Market musings

How Digital Transformation Is Empowering the Evolution of Retail 2.0

by Sasha Viasasha
March 12, 2018

The smartphone is the undoubtable star of the retail revolution, serving as a virtual storefront for both the online and brick-and-mortar shopping experience. The marketplaces of the world are unified by the web, driving a hyper-competitive and fast-paced race, where the customer experience is often the only differentiating factor. The smartphone has become a vital tool for the digital consumer, and ubiquitous to the shopping experience. But as retail goes digital and 5G comes online, the smartphone could conceivably replace old communication infrastructure and provide a lifeline to front-line employees and customers alike. 

The digital and the real

As customers shop, comparing prices and making purchases with a tap or click, they are also seeking answers. Brick-and-mortar locations, once the pinnacle of the retail experience, can easily become a liability. When poorly managed, staffed and laid out, retail spaces create frustration and confusion, but when well done, they become vital, reassuring touch points in the customer journey.

Such spaces are becoming even more important for digital consumers. Hence Amazon’s bet on Whole Foods, and their push into city neighborhoods and downtowns via their bookstores and shops. And yet, despite Amazon’s canonization in the tech titan hall of fame, they are never more than a click away to answer questions and resolve issues promptly—by phone, chat or email.

As Amazon and its pain-free consumer model becomes a new gold standard, retail is scrambling to reinvent itself in response. Downsizing infrastructure, digitizing pricing models, and integrating stores more intelligently into supply chains are all important tasks. But the brick-and-mortar retail experience still remains essential for both new and established brands, and a venue where they can really shine.

The in-store experience

Retailers who can provide a memorable and thoughtful experience can showcase the best brands, win loyal fans and stay on top of emerging trends. They are plugged into the vital interests of the most active and social shoppers, thus strongly connected to the markets they serve. While they may not have Amazons incredible penetration, these retailers can know their markets on a more granular level and can turn those insights into a shopping experience that serves niche markets and commands luxury dollars. They can act quickly to shape and respond to demand, in close partnerships with friends and collaborators in the space.

The demand (from both consumers and brands) for a more fluid and agile retail experience has brought digital transformation center stage for retail. The iconic retailer of yesterday leveraged its constancy to establish credibility, both for its own name and the brands it hosted on its shelves.

Agility and infrastructure

Today speed and relevance matter more and yet agility can bring confusion to the established retail order. As retail becomes more fluid, on-demand and mobile, retail operations have to find solutions that service more flexible models. From pop-up shops, temporary showrooms, and product-specific specialists that rotate to different cities or locations, retail is meeting mobile and placing new demands on the technology that serves the front lines.

Fixed infrastructure and legacy systems are being replaced with virtualized POS software that can be deployed on wireless devices, tablets, and even smartphones, while business applications such as Spoke, allows agile retailers to easily add and remove locations and users and run a virtual phone system over the top of a smartphone infrastructure.

This system can service a flexible workforce and retail model while providing the staple service consumers have come to expect from retail: a business number to call into to inquire about location, hours and product availability. Best of all, customer-facing employees can get support and information quickly as they service and engage customers across the digital/retail shopfront. 

Since employees aren’t fixed to a landline, they are available to answer calls and stay active in the space, providing a better customer experience and more accurate help. Retailers testing new locations can easily hire local talent, whether for a single event or a longer duration, and workers can get patched into the phone system in just a few minutes. No special training or equipment is required, allowing retailers to shrink their footprint while increasing their impact.

Mobility and the new normal

The smartphone has come to play a pivotal role in consumers lives, and as digital transformation continues to virtualize business applications, it will transform retail again, by allowing brands to leverage a more flexible workforce and model to vitalize and digitize the retail shopping experience.  

Business can scale up quickly, testing new markets and quickly establishing a local presence in neighborhoods, with little investment in infrastructure, rent or costly contracts. Brands can tease coming releases and use the pop-up model to fund their market research. The new retail world is fluid and vibrant, delighting consumers with the unexpected, and bringing access to new communities. 

The flexible communications platform for Retail 2.0

Spoke Phone is a global mobile network that enhances agility and the customer experience for retailers looking to wow their customers. 

All of the essentials of a professional phone system are packed into a virtual PBX, with features like mobile-to-mobile transfers, add/delete team members with no IT resources required, DDI numbers in 56 countries and HD Voice for excellence in customer service. To learn more about Spoke and the next generation of retail communications, we welcome you to claim your own free trial or interactive demo.  

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