By Scott T. Reese, Harbor Retail
Imagine a potential customer walks into a retail environment and picks up a smartphone. But when the customer tests the device, the technology doesn’t work as intended and the customer leaves. The result is a negative message about the brand and a lost sale for the retailer.
Technology — whether it be a touch screen that provides information about the product or a hands-on sample — is expected to function perfectly every time a customer interacts with it. Meeting expectations is critical for a positive customer experience and brand loyalty. Annually, $98 billion is left on the table because companies don’t make the customer experience simple. Negative experiences also significantly reduce the likelihood of a repeat visit, which leaves retailers especially vulnerable.
There are several concerns regarding technology that fails to work as expected.
100 percent Uptime Is Rare
Brands and retailers often make a significant investment in maintaining display functionality in an attempt to keep in-store digital products in a functional, customer-ready fashion. Unfortunately, 100 percent uptime is rarely — if ever — achieved.
If you want to come close to 100 percent, you need to dedicate a significant amount of resources toward creating a culture of functionality. This requires a close partnership of everyone involved — the brands, retail merchants, retail operations teams, display vendors, and third-party services. The goal is having very little downtime, but this type of partnership is uncommon and difficult to execute.
As we all know, technology can be hacked. In May 2017, for example, a large touch screen display in Union Station in Washington, D.C., was hacked to stream pornographic videos. The display, intended to showcase advertisements, directories, and other information, took several minutes to turn off. A potential customer being exposed to inappropriate or offensive content can be a massive risk to a retailer's reputation, not to mention the product brands.
Retailers must insist that the customers will be protected from the hacks. If that is not possible, this should be viewed as a signal to both the retailer and the brand that the technology solutions provider is not retail ready.
Disruptions to technology displays are extremely time-sensitive, and the speed to solution is important. For retailers, backlogs in the IT department can easily be 18 to 24 months for new projects. Retailers need to be flexible, allowing for shifts in the calendar that don’t require upper management sign-off.
Technology changes quickly, and retailers and brands need to move at the same speed — if not faster. Brands often launch products that function across multiple divisions and require a new type of in-store display. Retailers must break their historical processes and project timelines to accelerate launches. The key is to find partners who can help to implement this new technology efficiently and safely.
These technology disruptions will happen, so how can you get in front of them, work through them, and move forward?
The key for retailers is establishing consistency across the brands and products they sell.
Brands, likewise, need to hold themselves accountable in the technology space and not disengage from the customer experience as soon as they drop off their product to retailers.
When retailers and brands work together, the number of technology failures and outside hacking can be significantly reduced. This results in a decreased need for IT departments to have to support existing technology and instead allows them to focus on new projects.
About The Author
Scott T. Reese is a passionate leader, a “what’s next” enthusiast, and an arbiter of progress — with the detail-oriented, get-it-done attitude needed to make sure those big ideas are actually accomplished. Scott is currently serving as chief technology officer at Harbor Retail, where he helps bring Harmonic Retail to life with intuitive Self-Healing Technology.