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Retail’s Transformation: From Hot Deals to Meaningful Experiences

Money in shopping cart

Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Register now for the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, the gathering place for the technology services community, April 10-13, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.**

Drones, predictive analytics, virtual reality (VR) and more are transforming retail.

The strategies of mega giants such as Sears, JCPenney, Macy’s and others aren’t working. Instead of being a place where consumers shop, retail is becoming an activity that customers “experience.” This evolution will have a profound impact on your customers and go-to-market strategies.

2nd Watch's Kris BliesnerDuring this Channel Partners Conference & Expo concurrent education session titled, “Retail’s Transformation: From Hot Deals to Meaningful Experiences,” Kris Bliesner, 2nd Watch’s CTO; Darrin Swan, Infinit Consulting’s CEO; and Matt Hutchings, Dolomite Technology’s president and CEO; will talk about the innovations, use cases and market dynamics transforming one of America’s most-storied industries.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Bliesner and Swan give a sneak peek into the information they’ll share with partners.

Channel Partners: The traditional retail strategy is failing, with nearly all big-name retailers suffering heavy losses. What do today’s customers want?

Kris Bliesner: Customers want to be met where they are, when they are and how they are. It’s not enough to say I have this product or service for you; today’s consumers have higher expectations for what you as a retailer can do for them. Take Amazon’s order button as an example. People are willing to pay to get a faster way to refresh their supply. Why do I have to go through hoops to buy things when I need them — I want the retailer to be smarter about how to reach me where I am at and when I need something.{ad}

Infinit Consulting's Darrin SwanDarrin Swan: Mobile shopping and engagement. In store and out of store … and it’s all about millennials and mobile. If customers can’t completely interact with your brand on their mobile device — failure!

CP: How can the channel help this industry? Are there big opportunities for partners?

KB: There are big opportunities for the channel and partners to help retailers build out the new capabilities to address this sea change in consumer behavior. From big-data analytics to machine learning, to smart edge devices – there are a ton of ways that partners can help get large retailers there quicker and faster than they can go on their own. Large retailers are cruise ships and partners can be the tug boats or smaller cruisers out front charting the waters and helping move when the business can’t move itself fast enough. These force-extension opportunities are not new, but due to the changing landscape, we believe large retailers will need to lean even more heavily on partners that have the skills and platforms to move them in a different direction faster. In my opinion, the opportunity is larger for …

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… niche players in this market as retail customers will self-select based on what they are trying to get done.

DS: This is a very exciting channel opportunity for partners. Retail is a data-driven world. It’s all about digital transformation — getting the right data in the right hands at the right time for the right decision [by] internal and external customers. All elements of the retail business drive data and the data needs to be made sense of — analytics. All [of] this can be provided as a managed service covering all things from Internet connectivity X2, SD-WAN, point-of-sale systems, IoT devices (security systems, media/smart content systems, smart mirrors, sensors, etc.) to providing advanced/predictive analytics to the business.

CP: Can you give some examples of innovations that are changing the way customers interact with retailers?

KB: As I mentioned above, Amazon’s Dash button is a great way to help consumers do mundane shopping (who likes ordering paper products?) with precision and ease — I mount the button in my house next to my supply and push it when I run out, and a day or two later it shows up at my door. Outside of Amazon, I think large retailers are continuing to experiment with ways to find product or experience it digitally. This usually exposes itself in the form of updated web or eCommerce experience.

DS: Augmented and virtual reality shopping experience, smart mirrors with 360 imagery, sensor beacons to pull shoppers in. Precision in customer analytics to provide catered omnichannel customer experience and engagement. User specific, everywhere.{ad}

CP: What are some of the biggest trends in retail and how can the channel take advantage of them?

KB: From the technology perspective, I think one of the biggest trends we see in retail and even the consumer-goods folks behind them is expanding digital marketing. New campaigns, new ways of interacting with mobile or the consumer experience. Cloud is making it easier to deploy marketing campaigns or ideas quicker — try something, fix it or toss it based on early feedback, and move on to replicate or try again. The idea of failing fast has caught on with this segment as companies try to reach consumers earlier, faster and with more mobile interactions. To give a concrete example — we helped a consumer-faced company go from three weeks to 30 minutes to deploy infrastructure and that has totally changed their perspective in terms of what they can launch, when and how long they run digital campaigns. The flexibility can be a game changer in terms of freeing up creative minds to create unique experiences and fail faster.

DS: Creating a unique, contextual customer experience via mobile for omni-channel shopping. This means a complete digital experience that is also brought into both the virtual/augmented and physical customer experience. Providing and managing all [of] the digital technologies combined with providing advanced/predictive analytics offers massive growth for the right partners with the right know-how.


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