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article imageTech savvy retail and restaurants raising the bar: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Jul 7, 2018 in Business
Trends suggest that consumers are demanding better technology experiences while shopping and dining. However, investment in technology-driven customer experiences creates complexity and risk. Alfred Kahn, CEO and founder of Boomtown provides some advice.
Recently, Boomtown, a provider of software and services for more efficient technology support, issued the report, titled “The Digital Forward Customer Experience: New Expectations and Obstacles for Today’s Storefront.” The report examined how tech savvy national brick and mortar retail and restaurant chains are transforming the experiences and expectations of consumers across the entire shopping and dining landscape.
The report shows that consumers have a strong preference for brands that make widespread use of advanced, reliable and intuitive technology. However, companies need to develop a strategy and implement such technology carefully. To discuss the report and its implications, Digital Journal caught up with Alfred ‘Chip’ Kahn IV, CEO and founder of Boomtown.
Digital Journal: How important is technology becoming for retail?
Alfred Kahn IV: Our new report indicates that technology is becoming an increasingly integral part of shopping and dining experiences for Americans, and in turn, technology successes and failures are seriously impacting whether consumers return to a store or restaurant.
DJ: Is an on-line presence necessary for all retailers?
Kahn: According to the U.S. Census, more than 90 percent of consumer spending still happens in physical locations. E-commerce is growing at a steady pace over the last several years, but brick and mortar retail is still the heart and soul of the industry. As long as that’s the case, we’d recommend investing resources into brick and mortar support technology to ensure the overwhelming majority of consumer experiences are positive ones.
But, when building out the e-Commerce strategy, ensure that the customer experience between online and offline is consistent and seamless.
DJ: Which technologies are set to be big for retail?
Kahn: We’d recommend implementing - as well as doing more to support and maintain - the technology that consumers name as integral to their experience, such as: Online ordering capabilities, for pick-up in store (important to 36.5 percent); functional, seamless digital payment options (credit, debit, Square, EBT, cash, Apple Pay, Google Pay, other mobile payment, etc.), which 57.3 percent of large-chain shoppers name as important; and self check-out options, which 49.4 percent of large-chain shoppers name as important.
Also, up to date online inventory for browsing ahead of store visits (important to 54 percent); mobile ordering options/capability (important to 20 percent); online ordering with same-day or one-day home delivery (important to 23.8 percent).
DJ: Are these trends from the Boomtown report? How did you run the survey?
Kahn:Yes, all of our findings are from the Boomtown report. We surveyed 1,033 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older in May of 2018. Responses were randomly collected, voluntary and completely anonymous.
DJ: Are these more customer facing or technologies in place to improve performance?
Kahn:The technology featured in our report is customer-facing technology, which is why it's such an important part of the customer experience.
DJ: Are consumer expectations in-line with what most retailers are offering?
Kahn:Considering that the vast majority of consumers have experienced technical glitches while shopping and dining (more than 80 percent), it's clear that most retailers are struggling to consistently maintain well-functioning consumer technology. This is a problem that needs to be solved.
DJ: What more do retailers need to do to connect with consumers?
Kahn:Our advice for retailers is to invest in preventative measures to ensure that these technical issues don't occur in the first place - don't just rely on an apology after the damage has been done.
DJ: What are the risks for retailers if they don’t meet customers half-way?
Kahn:More than half of consumers (55 percent) will complain to store managers when they have an issue (including technical ones) and more than a quarter (27 percent) will visit the business less in the future. The risks to business are very real.
DJ: Where do you see retail technology heading over the next five years?
Kahn:Savvy retailers are going to be carefully navigating and investing in the complex process of selecting, implementing and supporting retail technology. When you’re putting together systems from different manufacturers, installed by different vendors, and then supported by those different vendors - or not supported at all - it is challenging to keep it all working together seamlessly.
Without the support and service in place to guarantee seamless functionality, store owners, employees and their customers run into all sorts of issues. In the years to come, more and more retailers are going to experience these pitfalls and will be forced to take action to improve their technology.
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