Retail Trends Are Changing what Retailers Need from Software Applications

It’s essential to keep retail trends and changing consumer behaviors in mind as you develop software for this rapidly evolving industry.

retail trends

Constant change has become the norm for retail. Advancing technology provides new capabilities, and, in their quest for convenience, consumers are changing the way they shop. The software you develop for this industry needs to help your clients keep up with current retail trends and help your clients keep their competitive edge.

Joshua Stanphill, ISV business development manager — strategic accounts for Epson America, lists some of the retail trends that need to be on your radar:

  • Kiosks: They’re ubiquitous in restaurants — now they’re permeating stores. Retailers are using kiosks to increase productivity and enhance customer experiences without having to increase staff. And remember, whether they’re for self-service checkout or endless aisle applications, kiosks need to be user-friendly.
  • Buy online, pick up in store: More consumers are taking advantage of the ability to order online and then pick up merchandise at retail locations when it’s convenient. Retailers need solutions that support seamless omnichannel experiences, for example, tokenizing payment information so customers don’t have to present their cards in the store, even if they want to return or exchange items in their orders.
  • Fitting room technology: Touchscreens in dressing rooms allow customers to scan items, check in-store inventory for additional sizes, colors or styles, and call for assistance from a sales associate, streamlining and enhancing customer experiences.
  • Social media integration: Integrating (or connecting) point of sale (POS) to social media can help the retailer communicate its brand, specials, promotions, but mainly it is a great tool for engaging with a merchant’s loyal following. Being able to report on user behavior on social media can provide a completely different perspective around customers or potential customers. Stanphill says, “Imagine seeing what your customers like on social media, right in their customer profile on POS.”

When you’re developing solutions that equip retailers to stay on trend or long-time essentials like POS solutions, Stanphill says ISVs need to keep customers front of mind as they’re defining feature sets and integrations. “Being a retailer requires strong inventory management and reporting in order to make the best business decisions, but so little emphasis is being placed on growing experiences across the board for customers,” says Stanphill. “The goal is true omnichannel that blends all online and in-store experiences.”

For example, endless aisle kiosks should run user-friendly catalog solutions, rather than just generating what appears to be inventory reports. Customers should be able to use gift cards and earn or use loyalty points on any channel. Omnichannel shoppers are looking for a consistent brand experience, regardless of how they shop. “So few are tying it all together,” Stanphill says.

Trends in Retail Management

Stanphill adds that retailers are also looking for solutions they can use to operate more efficiently and profitably, such as:

  • RFID for inventory and security
  • Security camera integration for loss prevention and drawer monitoring.
  • People counters to provide insights to direct merchandising and analyze traffic flow

They also want to get the greatest benefits from their POS systems. “It’s crucially important for POS to aid in growth — not just management of the financial side of the business, but actually engaging with customers,” he says, “But for many retailers, the POS system is more like a calculator or utilitarian device. It’s not empowering managers to grow their businesses.”

He says the POS system should integrate with customer relationship management (CRM), marketing solutions, push notifications, and better coupon and promotion management. And, for retail chains, managers need a method of communicating with individual locations and monitoring and managing POS devices. “The ideal scenario is to log into one product and see all the data and reports you need — and it ties into marketing. It’s difficult when it’s all fragmented,” Stanphill points out.

ISVs can also improve reporting by providing retailers with the exact information they need, accessible through easy-to-use dashboards. “Reports should be tailored to the user, whether that’s an apparel store, a restaurant or a salon. “If you say you support an industry or niche, support it. Give them a simple way to review their businesses and spot trends more easily. It would be like a dream come true for retailers,” Stanphill says.

Retailers want to collect and analyze a variety of data that can help them make smart business decisions, such as:

  • Items a customer tries on in a fitting room
  • Items in the customers online shopping cart
  • Items abandoned in an online cart
  • The frequency of store visits
  • Average ticket
  • Returned items

It’s notable that not all valuable data comes from the POS system in the brick and mortar store: “E-commerce can provide a lot of insight into a customer’s behavior and interests. But yet today, we still have very little of this data moving into the POS solution,” Stanphill says. 

Retailers are also looking for more efficient task management capabilities, that holds employees accountable, enables transferring tasks from one employee to another, and monitor progress. “Now, those things are handled outside the system using a more fragmented approach.” He points out if a retailer has this capability, it’s probably a higher tier enterprise, but small or medium-sized retailers, with managers who have little time to spare, would greatly benefit from task management features.

Develop In-Demand Solutions

Stanphill advises ISVs, “Focus more on features that provide higher tier capabilities for small and medium-sized businesses. Your goal should always be empowering retailers with features that will assist in growth. The biggest flaw that I’ve seen in the marketplace is that POS ISVs focus on POS, but not the areas that will sustain and grow this business like marketing.”

Ideally, says Stanphill, a retail POS system should educate, refine, hold accountable, grow customer bases and loyalty towards brands, connect solutions together for a holistic experience, and ultimately lead to better decision-making and market position.

“If you can prove to a retailer that you understand their business and you will help them grow and make tough decisions, the product will resonate in retail,” he says.  

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.