The future role of digital media and technology in retail

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Digital is fusing into our daily lives more and more. As a concept, it will soon disappear in a future where we reminisce about the good old days of offline and online.

This fusion is already underway. The mobile evolution continues to provide increasing interaction with richer digital content. While enabling technologies (like NFC) let us to go one-step further and interact with real word objects. These new interactions are fueling not just a mobile, but also a digital revolution.

As this fusion matures, our social profiles will become our passport to interact with the world, with digital media providing the destination for new experiences. Increasingly, these experiences will become richer, personal and more captivating through our social identity data: explicit (what I say about myself), behavioural (what I do, my activities) and relationship (who I am connected to and what those connections say about me).

Pioneering this change is the retail experience. While we fantasise about Minority Report style high street shopping, the reality is not as futuristic as you might think. Retail is essentially “distribution” plus “experience”. And the role of digital is transforming this experience in key areas.

1. Awareness: Today’s shoppers have an abundance of information, price transparency, location-based deals and special offers literally in the palm of their hands. Countless apps, services and mechanics fight to deliver relevant retail based information.

2. Point of sale: This is fertile ground today. After a few false starts we are poised to see great developments in the retail space. Shoppers today, and in the future, simply expect more. And the role of digital media and technology in retail is to provide this. The goal is not to dominate the retail experience with technology for technologies sake. But to complement and enable a great retail experience that is tightly coupled with the shopper’s social needs.

3. Purchase: NCF mobile payments are expected to hit US$670-billion in the next two years. While this seems like an “adventurous” statement, there is no denying the mobile wallet will have a profound effect on retail in the near future.

Again, the social profile will enable a rich retail experience relevant and useful to the shopper. The smart retailers will be first to connect these dots, understand and even more importantly make use of the resulting data.

Digital will continue to present new retail interactions and experiences for the shopper of the future. The question retailers should be asking now is how can they satisfy the unmet social needs of customers in the retail environment. This is the making of a social retail strategy — something every serious retailer must consider moving forward.

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