Investments in technology netting big returns for retailers this holiday season

Analyst Robert Hetu explains how technology is driving big returns for retailers and a better consumer experience this holiday season.

Investments in technology netting big returns for retailers this holiday season

Investments in technology are paying off for many retailers and this year it's all about the consumer experience. I spoke with analyst Robert Hetu about tech trends that are driving seamless retail experiences. Below is an edited transcript of our interview.

Robert: I think if you look at what's happening today we're seeing that at this point e-commerce is becoming less of a differentiator. What we've had as retailers that have really been investing a lot in a digital strategy that crosses stores and e-commerce and social and mobile and we talk about that at Gartner as being this idea unified retail commerce. It really is driven around creating the right experience for the customer. And, you know, if you look at the investments that have been made by these large retailers they really have seemed to pay off. We've seen about a 40% increase in the in-store pick-up elements of e-commerce over the holiday period and we're expecting that the store will evolve and continue to be the, what we call the hub, of multi-channel activity. It's really where digital can come together with the physical and create a more robust overall customer experience.

Retailers have really decided that they want to utilize their inventory as effectively as possible and what better way than to really take that vast amount of inventory that's in the physical store environment and make that available through e-commerce. By enabling things like click and collect where the customer can place an order, have the order collected in the store by store associates and then delivered to them in the parking lot, for example, is a great way to take advantage of the immediacy of e-commerce and certainly let's say, the ease of e-commerce. But creating it in a framework that allows a very robust assortment of product and the management of exactly when you'd like to collect it, and collecting it in your local store area. So it really is a great alternative to perhaps home delivery and really does allow these retailers to get very close to the customer and have the product available for them.

See: Special report: Digital transformation: A CXO's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Karen: Retailers, they're seeing record sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday so talk a little bit about the consumer experience and why execution is so important for retailers.

Robert: It's about creating the right experience and you know we talk a lot about these things that we call scenarios for the future of retail for 2025 and beyond. And when we talk about that it's very important for us to emphasize to the retailers that every experience that the customer wants is not necessarily the same across all brands and it's very important that these retailers understand that they need to do what's right for their customer base and build the right relationship based on trust and based on execution. That execution is key, so if you think about e-commerce no longer being the differentiator it once was, the current differentiator is really about execution. So for example we've seen mobile as a key piece or a key component over this holiday season but we find that from a mobile interaction perspective there's a higher bounce rate, there's a less conversion through mobile so retailers really need to take a step back and think now how do I improve my execution in a mobile framework for example. So the execution part is really where the differentiation is going to live.

Karen:Thanks so much for being with us. For more tech gift ideas for this holiday season just be sure to check out Tech Republic.

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