Big data end e-skills for successful retail businesses
Retailers should embrace big data and e-skills in a sector more and more influenced by technology.
E-commerce is not the only solution. Big data and digital skills can also help retail stores turn into success stories. Brick and mortar retail stores are not doomed to slowly disappear in the age of online shopping and m-commerce.
But retailers must embrace big data and digital skills if they want to succeed in a sector increasingly under the influence of modern technologies, according to an UK government report, entitled Sector Insights: skills and performance challenges in the retail sector.
The retail business should adopt big data and digital skills from the supply chain management up to fitting rooms and store shelves.
Big data can be collected thanks to the loyalty cards and online activities: they play a significant role in marketing products, in building up a relationship with the customer and creating customer loyalty as well as increasing sales. Being able to analyze this data can improve supply chain efficiency and increase revenues.
The store itself is also a source of intelligence. Sales assistants carrying tablets to assist customers (e.g. checking stock availability, ordering products) can also be tracked and the data used for understanding and improving the customer experience.
But retailers should pay more attention to hiring employees with digital ant IT-C skills in order to be able to seize the opportunities the new digital wave brings about, such as advertising on social media and viral marketing.
Web 2.0 has been providing new marketing opportunities including consumer endorsements with many retailers’ websites offering customer review facilities. This creates a demand for skills in data management, web creation and design, community management and is valid for businesses of all sizes. For smaller companies in particular, online forums are a growing means by which businesses can increase visibility and exchange information.
The integration of new star hardware technologies such as self-service check-out and “browse and order” hubs in store are forcing the staff to learn every day new sophisticated technologies.
The in-store technologies require diversification. Advanced technologies are used to interact with customers face-to-face and to guide them in online via mobile and tablet. Staff in store should be familiar with the website if there is one, be able to assist on the browsing hubs, to recommend apps and online services, but could also be carrying iPads to act as assisted sellers to keep the shopping experience even outside the store, maybe looking for competitive prices.
“Browse and order” hubs for example allow users to browse the catalogue or scan barcodes on items and explore product the respective product information ; they are also familiarizing offline customers with the online catalogue.
Virtual rails are the high tech version of browsing hubs- floor to head height screens, touch-enabled, that allow customers to swipe through the catalogue looking for outfit inspiration and that will recommend matches to items that have been scanned or selected.
The debut of Apple Pay has brought into the spotlight contactless payments and m-payments. Even in classical stores we will see payments via iPhone or Apple Watch. Samsung Pay and Android Pay are on their way. And retail needs to be ready for the challenge of cashless payments.