In-depth

The top ten retail technologies

We examine some of the most interesting trends in retail technology.

Walking into your local retailer or even surfing online, it's sometimes easy to forget about the technology that you're using.

It's a constantly changing bit of the IT world, and interesting to follow as consumers can often see the newest bits of tech when they hit the checkout.

Here are some of the most interesting retail technologies out there now - and what to expect in the future.

1. E-Commerce

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People are spending more and more time online instead of on the high street, and this pattern isn't likely to reverse. This means that having a website is absolutely vital for the success of any retailer.

Retailers face big challenges in persuading users to come to their sites, stay for a while, and eventually spend money. Any one of a multitude of things could make a customer leave, such as poor website security, downtime, or slow connectivity - which could all cost sales.

2. Mobile retail

As the number of people with internet-enabled smartphones continues to increase, it could be that people will be much more willing to spend money online - if browsing experiences improve.

Like e-commerce, it's going to be the user experience that really marks the difference between the retailers that offer a good mobile shopping experience and those that don't.

Social networks such as Facebook have been successfully moved onto mobile devices, but it may be a while yet before we see a much bigger range of retail websites that can be browsed easily using a phone.

3. Contactless cards

The technology needed to successfully implement contactless cards in retail chains is already available, but questions remain whether they will be taken up at the speed some are expecting.

Barclaycard has been trying to push contactless card technology for years. The Barclaycard OnePulse card - with Oyster, credit card and contactless tech - has been around since 2007, and all of its new debit cards now feature contactless tech.

Surely it will become more popular, but will it be soon?

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4. CRM software

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can be used for retailers who need to understand their customers, know what they have bought and how to use the information to market to specific targets.

Many software companies offer CRM solutions, including Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com and Microsoft. Typically, the software aims to improve customer service and market effectively.

However, unless employees can understand the systems and take advantage of them and information they offer, then having a CRM solution is rather pointless.

Also, some analysts claim that Customer Experience Management (CEM) is much more important to the retail sector.

5. Wireless tech

Wireless technology can help save money in the office, by cutting back on wiring and maintenance, but it can also help on the shop floor and in the warehouse.

There are a number of devices - usually handheld, such as barcode scanners - that can effectively make areas such as inventory and aisle management much more efficient.

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