Over the past decade, consumer behaviour has changed significantly. The convergence of social, cloud, mobile and the rapidly growing amounts of information available have driven several innovations in recent years, transforming user behaviour but also creating new business models and opportunities. As consumers become more demanding and discerning, today’s retail business needs to transform into a real-time, information-driven enterprise.
One such innovation is near-field communication (NFC), in which one machine “reads” another device to communicate and send information wirelessly. Also known as “machine-to-machine” (M2M) technology, NFC technology is being used in contactless smartcards for payment of train tickets, groceries, and public services. Many organizations are already leveraging NFC technology and M2M infrastructure for customer management, payment processing, automated inventory, industrial equipment management, and logistics.
For retailers, these new technologies will enable them to embrace the dynamic market behaviours through tracking buying behaviour, and offering fast and reliable services to further strengthen customer relationships.
Increasingly, NFC is becoming part of our daily lives as service providers, mobile phone manufacturers and product manufacturers embraced the new technologies and built them into smartphones and smart devices. NFC tags, which are becoming more affordable, enable consumers to purchase and activate tags based on their lifestyle, be it at work, school, or home. For instance, a partnership between business travel payment specialist Airplus International and SAP plan to offer NFC mobile payment facilities to business travellers, creating convenience to drive customer satisfaction and retention.
Through M2M solutions, consumers can become more “connected” with a brand or a company, incentivizing them through special offers, instant discounts and bargain sales. Think QR codes, digital signage, location-based and bluetooth-based marketing. These allow for more focused advertising, precision retailing and personalised shopping for the customer.
For indoor retailing, innovative retailers are using intelligent video systems to study the pattern of customer traffic to better optimize displays and store layouts. By viewing and receiving real-time information on the paths consumers take, time spent in front of product displays and parts of the store that capture interest, retailers can make quick changes in minutes instead of weeks to improve the effectiveness of a layout or display, thereby creating a new in-store shopping experience.
Clearly, technologies such as NFC and M2M are in the horizon for retailers, marketers and consumers. Their usage has gained momentum over the past few years. Juniper Research predicted that by 2017, NFC-based transaction values would reach US$180 billion.
Connected, informed consumers expect the best products at the best price, regardless of channel. These rapid changes in consumer buying behaviour could render the existing infrastructure of a retailer obsolete, making it more vulnerable to competition. It is critical for retailer to adopt new technologies, especially cloud computing, intelligent networks, business analytics, and social network management to enable 24×7 shopping, anytime and anywhere through any device, in a seamless experience.
Now, imagine what the future of retail can look like.
From where I’m standing, the possibilities are looking bright.