Tech Bytes: Three steps to achieve better customer engagement

Regardless of how volatile the retail landscape is, brands must remain focused on driving customer engagement — especially if they want to survive.
This point was driven home during Manhattan Associates’ Momentum conference, held in Las Vegas, May 8-11. During the event, industry observers discussed how the future of retail will center around the customer — and delivering a seamless, personal experience moving forward. 
To remain relevant in this increasingly customer-focused era, staying idle isn’t an option. Retailers need to step up their game, and consider which innovations will create a customer-centric shopping experience. 
Here are three strategies that can help retailers boost their adoption efforts:
1. Don’t approach the Internet of Things (IoT) as a fad. The key to driving a seamless shopping experience is to break down the many silos that still exist between processes, lines of business and shoppers. Technology disruptors that fall under the IoT category — smart devices that connect via Web-based networks, and share data — promise to change all of that. 
RFID, considered the first use-case of IoT, was originally tapped as a loss prevention tool. However, as the cost of the technology drops, the solution is getting a renewed focus. 
Some retailers are even integrating the tags within new disruptors, from virtual mirrors to augmented reality programs. For example, as shoppers scan tagged merchandise, they explore first-hand the characteristics and functionality of products — a concept that keeps shoppers engaged, while helping them make an informed purchase decision.
2. Adopt the cloud to support customer-facing solutions. As chains become more omnichannel, and thus, digitally-influenced, they need to ensure their Web-based services and operations are available to meet shoppers’ demands and expectations. This is not an easy task with aging legacy systems that are not agile enough to integrate new functionality, or fail to support increased volume during peak selling times. By transitioning specific applications to the cloud, retailers gain the flexibility needed to personalize online experiences, deliver real-time marketing messages, and ensure that inventory is updated in real-time during every interaction. 
3. Communicate upgrades and new functionality with associates. When adopting new innovations, retailers always evaluate the best way to train associates to use the solution. Yet, they should be engaging front-line employees much earlier within the deployment process.
In fact, some companies are so focused on the role of IT, they keep other lines of business out of the loop entirely. Every employee impacted by a new solution should understand not only how to use the technology, but why it is important to the customer, how it will impact the business, and the processes involved in deploying the solution. 
Whether this is through Web-based learning management systems, team meetings, or printed materials, retailers need to engage associates to learn how new solutions can greatly improve their performance, as well as the brand’s. As more associates are exposed to the rollout process, they will gain insight into a new skill set, learn how to master the technology, and even become an asset to support future upgrades and rollouts.
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