Technology drives all aspects of business, including selling to consumers. New consumer sales channels created through e-commerce and mobile commerce are helping to make transactions and customer interaction more effective and efficient. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in the United States totaled more than $97 billion in Q2 of 2016, which is a 16 percent increase over last year. What’s more, in Q1 of 2016, 19 percent of all e-commerce sales were from mobile devices, according to comScore. This trend is growing as consumers overcome security fears about shopping on handheld devices.
Enterprise and e-commerce technologies are also driving frictionless commerce, making it easier for buyers and sellers to come together. The solution provider’s role is to understand the impediments that stand in the way of sales and apply technology to grease the wheels and promote frictionless transactions.
To support frictionless commerce further, more e-commerce providers are working to simplify payment processes. Rather than forcing customers to enter credit card and transaction data for each purchase, vendors are asking for permission in advance to handle payment and fulfillment, making buying a one-click process. Vendors such as Amazon, eBay, Uber and PayPal are using payment systems that make purchases simple, seamless and secure, which means consumers are making more online purchases with fewer abandoned online shopping carts.
As technology continues to find new ways to power e-commerce and improve the customer experience, solution providers are going to find new ways to help businesses adapt technology to better serve customers. Here are just a few of the areas where solution providers are helping streamline customer transactions.
Technology Improves In-Store Shopping
Consumers encounter new technology in retail stores every day. Some of those technological innovations improve the shopping experience, while others work behind the scenes, using enterprise networking and cloud computing to simplify purchases and provide more personalized service.
Smartphone technology has probably had the biggest impact on retail sales. Not only are shoppers using their mobile devices for online shopping, but they are using them in the store. FierceRetail reports that 66 percent of shoppers are more likely to purchase at retail outlets with in-store mobile technology, which is up 52 percent from last year. That’s because smartphones have become an extension of the shopping experience. Shoppers use their smartphones to photograph goods for purchase later, to do comparison shopping while in the store and even to place orders online for in-store delivery.
Understanding that more shoppers are using their mobile devices for in-store shopping, retailers are responding with their own in-store mobile strategies. Some retailers are broadcasting coupons that appear on shoppers’ smartphones, offering instant bargains as they walk store aisles. Other retailers are going a step further, delivering custom coupons and deals based on customer data stored in the customer relationship management (CRM) system. Location-based, personalized marketing is becoming more commonplace, and 46 percent of mobile users say they want relevant offers and coupons, 34 percent want personalized communications and 47 percent want location-specific content. Real-time response to customers is driving a new level of customer experience—and customer expectations.
Similarly, retailers are doing away with cash registers and are equipping sales associates with tablets to handle transactions on the floor. Not only can sales personnel process credit card transactions, but handheld devices allow them to check inventory, look up customer profiles and perform a host of related operations to improve the shopping experience and increase sales. And customers aren’t limited to credit cards any more. Now they can use e-wallet applications such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet for secure in-store transactions.
These in-store innovations are powered by secure wireless technology as well as back-end databases and CRM systems. Creating an integrated mobile marketing and sales infrastructure that can respond in real time takes enterprise and wireless expertise that only solution providers can offer.
Empowering the Omnichannel Experience
To promote frictionless commerce, retailers are striving to create an omnichannel shopping experience—no matter how or where the customer engages with the retail brand, he or she will receive the same care and attention. For example, more stores are offering options such as buying online for in-store pickup or using a single mobile to handle shopping, purchasing, tracking, customer support and more. REI, for example, maintains multiple shopping touchpoints, allowing in-store shoppers to check inventory for goods they’ve seen online and providing up-to-date information so that shoppers keep coming back.
Creating an omnichannel experience requires integration between front-end and back-end systems to deliver real-time data. For example, consider how many consumers have called a help desk, only to be told they have to wait, because “the system is slow.” Tight integration with application performance management can improve the omnichannel experience and customer satisfaction by putting customer details at the call center’s fingertips.
And all those omnichannel touchpoints provide data that can be used to analyze omnichannel effectiveness. Customer interaction is monitored and captured at each stage of the shopping experience, and feedback is used to identify choke points and improve overall service. The more sophisticated the data analytics, the more precise the results and the greater the ROI.
Solution providers that can help with wireless infrastructure, enterprise integration, data gathering and analytics (especially big data analytics) will be able to aid retailers in shaping the consumer shopping experience, uncovering new insights and new ideas that drive frictionless commerce.