Despite all the data retailers can collect about their operations today, the figurative last mile – the brick-and-mortar store – is still a black box.
Retailers can easily track every move online shoppers make, but when it comes to brick-and-mortar stores, they don’t have a way to monitor where customers linger, which displays catch their eyes, or which products they pick up and then put back down without buying. Without that information, retailers find it hard to optimise in-store operations.
This is where geomatics – the analysis and management of geospatial data – comes into play. Geomatics provides retailers with a powerful tool for tracking and analysing their brick-and-mortar stores, allowing them to create a digital picture of a retail space that is automatically updated to accurately portray customers’ experiences. Consequently, when it is combined with in-store location-based metrics, geomatics can help retailers to better understand and improve their customers’ in-store experience.
To gather in-store location-based data, retailers can use advanced presence technology, such as lasers in the form of light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors; 3D facial sensors; long-range low-power wireless systems for internet of things applications; Bluetooth tags with multi-sensor functionality and machine learning technology; real-time location systems; geofencing; wi-fi tracking; and radio-frequency identification technology.
However, it’s not enough for retailers to simply capture tracking and in-store presence data. This in-store data needs to be combined with information about what customers are actually purchasing if retailers want to have access to the same kind of insights they get online. By applying analytics to this combined data, retailers can get all the information they need to fine-tune customer interactions and customer intimacy. They can also optimise demand forecasts; improve product placement, floor plans and in-store design; and adjust employee scheduling, tasks and placement.
Many retailers are moving to omnichannel strategies, a multichannel approach that enables customers to enjoy the same seamless experience whether they are shopping in-store, online, via mobile or using a catalogue. To deliver a consistent retail experience across all channels, retailers need services that track, measure, analyse and optimise their end-to-end operations – from the moment inventory is ordered, to the minute a customer makes a purchase either in store, online or via a mobile device. Retailers can easily achieve this by using in-store geomatics to get real-time information about their shoppers’ experience in brick-and-mortar stores and integrating it with data collected from their online and mobile operations.
Cloud-based omnilocation services can also help. These services help retailers to manage their entire operations, starting with real-time track-and-trace technologies that can be used to monitor shipments, distribution and estimated time of arrivals, so scheduling, workforce management and inventory planning is more accurate. For example, if a retailer is alerted to delays or shipping issues as soon as they happen, they can make decisions to mitigate any fallout, rectify the situation and minimise harm to the customer experience. Services such as DXC OmniLocation integrate online and real-world data to enable comprehensive logistics planning, monitoring, management and in-store geomatics.
Retailers know more about their supply chain operations, logistics, inventory and customers than ever before. But there’s always opportunity for more insights, and new technologies are emerging to deliver these. By digitally transforming in-store retail operations with geomatics, retailers can automatically capture the information they need to better understand shopper experiences. Then, they can refine their brick-and-mortar stores so they offer seamless interaction with customers and can dynamically adjust their offerings to meet customers’ needs, wants and expectations. By putting the right product in front of the right customer at the right time and creating a frictionless and more fulfilling shopping experience, brick-and-mortar retail will continue to play a vital role in the consumer’s path to purchase.
Michael Boykin is industry chief technologist for DXC Technology’s Consumer Packaged Goods and Retail in the Americas, and Daniel Munyan is geospatial logistics and internet of things product manager for the company’s analytics business segment