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Prepare to cash in on retail tech demand

As talk around what’s coming in the year 2020 continues, we look at the key areas the channel should start focusing on now and into 2018 to prepare for the future

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From technology refreshes to suit the growing millennial population to growing interest in radio-frequency identification (RFID), there’s a lot on the horizon to get excited about, especially for channel businesses able to fulfil demand.

mPOS millennial refresh

Millennials are expected to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. To make way for this modern workforce, retailers will need to move away from their current legacy mainframe point-of-sale (POS) systems. The channel needs to be ready for this shift, and prepared to handle a surge in POS refreshes in coming years. The millennial workforce will be accustomed to “touch” or “swipe” interaction on all the digital platforms and devices they use, so it will be hard to get them to buy in to clunky, out-of-date systems.

Retailers will need to make sure their systems and POS estates are millennial-ready. With many startups using mobile POS (mPOS) systems already, and with larger retailers starting to follow suit, the time to look at a POS refresh is now.

Refreshing POS systems will benefit not only the millennial workforce, but also the increasing number of millennial shoppers who pass through the doors of bricks and mortar stores. Integrating more digital screens, interactive boards and POS paypoints will offer shoppers an enhanced online-offline experience.

Investment in education

As innovation in the channel increases – with spending set to rise by 50% by 2020, and at a time where we’ll start to see a workforce which predominantly comprises millennials – investment in teams and reseller communities should be a major focus into 2018 and beyond.

No amount of investment in technology, solutions or analytics will make an impact without the teams and people behind it all to help marry it together. To keep the channel thinking outside the box, vendors need to raise partner responsibility and challenge them to help drive thought processes further.

All too often we see ideas that, with a nudge, could have been taken a step further to create better in-store processes, for example, and to enhance the customer experience in-store. Innovation investment alone will not be enough.

Omni-channels behind the scenes

For now – until the foreseeable future – omni-channel will dominate conversations. At present, this mostly relates to retailers offering customers an integrated shopping experience, whether they’re shopping in a store, online, or on their phone.

But as the effect of digital technology continues to disrupt the channel, the omni-channel back-end processes shouldn’t fall by the wayside. With POS, warehouse and distribution processes becoming more intricate, as new technologies come to fruition, enhancing and aligning complex back-end procedures will be key in ensuring the front end offers the complete omni-channel experience customers expect.

The seamless management of the front end depends heavily on the alignment of back-end operations. Without the time and investment needed to get this right upfront, there’s a danger the retail back office will have a hard time playing catch-up, which will directly affect front-end performance.

Throughout 2018, we’ll see more emphasis on back-end processes. A larger number of retailers will look for a more unified omni-channel strategy and approach to better integrate operations and seamlessly marry up back-end departments, such as marketing and IT, so they filter through to the front end.

Radio-frequency identification

Despite being talked about for more than a decade, RFID is now a key trend to watch, especially with the emergence of more cloud-based supply chain management systems. With the global market for RFID projected to grow to around $24.5bn by 2020, it’s no surprise that we’re already seeing a rise in the number of software vendors entering the RFID market.

Into 2020, we’ll start to see more back-end integration of RFID capabilities into warehouse logistics and distribution chains to help provide more seamless and efficient management processes.

Get ahead now

These are just some of the things we’ll start seeing in the channel in the coming years. The quicker they’re implemented or embraced, the less chance the channel and retailers will have of falling behind. What an exciting year to come.

Kashmir Cooper is EMEA channel director at touchscreen provider Elo.

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