In May 2013, CSP Magazine published an article entitled "What's Trending," which details the common technology concerns from more than a dozen retailers and suppliers. Most of these concerns centered around four big buzzwords:
- Mobility: The multitude of mobile uses of marketing, secure payment, Apps, and internal business operations.
- Customer Loyalty: How to launch successful loyalty programs that differentiate from the competition and can be customized to the individual.
- Social Media: How to best use social media sites to build brand awareness, develop direct customer communication, and utilize data to understand buying habits.
- Business Intelligence: Using the data created by mobile Apps, loyalty programs, social media, and other technologies to make educated business decisions and solve problems.
All of these technology themes offer great opportunities for those retailers that utilize them correctly.
Even though retailers should dream big, ultimately, the main focus should be on a structure that enables all technologies to efficiently work together.
Efficiency can be accomplished through implementation of the final theme detailed in the article:
- A Secure and Reliable Business Network: This is the backbone needed to integrate the transmission of data from all other technology trends. The network must allow a business to securely connect its locations using various integrated Internet access technologies over a single, secure MPLS-based IP network. It must be PCI Compliant and also support class of service traffic prioritization to support key retail applications like voice and video.
Let’s take Mobility, Customer Loyalty, Social Media, and Business Intelligence and show you how connectivity considerations will lead to success.
The Mobility Trend and Connectivity
Mobility opens up the professional floor and allows businesses to function more efficiently. The act of picking up a smartphone brings malleable control to a retailer’s doorstep. Retailers are quickly picking up on how mobility can strengthen their business, with offerings like customer-centered Apps, coupons, and mobile payment options.
Mobility for customers is a central pull strategy to implement this technology, but both retail owners and employees want more access to data in an immediate fashion, from wherever they are.
- Mobile integration into business processes brings up a multitude of security concerns, specifically when used for payment processing.
- To access data remotely, solutions need to be browser-based or easily accessed via a mobile device.
- A secure pathway must exist from the public world into private systems.
The Loyalty Trend and Connectivity
Loyalty is a key consideration of a business transaction. Mobility is making loyalty programs better, more on-target, and less cumbersome. Point accumulation and discounts can be customized to be more relevant to the recipient.
- Loyalty programs are easier for a single retail location, but more difficult in a large retail network. One hurdle can be educating store staff across multiple locations and remaining connected through sales associates.
The Social Media Trend and Connectivity
Social media platforms have become the lifeblood of commercial retail promotions. All eyes are on the evolution of this en-masse communication tool and its potential for direct marketing and data development.
- Social media influences how retailers can reach consumers wherever they are and connect them to their purchase habits.
- Social media can be used to collect and analyze data and to integrate it with other data resources in order to make smart business decisions.
The Business Intelligence Trend and Connectivity
Business intelligence offers a multi-faceted view from inside the mind of the consumer. Tracking and analyzing data can help retailers determine buyer motivation, market problems, and create effective promotional strategies.
- Retailers want data collected from all angles (mobile App usage, loyalty programs, social media interaction, etc.) in order to solve business problems and maximize efficiency.
Connectivity as the Backbone of All Retail Technology Trends
As retailers launch campaigns through different technologies, they must put heavy consideration into the logistical connections needed to transmit the valuable data.
Some retailers may need to evaluate the readiness of their communications network to support trending retail technologies. This is even more important as a company transitions to hosted communication systems, putting their business processes into cloud servers. A secure, PCI-compliant network is needed to accommodate the bandwidth required to transmit data efficiently and securely, but also should prepare retailers for future data and application demands.
A business must ask itself what applications and processes it will need to implement over time, and select the right technology today in preparation to support its future needs. The depth of coverage and connectivity options provided by MegaPath’s network footprint and our core offerings of data, voice, security, and hosted IT services allow clients to do that and more.
These business services will help retailers integrate trending technologies into their business processes, giving retailers exactly what they need: the ability to be more available, more secure, and more successful.