Retail Technological Revival

James Gray

October 23 2018

QR QR codes retail

Bricks and mortar retail is supposed to be dead or at least dying a slow and painful death. And for a while, watching the likes of Amazon and Zappos eat away at the market share of larger box stores and seemingly kill small bricks and mortar outfits, I think I believed that storyline. But what if what we’ve been witnessing is more of a fundamental shift in the retail marketplace wherein technology and physical presence are equally key components for success? One significant sign of this is the announcement by Target in February of 2017 that they would be spending more than $7 Billion to Adapt to Rapidly Evolving Guest Preferences. A large part of this effort involved massive spending on their bricks and mortar locations. Why did they invest in their physical sites when doing so flew in the face of popular perception such that the move was panned by Wall Street when announced? Because they know their customers and were confident it would work. And they’re already seeing positive results. In the second quarter of 2018, Target reported strong sales growth both in stores and online. In fact, sales at Target stores open for at least 1 year increased 6.5% year over year. While the economy is clearly at play with these results, it does not explain them entirely. Target is benefiting because they are investing in and redefining their retail experience, delivering what their customers want in terms of speed, product mix and services. At the same time, retailers like Sears are failing because they focused on the bottom line first and seemingly missed the seismic shift in what consumers require in a retail experience.

Target is investing heavily in its stores and technology to drive sales (image by Target Corp.)

Whether you’re a big name or just a single store, the Target example proves you can win in the bricks and mortar world if you offer superior convenience, curation and customer service. Doing so requires expertise in your marketplace and the ability to consistently deliver to customers an experience that is convenient, accurate, expert, and valuable. Smart implementation of technology in stores regardless of size, is key and should be designed to benefit both customers and owners. Owners should focus primarily on technologies that help customers throughout the purchasing cycle, product identification to checkout. Enabling customers to easily identify products that meet their need, choose the right product, and make a purchase as simple and pleasant as possible will realize success through customer acquisition and ongoing loyalty.

QR Codes allow you to quickly take customers to specific product information or services.

One technology that is gaining traction in the retail space after a somewhat auspicious start back in the 2010 timeframe, is the QR Code. Panned after their initial launch in the US, largely because mobile devices hadn’t yet integrated scanning capability, QR Codes are making a comeback in 2018 because reading them is being better integrated into current mobile devices (e.g. The iPhone now has QR Code reading built into its camera by default) and because they are an extremely effective means of linking consumers to context-specific information and actions for just about anything. The applications for QR Codes in the retail space are almost endless. From delivering product details and recommendations, to shopping carts and payments, QR Codes and the multitude of systems that support them should be explored and understood by retailers of all sizes as they look at the future of their business.