It’s hard to believe that online retailing has grown from a novelty to mainstream in the past 15 years. Years from now, when merchants look back at 2012, they’ll view many of today’s emerging technologies the same way. One thing is clear as of now: technology continues to change the way people shop.
While developing Merchant Warehouse’s next generation services, we set out to identify the key technological pain points merchants are experiencing today. In part one of this two-part blog series, we’ll address the confusing disruption around new shopping trends as a starting point to help merchants eliminate their most prevalent technology struggles.
- Attracting and retaining new customers with more competition than ever before. E-commerce opened the door for lower prices and a streamlined experience. Consumers can simply turn to Amazon for seemingly every possible need. New daily discount and members-only sites, like Gilt and RueLaLa, have ushered in further competition and customer relationships in the form of “exclusivity.” Merchants are now forced to redefine their businesses to persuade consumers to leave the virtual world and come back to brick-and-mortar.
- Mobile technology has tremendous potential for helping merchants create a unique customer experience. The problem merchants have is navigating the nascent mobile payments landscape. Future success depends on correctly assessing which emerging payment solution(s) (NFC, EMV, etc.) will stand the test of time. The very real fear here is betting on a solution that falls by the wayside, rendering a mobile strategy null and void.
- Loyalty programs might not seem like a new concept, but apps used by Starbucks and LevelUp are taking rewards to mobile devices. It won’t be long before key rings and loyalty cards become virtual, but merchants are still discovering that this technology is available to retailers of any size (on a consumer side note, this couldn’t be more convenient given the number of times I’ve left a rewards card at home). A virtual loyalty program is very much tied to payments. Again, the issue for merchants is finding a long-term solution that will meet their needs and keep customers flocking.
- Although technology has the ability to provide deeper customer relationships, it can also destroy trust. Consumer security is a major concern for all merchants for good reason: if they can’t protect a customer’s information, how can they expect return shopping visits? This point in particular puts smaller merchants at risk due to their lack of deep security technology knowledge. Store owners are retail, sales and marketing experts, not IT security professionals. In many cases, technology has helped merchants level the playing field with the “big boys,” but security concerns bring a constant headache.
Merchant Warehouse is constantly pushing to make technology simple and accessible to all merchants. These major pain points are integral to how we strive to build lasting relationships with our partners. Now that we’ve identified these problems, part-two of this series will discuss the four tips merchants should consider to choose the right technology for their business.