Canadian retailers are quickly learning they need next-generation network technologies to greet customers not only in their physical stores and online stores, but wherever they happen to be and at all times. Consumers are now shopping with their smartphones and tablets in hand, researching products and services long before they reach a brick-and-mortar location and continuing to compare prices right up until they have made it to the cash register. They are making comments about brands they like (or don’t like) via social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, and having conversations with their friends and peers about their customer experiences. And they continue to use all the traditional means of connecting with retailers, like 1-800 numbers in call centres and face-to-face conversations with store associates. The confluence of mobility, social media and cloud computing has disrupted traditional retail business processes but also opened up opportunities for leading merchants to deepen their relationship with their best customers. They can take shoppers far beyond the confines of what’s on the shelf and connect them with ancillary products for order online. They can engage with social tools both externally to respond to consumer reaction, and internally to collaborate on best practices among associates in disparate outlets. Technology can not only make them available to omni-channel customers, but indispensable. As the retail sector continues to evolve, smart merchants will need to leverage a combination of big data analytics, cloud computing, mobile commerce, social business tools, unified communications & collaboration and IT security to create the ideal customer experience. It’s a big shopping list, but retail CIOs know it’s time to start stocking up.
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