The Australian retail sector has been doing it tough of late with the triple whammy of a strong dollar, consumers increasing their purchases from overseas-based online retailers and the two-speed economy.
In an effort to keep afloat many retailers are turning to technology as a means to innovate and are increasingly retaining, and in many cases, winning back customers.
The in-store retail experience is being overhauled through the use of technologies such as self service checkouts, faster ticketing and Tap and Go payments. The online experience has also been overhauled and social media is increasingly being used to improve customer service and build customer loyalty.
Despite the protestations of high-profile retailers such as Harvey Norman’s Gerry Harvey, the future of retail is looking brighter according to major retailers.
Department store giant, Myer, identified a number of years ago that technology could play a meaningful role in improving the operations and performance of the company.
IT operations general manager, Mark Doro, says it made investments in a number of areas including merchandise, point of sale (POS), closed circuit TV (CCTV) and loyalty systems.
“This has enabled the company to reduce transaction times at POS, improve targetmarketing to consumers, provide more immediate and accurate information regarding stock on hand in any of its stores, as well as increase security in store for staff and customers,” says Doro.
The investment in closed circuit TV has also helped Myer to reduce shrinkage, which includes theft and fraud, improve the system availability and improve efficiencies.
“This also provides us with a platform upon which we can more easily add additional functionality and more rapidly respond to change,” Doro says.
He added that the implementation of a new POS system has meant faster transaction processing while the central loading of promotional activities, such as significantly reduced manual processes making it easier for store team members.
These, and other in-store efficiencies, are being re-invested into improving customer service.
"We have also been focussed in a more general sense in preventing IT from being an impediment to the business, and we’ve worked hard to increase the flexibility of our systems and processes to enable to us to readily respond to changing service levels, infrastructure and project demands,” Doro says.
The CCTV system was installed to improve security, safety, compliance and reduce the cost of business. So far, the benefits for customers have meant reduced theft, greater availability of merchandise and a safer shopping environment. In the supply chain area, he said this has been a major focus for Myer over the last five years. "We recently completed the first stage of work in support of the establishment of our global sourcing offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong."
With regard to self-checkout and contactless payments, the company is investigating a number of payment technologies such as contactless pinpads as well as mobile POS offerings. Myer’s current POS system allows it to deploy wireless registers in store to support sale and special events.
The company also has an iPad application for its store magazine, Emporium, as well as an iPhone application linked to its existing website which means customers have the convenience of shopping using their iPhone.