There are lots of tech companies out there that can implement technology — we would rather delight and surprise shoppers so their neurons fire when they think of your brand.

For us, technology is the wizard behind the curtain — it’s not the reason we do it. We use it because it’s the most efficient and powerful way to shape custom experiences, and it offers almost limitless possibilities. But if the technology is out front, we’ve failed.

If technology enables the shopper’s experience and delight, and transforms their impression of your brand, we’ve succeeded.

What’s more, none of this requires a massive investment. If you have an online store or an app, you have nearly everything you need to create a fully integrated experience. What you don’t have is a design that links these things together — and that’s where The Industrious comes in.

Please get in touch. Reach out to me directly here with any questions or to let me know your thoughts — or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Andy Austin

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background