The competition from e-commerce and demand from consumers for speed and convenience is vastly raising consumer expectations for the in-store shopping experience.
Retailers will adopt three critical technology solutions to attract customers back to the store: 1) wayfinding, 2) mobile/ kiosk payments, and 3) Internet of Things (IoT) logistics platforms, according to CBRE’s latest dive into the retail tech experience.
As more retailers use these technologies to drive sales, digital connectivity will play a significant role in delivering network speed, security and convenience expected by today’s customers.
“Convenience is repeatedly cited as the number one reason consumers shop online. Long lines and inadequate parking are the top reasons why consumers avoid the store. From mobile payment platforms to digital mall maps to parking sensors, tech investments should make shopping easier and more enjoyable for the consumer,” says Melina Cordero Managing Director of Retail Capital Markets at CBRE.
1) Enhancing In-Store Experience Via Wayfinding
As shoppers look to save time, occupant wayfinding solutions are expected to play a significant role in enabling indoor customer experience in malls and retail locations.
In-store shoppers download wayfinding apps on their smartphones and use built-in cellular 3G/4G service to get updated maps, transfer analytic data, install updates to the software.
For this reason, providing a robust cellular network inside retail locations is more important than ever.Many wayfinding solutions in the market today rely heavily on remote servers to provide directions which means they require fast and always-on connectivity. If that connection goes down, wayfinding will stop working- impacting customer experience.
And while both Wi-Fi and LTE cellular connectivity can serve as networking solutions, LTE cellular connectivity is often a better option. A cellular connection is more reliable than Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which require transmitters or access points every couple of hundred feet.
2) Digital Kiosks Reduce Retail Labor Costs
Retailers will also adopt digital kiosks to reduce rising labor costs in the next five years, according to CBRE.
“Restaurants, especially in the fast-food and fast-casual segments, have already started to leverage automation in the form of digital kiosks and order-ahead apps to save on labor costs. Many fast-food restaurants now offer pre-ordering services designed to help them on the go consumer save time and energy,” Cordero stated.
The network security requirements to manage order placement and process financial transactions are significantly higher than basic internet use. Cellular connectivity possesses several security advantages over Wi-Fi when it comes to protecting customers’ payment information.
While Wi-Fi data can be encrypted, encryption has to be turned on. However, cellular data, on the other hand, is encrypted by default.
Further, cellular network security updates are made by network operators who have dedicated cybersecurity staff and strong financial and reputational incentives to ensure that security is maintained. Wi-Fi security updates are managed by individuals network owners who can delay or miss security updates more easily. Wi-Fi networks are also more easily hackable, which can enable cybercriminals to gain access to customer’s smartphone devices and personal financial data.
3) IoT Devices & Asset Tracking Enable Expedited Delivery
The third area of technological innovation that will help retailers to improve sales and customer experience is happening behind the scenes in operational and logistics platforms, according to Cordero.
The rise of e-commerce and omnichannel has changed the way retailers deliver goods from point A to point B. It’s no longer just about delivering goods to a set number of stores on a regular schedule; today it’s about providing millions of products to doorsteps in less than a day. To meet this demand, retailers must have a firm grasp of their inventory and supply-chain management.
Many retailers will adopt innovative IoT asset tracking solutions. NB-IoT and LTE-M, which is also known as CAT-M1, are cellular technology solutions which enable businesses to track assets across supply chains. These technologies are a part of a new class of low-cost LPWA technologies specifically designed for low-bandwidth/long-distance transmissions and low power consumption. They support many IoT applications that require large numbers of devices to transmit only small amounts of data, such as sensors on a fleet of trucks or pallet shipments sending GPS coordinates.
Retailers who want to offer the next generation of in-store shopping experience to customers should familiarize themselves with these offerings and assure that they are deploying the right digital connectivity infrastructure to meet consumers’ demands.