Shoppers and technology continue to reshape the retail landscape. In fact, 88% of retail executives cite digital acceleration as their top retail investment priority, according to a recent Deloitte report. As a result, retailers are increasingly relying on sophisticated systems — from mobile point-of-sale (POS) terminals and interactive kiosks to digital signage and contactless shopping and payment options. These investments are almost all dedicated to optimizing the customer experience and increasing profitability.
Over the past five years, retailers have undergone a massive digital transformation to increase sales and reduce operating costs, while improving customer experience. More recently, the pandemic forced retailers to upend traditional models and pivot to a just-in-time delivery model, with in-store pickup options and a revitalized focus on the digital experience to meet the shift in consumer behavior.
Shoppers now expect a new level of personalization, choice and convenience. New fulfillment, payment and technology options all enhance the in-person experience and increase expectations. Retailers know that competition for consumer dollars is fierce.
“Consumers returning to physical stores are in for an elevated experience. Engaging technologies, including touches of virtual reality, hands-on encounters and in-store app functionality, are just part of the remake,” states Susan Reda, VP, Education Strategy, National Retail Federation. “Expectations are through the roof and forgiveness is in short supply.”
However, deploying technology to improve the customer experience is only the beginning of the process. To protect that investment, retailers must ensure the technology works as promised. Otherwise, it can negatively impact both sales and customer experience. To get the most out of these systems and ensure customer satisfaction, executives must implement effective and rapid IT support programs.
Technology is the Backbone of Retail Sales
Technology is the backbone that drives sales and leads to higher cart values and loyal customers. Logistics, product availability, order fulfillment, procurement, restocking, customer support, POS systems and even interactive kiosks ensure customers can find what they need and receive it in a timely matter — whether they purchase in-store or online.
With many stores becoming mini-distribution centers, it’s more important than ever to maintain in-store technology — both front-of-house POS systems and back-of-house inventory management and fulfillment systems.
Maintaining in-store technology can be a challenge. It is often cost prohibitive to have a dedicated IT person onsite at every retail location. As a result, most retailers follow a distributed branch model with a corporate or regional IT team responsible for multiple locations.
But a distributed model can cause delays when the technology goes down.
One glitch can have far-reaching consequences, as retailers simply can’t afford to have their devices offline, putting data transactions, sales and reputation at risk. The average cost of downtime is $5,600 per minute, which translates to well over $300K per hour, according to Gartner. Even a seemingly small issue — such as someone accidentally knocking a cable loose in the server room and disconnecting it — can bring POS systems down or disable handheld scanners.
The impact of technology failure is felt everywhere: in loss of revenue, customer satisfaction and employee productivity. It can impact order fulfillment, resulting in delayed delivery and a poor customer experience.
On-Demand Support — A Remote Alternative
Imagine if you could securely support your multiple locations through remote IT support and augmented reality (AR) to help resolve your issues with your POS terminal or server. On-demand support with technical and highly skilled third-party technicians can fix issues — virtually — so your stores get up and running quickly. It’s like having a team of help desk technicians at your fingertips.
Here are four ways retailers can implement an on-demand strategy to maintain, monitor and support systems to minimize downtime:
- Protect your investment to minimize downtime. You want to protect those investments by getting ahead of any technology issues to minimize downtime.
- Inventory your in-store tech stack. Know what technologies and devices you have in-store so that you can prioritize them, know how to support them, and can understand what the business impact is if those technologies go down.
- Explore AR. Explore technology such as augmented reality, which can help put eyes on the ground for distributed IT teams to resolve tech support issues quickly.
- Evaluate IT support options. Explore on-premises support and remote access options. If you’re looking to outsource to a third-party resource, confirm security and compliance certifications — requirements in today’s threat-filled landscape.
To grow sales and increase profits, the shopping experience and digital technology go hand in hand. As retailers continue to deliver on shoppers’ high expectations, ensuring that both front-of-house systems and back-of-house technology are always-on is critical for success.
Lisa Avvocato is VP of Product Marketing at Splashtop, a secure remote access and support software company. With over 15 years of experience in enterprise SaaS and retail technology, she is passionate about helping organizations build innovative digital transformation strategies that drive sustainable business impact.