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The New Reality for Retailers and How Technology is Meeting the Challenge

Posted by John Maresca on Nov 6, 2020 12:56:22 AM

Pandemic: The New Reality
COVID-19 has upended the retail industry, leaving retailers scrambling to adapt. Of all retailers, online merchants were the ones best positioned to respond to the shutdown; their revenues have increased the most. Next are the savvy brick-n-mortar retailers who invested in omni-channel strategies, blending both physical and online platforms; allowing consumers their buying method of choice. And right now, those small-to-medium size retailers, already under pressure to adapt to the growing online world, are struggling the most.

#1Omni-Channel is the New Normal

In the pandemic era, retailers now more than ever, are forced to leverage their omni-channel business selling models. The savvy ones that had already implemented this are enhancing those systems and the ones that didn’t are left scrambling to catch-up. Omni-channel can be shopping online, in-store, or a blend of the two, such as in-store/curbside pickup. The most crucial element to the omni-channel experience today that retailers need to keep in mind is ACCURACY. The more precise (think inventory counts) and operationally efficient (think pickup wait times) these systems are, that will have the greatest impact on the experience of the customer and earning their return business.

At Tech Data, we have several vendors that support these omni-channel platform solutions to empower our channel partners and support their retail customers whether small, medium or enterprise.

Double Down on the Digital Experience

The pandemic has rapidly migrated customer traffic to digital channels. Retailers need to offset the diminished foot traffic by enhancing their online systems and presence – examples include upgrading one’s e-commerce marketplace and/or upgrading the datacenters supporting these systems.

Let’s not forget about digital marketing. With many people home because of pandemic shutdowns, time spent on social media platforms has increased dramatically. Therefore, under the current conditions, allocating marketing dollars towards social media advertising and high-volume websites, makes the most sense. Right now, whether through acquisition or reallocation of funds, investment in digital channels is critical.

Brick-N-Mortar Has a New Baseline

There will always be customers that prefer a brick-n-mortar storefront to do their shopping. They may want to personally experience the look and feel of a particular garment, or they may prefer the interpersonal support and interaction that comes with working with a sales person. Customers with this preference must be comfortable and confident that the retailer has their safety and well-being in mind.

Keeping customers safe and healthy must be a top of mind priority for any brick n mortar retailer. They must adapt their operations to comply with health and safety regulations. On top of mask wearing, social distancing, and controlling the number of occupants within the store the CDC recommends comprehensive temperature screening for anyone that enters the facility. By leveraging newer technologies, temperature screening can be accomplished efficiently & effectively, without the presence of another. Using a thermal-grade camera matched with intelligent software, solution providers have answered those needs – seamlessly and unobtrusively Temperature screening is a great first step in making the customer feel comfortable knowing their health and safety is held in high regard by the retailer, the moment they step through the front door.

At Tech Data, we have designed various solutions catering to the different needs and pain points spanning the retail landscape.

Retail Responds Smarter

Innovative retailers that leveraged legacy smart solutions in the past are now enhancing and integrating them into even smarter solutions. For example, many retailers are now consolidating people-counting and digital signage solutions in-store to autonomously direct what the digital signage displays. This can mean informing customers of occupancy, notification of max occupancy, or notification of current store protocols (mask wearing, traffics patterns, social distance reminders, etc.). Communication to customers can serve as a key differentiator for retailers in these uncertain times.

As mentioned before, temperature scanning has become a big initiative for retailers, ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone in the building while also giving customers peace of mind. This solution can also be integrated into other legacy retail solutions. For example, a customer arrives at the store for a pickup, their face gets scanned for temperature check and counted for occupancy, the system will then also be able to identify that customer, thereby notifying an employee to have their pickup order ready for them before they even make it to the pick-up counter. Enhancing the overall customer experience. Or maybe a different customer came into the store to browse, that customer would be identified as someone who was looking at certain items online and has now come into the store, thereby sending a promotion to their smartphone for the online items they previously viewed. Thereby, enhancing the customer’s omni-channel experience and promoting them to commit to purchase while in store. Below, is an example from one of our solution providers, Axis Communications, showing a solution that makes a restaurant smarter and safer, adapting to pandemic-related consumer behavior. This solution can also be utilized in a retail store.

#2Partnership is Key

All encompassing, outcome-based solutions are typically accomplished with a multitude of solution providers. Tech Data is a premier global solution aggregator. Because of our vast partnerships with our vendors and solution providers alike, we play an integral role in making solutions enhanced and smarter, supporting a plethora of use-cases in all verticals. We have created a Solution Catalog consisting of many repeatable, scalable, and proven solutions. Download your complimentary copy of Tech Data’s COVID-19 Response Solutions Catalog to learn more about the solutions discussed in this post. We also invite you to email us at iot@techdata.com or visit us online.

About the Author
John Maresca is a business development leader with over 14 years of client services and sales experience. Currently, John serves as a consultant for Tech Data's IoT Specialized Solutions Practice in Clearwater, Fla.


Tags: IoT, Analytics, Culture, Internet of Things, Resellers, Channel Partners, Data Solutions, Aggregated, Scalable, Safety and Communications, Solutions Targeting Social Distancing