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What to do if you aren’t Amazon

If any one player has highlighted the massive level of change taking place in the retail sector it’s Amazon. Their launch of Amazon Go, and the purchase of Whole Foods, potentially mark a watershed in the industry. It sets the two retail imperatives as customer convenience and reducing the cost to serve, be that through radical approaches to the checkout line, or to home delivery. This will change the roll of the store and will drive established retailers to increase their own focus on convenience and cost to serve.

As in life, it’s never a level playing field. So how can other retailers keep up with the Amazon retail machine.

Encourage continuous innovation

Innovation is crucial to survival for today’s large-scale retailer.  Retailers acknowledge the need to experiment with new service and experience offerings in store and roll them out quickly once proven. And this experimentation needs to be conducted in a controlled environment, with full knowledge of the exact local circumstances in which they will need to succeed. But this can be a real challenge for retailers, especially those with large store estates over a highly distributed geography.   Store IT has been designed for a different age and is a major barrier to rolling out innovation.

What’s required is a solution that allows retailers to perform centralized experiments in a replicated, risk-free environment before the technologies are used publicly by customers. This naturally enables retailers to adopt new technologies quicker than before, and to keep up with the pace of change.

In addition, the IT estate also needs to be treated as an integrated whole, rather than as a collection of disparate devices. This means that store technology updates are created centrally and then distributed, that delta updates and patches are centrally managed, and that all possible support functions are carried out at the center and automated to reduce support costs. Solutions which employ this approach move away from the management of individual stores to the management of a store ecosystem, which in turn makes the whole infrastructure significantly more cost-effective.

Prioritize the point-of-sale experience

Convenience is King for the modern shopper and Point-of-sale (POS) sits at the heart of convenience. Whether it’s having to wait in lengthy queues at the cash register or tap away at slow and unresponsive self-checkout machines, customers can quickly be driven to frustration. What’s required today is a frictionless POS experience that allows customers to pay in multiple ways to suit their preferences and situation.

This is why, if retailers want to keep pace with the likes of Amazon, they must focus on the POS experience as a top priority. There is no one fix-all solution here as audience preferences are broad. One business might choose to equip staff with portable POS tablets, while another might optimize their payment mechanism to ensure any delays are as minimal as possible. The less friction during the purchasing journey, the more satisfied customers will be.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that Amazon’s launch of frictionless checkout in Seattle and their move into bricks and mortar retail represent a significant moment for the retail industry. But it does not mean that the world will change overnight, rather, it is a signpost that points towards the kind of retail future we can expect to see. It is a welcome wakeup call that will spark new innovation in customer convenience.

This should be seen by established retailers as an opportunity – an opportunity to reassess how they optimize innovation and customer convenience in-store. There will be many different ways of rising to this challenge, and retailers should adopt and adapt technology according to their own business needs. What can be guaranteed, however, is that a change is coming, and all retailers need to prepare themselves to stay competitive.

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