RBTE 2016: Customer-friendly technology is the route to knowing shoppers

Speaking on the 'Embracing technology to get to know your customers' panel on day two at RBTE 2016, Jamie Purser, category manager at PC World, said technology is becoming a core part of the customer experience but there are many examples of poorly designed solutions that is off-putting to people.

"Self checkouts work but some people just don't get it," he said, whereas technology that is fun and interesting such as that employed at London restaurant Inamo is well received by consumers. He also cited Uber and AirBnB as inspiring people because their technologies are doing something different and people liked this.

"It's the 'consumerisation' of IT. People love their smart-phones so if you can build technology like that then they will also love it. They don't like bad technology. And if they have a good technology experience then this creates word of mouth benefits as people will now share on social media," explained Purser.

Clearly with the right technology there is an opportunity for retailers to enjoy a valuable engagement with shoppers from which they can then learn a lot about them. This would go some way to addressing the issue facing many businesses – especially the smaller ones – that they simply do not know their customers.

Research by First Data found that 50% of smaller businesses say they only know their customers 'fairly well'. Dave Key, director of advanced product solutions at First Data, said retailers of all sizes need to capture data, which can be done simply though PoS devices and tablets. This can then be supplemented with data from third-parties to help provide different insights.

By sharing this data and insights across the organization, Key said employees can be empowered. This could involve them up-selling relevant products and services. They could also be sent pro-active alerts about stock levels and transaction values.

"Five years ago this was all back-office, with local storage and no connectivity But now we have systems that can be plugged into social media and everything is now web-enabled. This is the consumerisation of technology," he said.