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The uberisation of retail

Jeff Manning, EVP of Worldwide Sales at Cybera, looks at how retailers are thriving and surviving in an era when digital disruption has become the norm.

Digital transformation is impacting every industry in radical ways. Today’s customers now acquire products and consume services in multiple channels and nowhere is this more apparent than in retail, where the shopping journey has become increasingly digitalised and omnichannel.

For retailers, digital transformation has not only made it possible to serve customers in multiple channels. It’s also made it possible to leverage real-time data capabilities and optimise product distribution and pricing strategies, increase inventory velocity, improve product positioning, and turn stores into fulfilment centres. Furthermore, they’re tapping deep into the digital value chain itself – utilising data captured on products, customers and locations, and turning these insights into action. All of this places new demands on the enterprise network, especially at the edge where the real opportunities are constantly evolving.

Delivering dynamic in-store experiences is a strategic priority for retailers that want to deliver against the expectations of today’s on-demand consumers. As a result, the physical store is evolving fast; consumers want more payment choices and no longer expect to stand in-line to make purchases. Plus, they want to review products with the quick scan of a barcode and take advantage of VR technologies to test out products virtually.

In a world where consumers increasingly expect to browse and buy clickable products, find products fast using in-store location technologies or view endless aisle product options at the click of a keypad, success depends on being able to overlay digital on the physical experience to connect with – and serve – shoppers more effectively. That means enabling networks to bridge the divide between the store, the data centre and HQ, and supporting a raft of new in-store devices and infrastructures – including corporate and customer WiFi connectivity.

With 3D product displays, AI-powered shopping assistants, virtual catwalks and virtual brochures poised to deliver new and highly immersive in-store experiences, realising the store of the future means the physical store will need to get a whole lot more connected, mobile and smarter.

The continuing ‘uberisation’ of commerce means that the next retail innovations are likely to go beyond simply enabling same day delivery or rapid pick-up at a location that’s convenient for shoppers. Sustainable ‘rental fashion’ is the latest phenomenon to take the industry by storm as Millennial and Generation Z consumers, who value access over ownership, buy into the concept of hiring clothing at a fraction of the retail price.

Similarly, the pop-up retail store concept is evolving fast as brands and retailers look to strengthen emotional connections with consumers and drive longer lasting relationships. Today’s retailers are thinking outside the box to create memorable ‘Instagramable’ experiences that excite and enchant consumers. It’s an approach that’s spawning a whole new go-to-market channel for retailers and brands alike, as they tap into consumer desires for tactile and sensory experiences that can’t be matched online.

Open for just a few days or hours, these tech-infused spaces feature shoppable screens, virtual checkouts, and gamification, alongside carefully crafted concepts designed to showcase merchandise that’s specially curated for the event. Similarly, brands and retailers are also getting savvy about how they leverage in-store concession spaces; for example, launching new items on selected days to test market response or entice consumers to return time and time again.

As retailers redefine how they go to market and reinterpret the physical store for a whole new generation of shoppers, they’re having to adapt their operational models fast. Thriving and surviving in an era when digital disruption has become the norm depends on harnessing smart technologies to achieve success in four key areas; to build closer and stronger customer engagement, extend the range of payment options on offer, optimise supply chain and logistics strategies, and augment business processes using technologies such as IoT to enable hyper-localised merchandising. Predicting what’s coming down the line is no easy task, but with the right network infrastructure in place, retailers will be well placed to spin up new services and deploy in-store fast – no matter where their retail presence is located, or for how long.

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