As retailers increasingly move toward today’s unified “brick and clicks” store, they are looking for cost-effective ways to provide not only a good shopping experience, but the infrastructure to back it up. One of the best ways for companies to accomplish this, instead of investing in millions of dollars in IT capabilities, is to host solutions for in-house security, collaboration, cloud, compliance, Wi-Fi, disaster recovery, and other capabilities.
By working with a third party such as NorthState, they can enable a fast and easy transition to a more technologically advanced, hosted environment. NorthState supports four key pillars for digital success, based on an enterprise architecture solution that is designed to meet the needs of retailers of every size.
1. Deliver a differentiated, personalized customer experience.
As the line between physical and digital interactions blurs, customers’ expectations grow. In such an environment, retailers are empowered to rapidly create — and continuously optimize — new products. It also makes it possible to expand from selling goods to include additional services, identify new ways to attract customers, and build loyalty. NorthState’s highly secured, digital approach allows retailers to tap into real-time behavioral information – both in-store and online – creating 360-degree customer insights.
2. Drive operational excellence and associate productivity.
A critical part of the customer experience is a highly optimized associate experience. Well-aligned customer service empowers employees with the right information and tools, in an environment backed up with high-speed communications and networking. These support the in-aisle shopping experience; productivity apps such as task management, inventory, pricing, and expert information; and mobile customer checkout.
One of the difficult challenges for retailers is associate retention. Studies show that the better-trained the associate, the more likely they are to stay. Mobile programs support online education and training, BYOD on each associate device, and leverage digital signage for off-hours and breakroom training. One retailer working with NorthState quoted a 10% increase in sales retention as the result of using these tools to keep associates focused where they should be – on customers.
3. Assure security that protects brand value.
While cybersecurity’s main emphasis is on protecting and preserving cardholder and organizational data, 35% of retailers say its main purpose is to enable growth. In fact, according to a Forbes article, security plays a major role in assuring retention by maintaining confidence in the store brand:
- 45% of shoppers say they don’t trust retailers to keep their information safe.
- After a security breach, 12% of loyal shoppers stop shopping at that retailer.
- 36% shop at the retailer less frequently.
- For those who continue to shop, 79% are more likely to use cash instead of credit cards. According to DeMeo, shoppers who use cash statistically spend less money, hurting the company.
- 26% say they will knowingly spend less than before.
Nearly four in five companies (79%) were hit by a cyber breach in 2017, and 68% expect further breaches in the next year, according to a survey commissioned by security firm Balabit (March 22, 2018). Customers don’t generally think about security until a breach happens. However, when it does, they are looking for immediate transparency and timely responses. NorthState defends against today’s ever-expanding attack surface with a Security Everywhere architecture aligned with the Cybersecurity Framework from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
4. Create selectable options for fulfillment and delivery
One of the most dynamically changing areas of unified retail is fulfillment and delivery. Customers can buy online and pick up in-store (BOPUS) or receive shipments from online e-commerce or mobile apps. One of the fastest-growing options is home delivery enabled through partners, such as Wal-Mart’s relationship with Instacart. A highly successful aspect of Wal-Mart’s challenge to Amazon, home shoppers can simply place their order and have groceries and other goods delivered to them locally within a few hours: a huge benefit to homebound or busy customers.
We are also seeing other groundbreaking fulfillment options: voice-integrated devices, drone-based deliveries, and Uber-style drivers, to name just a few. However, the Instacart model is perhaps one of the most popular and practical. In the next couple of years, we will continue to see many changes in how stores and customers interact, how supply chain partners cooperate, and how stores function across channels.