No doubt about it, shoppers are putting more pressure on retailers than ever to bring digital into their physical retail experience. And that pain point is being felt hardest in the IT department.
If you work in IT, there’s probably not a day that goes past where you don’t receive a panicked phone call because the till or another piece of store technology has gone down.
Chances are, you’re also trying to do this technical fire-fighting at the same time as managing the expectations of Head Office, who want yet more digital solutions in the store – not understanding that your store network isn’t robust enough to deal with the plethora of staff and customer devices it is now supposed to be supporting.
We’d love to tell you that the problem is going to get easier, and that consumers will move towards a world in which online and offline shopping become more clearly separated…but we can’t. In fact, the demand for technology-led store experiences is only going to grow as a new generation of customers comes of age.
Introducing your worst nightmare: Generation Z
The fastest rising consumer group right now probably isn’t really on your director’s radar yet, but they’re going to have a fundamental impact on the pressures you face. Generation Z are young consumers – born between 1995 and 2010 – and their spending power is increasing year-on-year.
Generation Z are potentially the most disruptive group to retail’s lives, for one simple reason: they are the first generation of digital natives. To them, using technology is as intuitive as breathing in and breathing out, and they have great expectations when it comes to incorporating that digital dependence into their shopping experience.
To get under the skin of exactly how Generation Z wants their store of the future to behave, Vodat International commissioned an exclusive research survey of 1,000 UK teenagers – and it generated some interesting headlines surrounding in-store tech:
- More than half want staff to serve them with tablet computers, to provide a richer standard of service
- 4 in 10 would like to see self-checkouts in-store
- 46% would like special offers pushed to their smartphones – either while they walk the aisles or as they pass the store front
- A quarter would like digital information points at the shelf edge to look up product information
These are just a few of the headlines our survey generated – you can read more if you download our report: Generation Z, the Store, and the Technology Ticking Clock– but you’re probably already wondering how you’re going to keep this broad mix of retail technology running. And that’s aside from the fact that half of Generation Z shoppers also want access to free customer WiFi when they shop in-store.
How to stop Generation Z making retail IT’s lives more hellish
Before we hit the panic button, there is a chink of blue sky in this brewing technical storm: there’s time yet to prepare, even though the clock is ticking.
Savvy IT personnel will realise that the key to smoothly welcoming the needs of Generation Z into your business is not a question of pre-empting the next big customer-facing technology to hit the industry, but putting in place the right enterprise network to support whatever digital innovations come along.
Network strength and security is going to become the make or break influence on the store’s future, as the growth of retail technology and customer WiFi use drains bandwidth and/or leads to technical failovers and costly downtime.
By raising the issue with Head Office now, you have the power to put a new network in place that can adapt and scale as your store technology use increases. It might seem more hassle than it’s worth at this moment in time, but surely it’s better to get the system you know is best, implemented the way you want, than face even more complaints and pressures as your current network falls further and further short of the mark?
The key to a simpler, less stressful working future is in your hands.
To discover more about the pressures retail IT will face over the next five years, download Vodat International’s latest report – Coming of Age: Generation Z, the Store, and the Technology Ticking Clock.