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Be deliberate about embracing retail technology

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Think of the last retail trade show you attended.

How many technology vendors were there? Two hundred? Four hundred? Eight hundred? Whatever the number, it seems pretty safe to say that retail technology is a thing.

And while it’s unlikely that each of those 800 vendors have the next big thing, there is no doubt that it is vital for retailers to keep up with the tech trends that are helping industry leaders differentiate themselves from the pack.

Matt Joe, Avanade’s chief technology officer, doesn’t dispute any of that. In our video interview below, he does, however, add a note of caution.

On some level we all know we can too easily fall in love with technology for technology’s sake. But the bigger problem might be that there are simply so many solutions offered by so many potential partners that it’s nearly impossible to sift through the offerings to figure out what’s really going to make a difference — and pay off in the end.

While Joe didn’t mention it directly in his brief remarks above, he did touch on one key in deciding what technology to deploy: Start with the customer.

After all, retailers are in business to serve customers and serving customers well leads to all sorts of good things — sales, repeat sales, customer lifetime value, positive word of mouth, business growth and professional growth for those who contributed to the business growth, to name a few.

“Experience is a lifestyle,” Joe told me in our extended interview. “Most retailers have brand promises that are differentiated. So how do you bring that experience to life?”

It’s a great question that leads to another great question — one that is gaining currency. Who in an ecommerce enterprise should be ultimately responsible for customer experience? Is it the ecommerce leader? A chief experience officer? The CMO? The CEO?

The answer really isn’t in a title, is it? The answer can be found in the skills and sensibilities the titleholder brings to the job. As commerce evolves — rapidly — the person best suited to take charge of the customer experience is beginning to look like a blend between the marketing leader and the ecommerce leader.

The head of customer experience by any name will have to understand ecommerce as well as the best ecommerce leader today. But that person will also need a deep marketing background with all the appreciation for data that modern marketers need.

Inevitably we will see today’s marketing leaders begin to think and act more like the heads of ecommerce. And ecommerce leaders will begin to think and act a lot more like ecommerce CMOs.

Deploy technology to address your customers’ lifestyles

Go back and listen to Joe talk about the way technology can propel commerce businesses. Notice how much of the time he is talking about how technology can be deployed to make things better for customers and their lifestyles.

Experience is about customer acquisition. If you make it difficult for consumers to buy from you, you can forget about turning them into customers. And if, after the buy button, you make it difficult for them to get their orders in the way they want and when they want, you can forget about keeping them as customers.

Acquisition and customer lifetime value have traditionally been the bailiwick of the marketing team. And deploying the programs to encourage both— such as curbside pickup and buy online, pick up in store — has long been in the ecommerce leader’s wheelhouse.

As the pace of retail change accelerates, it will only make sense that the two functions merge into one. That will produce a leader with vision into the entire buyer’s journey and insights into where that journey can be improved.

And that should make it easier to pick among the 800 technology providers with their 800 solutions.

Photo courtesy of the National Retail Federation

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].