Exploring the Path to Connected Commerce

Retailers have played an undeniable role in the evolution of the consumer experience. From embracing e-commerce to making data actionable to the early adoption of mobile, the segment has truly changed the game. And its approach has been emulated across industries.

But we’re at a crossroads. While retailers have added technologies to create an omnichannel experience, their disparate systems most likely operate in silos. To deliver on consumer expectations of anytime, anywhere, anyhow shopping – what’s become known as connected commerce – the new aspiration is a common platform that enables real-time visibility and integration across every customer touchpoint.

How are retailers planning to get there? Diebold Nixdorf recently explored the path to connected commerce by sponsoring the Boston Retail Partners (BRP) 2017 Point of Sale (POS)/Customer Engagement Survey. In it, the leading retail management consulting firm examines the most significant challenges retailers face in their focus on consumer centricity. And it reveals their priorities and initiatives as they work toward a common platform.

Establishing a Framework

The survey was based on the premise that if we built a framework for connected commerce, customer experience would be at the foundation. Retailers can no longer differentiate simply with their product, or entice consumers with competitive pricing alone. Strongly influenced by personal computing, mobile technology and digital innovations, today’s consumers are more likely to consider the experience the key differentiator that leads them to choose – and remain loyal to – a retail brand.

With this in mind, the POS/Customer Engagement Survey captured insight about how retailers plan to address the four key pillars that are integral to the customer experience. Consumers expect an experience that is personal, mobile, seamless and secure.

Making it Personal
The digital channel has risen to prominence in large part because of its ability to deeply personalize the consumer experience. Customized offers, real-time shopping history, product curated to appeal to individual consumer preferences – these features have become mainstays of the digital channel. Informed consumers expect this level of personalization wherever they shop. But the physical store has struggled to keep up.

That’s why survey respondents identified digital and physical retail convergence as a priority. They cited initiatives such as customer identification, clienteling and guided selling as key to their personalization efforts. 

Going Mobile
If consumers can use their phones to research products, compare prices, buy online and even pay for in-store purchases, why shouldn’t retailers use the same technology to improve customer service?

Survey data show that retailers are beginning to answer this question. They’re re-imagining the point of sale, including making plans for mobile and hybrid POS approaches. More of them are putting mobile solutions in the hands of their associates. And, increasingly, they’re implementing customer-facing mobile services.

Creating a Seamless Experience
To create a seamless experience across channels, it’s all about real-time. Real-time customer identification. And real-time gathering, analysis and dissemination of data across all channels.

If retailers haven’t already turned to centralization and cloud-based services to enable the seamless experience, it’s likely they will in the near term. Survey respondents shared their plans for centralization of store systems, cross-channel services, fulfillment services and more. 

Keeping Data Secure
The cornerstone of the first three pillars – personal, mobile and seamless – is information. And with the increasing need for and use of information comes greater opportunity for theft and fraud. As retailers advance toward connected commerce, security must go beyond the current focus on payments and networks to ensure the protection of their more information-rich environments.

Even so, the survey revealed that while expansion of security is critical, many retailers are still focused on evolving their systems and networks to support EMV-enabled transactions, and to accommodate the longer processing time they require. Survey data also gives us a window into retailers’ approach to security initiatives including alternative payment types, end-to-end encryption and tokenization, among others. 

Delivering the Future

To build upon the foundation of customer experience, break down the silos between the pillars of personal, mobile, seamless and secure and arrive at connected commerce, retailers will need a common commerce platform. One that provides a single version of “the truth” across all retail channels.

The survey examined how retailers are addressing the three major components of a common commerce platform: networks, service-oriented architecture and order management. It also gave respondents the opportunity to weigh in on the transformation of the store environment, and how it will manifest in the store of the future.

What other insights did retailers share? And how did survey participants say they’re progressing on the path to connected commerce? Download the complete 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey Report to learn more and let’s continue the conversation.