Retail technology is exciting, but do businesses have the money to invest? Source: Shutterstock

Retail technology is exciting, but do businesses have the money to invest? Source: Shutterstock

Why retailers must re-jig their finances to create a technology budget

TECHNOLOGY can make a big difference to retailers looking for new and interesting ways to delight customers. However, not many retail organizations have a budget to invest in technology.

Quite often, retailers find themselves taking money out of other projects to invest in technology — which is not ideal. Technology projects, especially in the retail space, often cost a fair amount of money, but organizations need to learn to see it as an investment in their future.

True, retailers are already facing margin pressures and find it hard to invest in projects for the future. However, failing to make the investment can lead to them going out of business.

For business leaders in the retail space exploring how technology can help them, here are three kinds of technology investments that can make an immediate difference to their bottom line.

#1 | Smart shelves

Smart shelves have the potential to boost the dwindling foot traffic to traditional brick and mortar outlet. These futuristic shelves, currently being piloted by Krogers features LED displays that will show targeted ads and promotions.

Based on the information of shoppers gathered via cameras that are integrated with facial recognition technology, some shelves are even capable of displaying customized videos and promotional campaigns specific to customers’ profiles.

Beyond that, the shelves also come equipped with a network of sensors that tracks the movement of products within the store and maintain a real-time inventory of goods.

#2 | Machine learning

More and more enterprises are starting to deploy AI for customer-facing functions, mainly due to AI’s machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities.

Ocado, a UK based grocery store, for example, managed to increase customer contact center efficiency by 3.5 percent by responding to customer emails four times more quickly, which immensely enhanced customer experience (CX).

This increased efficiency was made possible by a cloud-based ML model that can pore through customer complaints and categorize them with improved speed, enabling prompt response and resolution of issues.

#3 | Automation

Whether we are ready for it or not, cashier-less retail stores are already here and are expected to proliferate in the next few years or so.

Taking a leaf out of Amazon’s playbook, other retail giants such as Walmart,  are also investing heavily on human-free self-checkout facilities in their stores.

Leveraging AI technologies such as machine vision, facial recognition, and shelf sensors, retailers could multiply the points of sale at more locations in-store, reduce overhead cost, amass more customer data and ensure smooth inventory management which will ultimately result in shifting more goods.

In short, technology continues to push the envelope of innovative solutions and functions, which are transforming the way businesses interact with customers.

And, the retail sector, in its quest to enhance the customer experience, increase efficiencies, and maximize profits, needs to embrace technology — and carve out a significant budget for key projects.