Building the store of the future depends on having the vision, ambition and commitment to put in place a solid strategy to give your customers a seamless, personalised shopping experience, regardless of how they choose to shop – while simultaneously supporting both your retail staff and commercial priorities.

The first wave of in-store digital, around five years ago, saw retailers trying out kiosks, signage and connected PoS, as well as consumer apps used in-store. At that time these were seen as ‘fringe’ channels, but they drove the development of APIs which are now central to connected retail strategy.

If you want to ride the new wave of retail technology and truly build the store of the future, you can’t just buy your way into it at a superficial, ‘showy’ level with the latest devices and gadgets. Next generation retail experiences depend on a pragmatic approach to data integration and a switch to incremental benefits rather than the ‘big bangs’ of old. Technology is moving too fast to invest everything in one big project which might take many months to launch – by the time you get it off the ground it’s likely to be out of date and out of favour with customers.

Using a connected retail platform – one which integrates data and allows both existing and new systems and processes to work with each other – is a fast, cost-effective way to test out new technology. It doesn’t disrupt business as usual or involve huge amounts of support and maintenance, which should keep the IT department happy, and it shouldn’t break the bank in terms of resource or budget. What it does is allow you to ‘fail safely’ – because you can set up trials and pilots in a matter of weeks, you can build use cases for the things which work and discontinue the ones which don’t. It ticks all the corporate boxes:

  • Makes sure innovation projects are cheap (so they get signed off) and delivered quickly (so they don’t get outdated)
  • Shrinks budgets and timescales by not reinventing the wheel each time and using pre-built applications and integrations wherever possible
  • Enables continuous development on top of what already exists
  • Provides a safe way to control access to important systems and data by acting as a middle layer
  • Provides a physical and mental break from ‘business as usual’ thinking – encouraging innovation across all areas can not only lead to the discovery of interesting new ways to do things, it can also inspire and energise staff by giving them a stake in the business
  • Built-in analytics provide continuous insight and data to justify business cases and identify failures and successes
  • Enables multiple different ‘best of breed’ providers to work together, because their data can easily be integrated – payment systems, social marketing, in-store entertainment, fulfilment and so on
  • Cloud delivery and multi-purpose devices enable small scale pilots, multi-variant testing and more regular release schedules, allowing you to become a more innovative and responsive customer-focused retailer which leads the pack rather than chases it.