Technology is a funny thing.  It can creep up on you without you noticing.  Omni-Channel retailing is upon us.  Retailers must embrace the change or face declining sales.

I remember hearing a friend describe their experience in a bush fire, they had expected the fire front to approach them and be able to deal with it head-on.  What actually happened was the wind caught embers and blew them ahead setting of little spot fires.  These spot fires appeared as if from nowhere, to the left, the right and behind them.  Before long they were surrounded and the spot fires had grown and merged before being joined by the main fire front.

Smart phones, QR codes, online retailers, Facebook, blogs, Twitter.  They are all spot fires.

For the uninitiated the stealth attack is happening.  Companies that are technology phobic or marginalise the IT department to a dim corner of the office need to beware.  No longer is the technology push coming from within.  Consumers are out-smarting retailers.

We’ve  seen technology waves previously.  First it was the POS, the dot.com boom/bust , then the need of integrated end-to-end systems.  Each of these technology pushes were driven by the retailers either trying to improve efficiencies or clamber for new markets.

With Omni-channel retailing the consumer is in the driving seat.  Smart phones, the internet, social media; they all give power to the consumer.  The new generation shopper is savvy, they can check online for prices and availability.  Read tweets and blogs to gain consumer advice and recommendations.  They are armed with information and are mobile.

What is the answer?  Change brings opportunity and the smart retailer will embrace the technology by living the consumer’s world.  No longer can a retailer rely on one outlet or traditional techniques.  They must have a multi-pronged connection to their consumer base, combining tied and tested approaches with new ways.  This means embracing the technology wave and getting on the front foot.

Technology needs to be at the heart of the retailers business.  The website must be relevant and match the in-store experience, Twitter and Facebook.   The SharePoint intranet needs to be linked to CRM and marketing programs.  Loyalty programs need to be integrated.  Sales and inventory data needs to be collected and analysed.  Blogs sites and consumer website sites need to be monitored.

At face value if none of this is presently underway it can appear daunting.  However, breaking this down into technology chunks that form an overall platform is achievable and produces a robust model for the next generation of retailing.

To find out more about facing the changing retail landscape and how to embrace technology go to www.pa.com.au.

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