How bricks and mortar outfits can hold their own against online.

It is all about the experience. Retailers are seemingly fighting a losing battle to the internet but all hope is not lost.

I have just returned from a trip through the US, Mexico and Fiji and I noticed a number of different ways retailers are fighting off the challenge of the internet. Some stores proudly displayed signs that said “we will match any internet price”. This is a sure-fire way to go broke. The cost of delivery of the internet is always going to make it hard to compete on price.

When I decide I want to buy a widget, I can choose any one of a number of widget sellers to buy it from. Both physical and online. I have spoken about this fact many times – consumers don’t really care about the price. People buy emotionally and justify rationally.

What consumers care about is the experience and the convenience. I have heard countless stories of consumers who have chosen to pay more or wait longer for a product because they were so incensed at the service they received at one location.

How can IT resellers help their clients in this scenario? I am not suggesting they start delivering customer service training to all of their clients (although some desperately need it). I am suggesting that technology can help deliver a better experience for consumers.

Many people think of POS solutions as a cash register that might help with inventory control. Retailers last year lost $17 billion due to excess stock and $3.5 billion from not having enough stock, so you can see the importance of accurate stock control.

A true POS solution can be so much more though. Many times I have seen resellers advertising POS based on the money it will save a retailer. It is missing the point. With a well setup POS solution, it can be a retailer’s strategic service centre, the place that will help a retailer grow their business and keep clients coming back again and again.

When people hear of repeat clients, they jump to the conclusion it’s all about loyalty cards. Loyalty cards or processes can drive sales back to your business but technology has moved past this. Retailers shouldn’t rely on clients coming back because they have a loyalty card – my eldest daughter is only 15 and has a wallet filled with 40 loyalty cards!

The real trick here is to not wait for clients to want to make a purchase but help drive the purchasing decision. When the iPhone 5 came out, a mobile phone retailer could have communicated with all the clients that previously purchased an iPhone as they are a perfect audience.

Convenience at the cash register is another huge potential growth area. In fact, forget the cash register. Sixty-six percent of retailers who use a POS system are interested in a mobile point of sale system and it is estimated 36 percent of fixed POS systems will be replaced with mPOS systems by the end of next year.

You walk into a store and you are served by a trendy teenager wearing jeans with a crotch around their knees. You make your purchasing decision and they pull out their iPad, swipe your card (who uses cash anymore?), email your receipt directly to you and you walk out the door with the item in your hand. You didn’t need to go near a cash register.

The trend 5 years ago was for electronic credit and debit card systems that then went to mobile versions. The trend now is for the entire process to be portable and mobile. Which leads to the next trend – NFC. Already it is possible to have a café setup with a process that a regular client walks into a “zone” around a café and immediately they are alerted to a daily special for that client on their favourite cappuccino.

Take it further and the entire payment process only relies on proximity. It is this sort of technology that can deliver the convenience and speed of transaction that clients want and that retailers see on their bottom line.

Years ago I was speaking with my hairdresser and she mentioned that about 10 percent of clients don’t turn up to their appointments – because they forgot. That is lost revenue. When I proposed a solution whereby each client received an automated reminder text the day before an appointment, you could see the excitement in her eyes.

This type of solution is almost standard with hairdressers now but there are a lot of other opportunities with a lot of other verticals just begging for you to propose a solution.

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