What Happens When Bricks and Mortar Has a Tech Disorder

Instead of investing in a magical in-store holiday shopping experience, retailers have doubled down on in-store technology.

Over the course of the pandemic, 72% of retailers said they increased their digital transformation at nearly every level, from online shopping to investment in in-store technology.

Additionally, customers adopted new shopping habits, expectations and learned a whole new way to shop: from online to contactless to curbside. In addition to a preference for digital transactions, and the convenience of omnichannel shopping, retailers have invested in a host of in-store technology for a premium customer experience. From Apple Pay to virtual-try on screens, the promise of many in-store technologies is to make it easier than ever for customers to get what they want and enjoy the process.

As people become more comfortable venturing out to stores in 2022, those digital habits will become even more evident.

However, if all of this new technology is difficult to use, or worse breaks down and is hard to repair, customer experience suffers.

As McKinsey points out, “in an effort to keep up with competitors or eagerness to put a compelling idea into action can prompt some companies to plunge in headfirst. But without clearly sequencing the “crawl, walk, run” approach and investing in the right fundamentals, retailers often end up with fragmented investments that destroy value.”

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Taking Care of Your Technology Investment

Investment has shot up, but unfortunately retailers are not yet seeing high returns because they didn’t take into account how much time and effort would go into taking care of the tech.

CB Insights shares that investment in-store retail tech reached a record $3.3B in Q2’21, an increase of 46% quarter-over-quarter (QoQ). The report also noted that as shoppers return to in-store shopping and labor needs go up as a result, retailers will invest in robotics, machine learning and other technology means to address the labor shortage and while also making their stores more efficient.

Unfortunately, many are experiencing a decline in “ROA” (return on assets) which means that all of the tech they are spending on to create better in-store experiences is not necessarily paying off.  Part of the problem is that stores are not making use of the technology as best as they could. Investment in point of sale (POS) solutions that sit in the back room because of lack of employee training is one example. These devices are expensive investments, and retailers need to ensure that they are used correctly and used regularly.

Of course, there is also the question of maintenance and repair. Gartner estimates the typical cost of downtime for a major retailer to be $5,600 per minute, or $300K per hour. Even for a smaller retailer, the expense of tech that isn’t working the way it should can be extremely costly.

Great Tech-spectations

There are great expectations for in-store technology, but what happens when technology doesn’t work like it’s expected to, or when the system goes down?

A recent Forrester study found that long wait times are the number one reason why people abandon a cart at the store. And it’s not a rare occurrence. In fact, 70% of people have done it before.  And a majority of shoppers report that they prefer to use self-check-out options, which are seen as more efficient.

Retailers that invest in technologies that improve the in-store shopping experience to cater to these preferences are sending a signal to shoppers that they care. Self-checkout kiosks, mobile payment, POS tablets – all of these elements give customers more efficient options and give employees more power to please their customers.

However, too often, stores are left with broken devices that send the opposite signal for shoppers than was intended.

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Avoid Downtime with Remote Tech Support

The reality is that many retailers don’t have a good support plan for their new technology. It can be costly to have a full time IT expert on-site, and with a labor shortage, it’s also difficult to find and keep IT support. Often, technology issues require a visit from a regional IT support person, which is both costly and creates a downtime that hurts the customer experience.

One emerging option is to invest in remote tech support. It’s a cost-friendly solution that remotely monitors and manages in-store technology, proactively avoiding any potential technology issues avoiding downtime and ensuring a great customer experience. In the event of a tech issue, remote support can help employees react quickly without requiring any on-site skills.

Compared to tech support that requires an IT manager to travel to the store, remote-tech support resolves issues quickly and gets technology back online. Remote support also empowers employees, who can have more ownership over the in-store experience.

To make the most of their costly tech spend, brands must keep their eye protecting their investments with remote support solutions that not only help with efficiency, but also maximize customer experience and employee satisfaction. Technology-driven shopping is our future – with remote-tech support – that future promises to be brighter.

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