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Tackling Top Retail Technology Trends and Challenges for 2021

customer pays with phone at payment terminal

As retailers rush to adapt to a whole new set of consumer behaviors heading into the holiday season and 2021, many are rapidly shifting their long-planned tech roadmaps and accelerating POS refreshes to meet consumers’ dramatically new shopping expectations. To win customer attention, it is critically important that those implementations are fast and smooth. But it is not easy for retail IT teams to pivot that quickly, especially when dealing with unfamiliar technologies.

At Level 10, we see every possible hurdle and use our expertise to help our customers move past them. So as retailers forge ahead, here are what we see as the top technology trends merchants are facing in order to adapt to new consumer expectations heading into 2021 — and what our wealth of experience tells us retailers must watch for to make those rollouts successful.

1. Mobility

We are seeing a sharp uptick in the deployment of mobile devices for associates. Merchants are using them for multiple applications, including processing a backlog of markdowns, upping their clienteling game, and processing orders for the increase in delivery and curbside pickup. We are also seeing a shift to self-ordering using consumer mobile devices. With such mission-critical capabilities at stake, deploying these solutions well is essential.

2. Agility

Curbside is one example of a wild swing in consumer behavior: 44% of consumers have increased use of curbside pickup/click and collect during the pandemic, and 78% expect to continue that use, according to Accenture. This required retailers to adopt a whole new set of store processes. Retailers that had already made considerable progress in their digital transformations were able to change a lot faster. Analysts expect a lot of pandemic-induced behaviors to continue after the crisis mitigates, so retailers who were behind on the modernization efforts that fuel agility need to accelerate them if they hope to catch up with these trends and those that will inevitably follow.

3. Integrating with Young Partners

We’re seeing a lot of projects driven by the need to integrate with new, startup third-party companies for delivery. These young companies may lag more established ones when it comes to issues such as security compliance and even legal and finance functions. That can be a concern, particularly when payments are involved. Retailers may need to do some heavy lifting to mitigate this risk.

4. Phone System Volume

Demand for communication between stores and customers has soared. Not only are there more voice calls, texts, live chats and even streaming taking place on the store floor, but also out into the parking lot, to support curbside pickup and quick service line busting. This is all proving too much for some retailer’s networks. As retailers add more mobile devices to accommodate demand, it is essential to consider the network impact.

5. Self-Checkout

Consumers are embracing self-checkout in its many forms, to minimize contact with others and get out of stores faster. Self-checkout adoption was already soaring; global shipments of self-checkout terminals increased 52% in 2019. It’s critical that self-checkout work flawlessly; consumers will quickly abandon it otherwise. Retailers are under pressure to ensure seamless rollouts.

6. COVID-19 Safety

Experts have made it clear that COVID-safe practices will be with us for quite a while. Retailers must continue offering safe environments with protective signage, equipment, and frequent, visible cleaning to make customers comfortable visiting their stores. Technology such as occupancy management systems and task management checklists can help optimize these processes.

7. Contactless Payment

Contactless payment adoption also took off during the pandemic, another new habit expected to stick. This is another place where retailers who have modernized have a clear advantage; those with systems several versions out of date are being forced to speed up POS upgrades or replacements to enable this vital capability.

Retailers are under heavy pressure to enact technologies and processes that satisfy these sometimes-dramatic changes in consumer behavior. But speed without precision can cost retailers in time and resources and lead to errors that can turn consumers off permanently.

In our experience, one step retailers in a hurry often shortchange is the project engineering process. When retailers don’t plan and coordinate the technology supply chain with their software and deployment resources, and run a proof of concept and pilot to work out the kinks, it pushes risk and errors into the implementation process, which ultimately costs much more.

Proper planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Level 10 helps retailers achieve speed, agility and precision with their technology deployments through our Rapid Project Augmentation and Centralized Staging and Kitting. We can fully project manage retailers’ next deployment so they can quickly and accurately get their project off the ground while their personnel and financial resources may be limited.

Agility has become table stakes in today’s retail market, and that agility must extend to store technology rollouts as well. Make sure you are working with an implementation partner who can pivot right along with you.

To learn how Level 10 can help you tackle your 2021 IT deployments with ease, contact us today.