Hot on the heels of our recent report Infrastructure Will Drive The Retail Store Experiences Of The Future, I've just released some follow-up research: Brief: Using Technology To Drive In-Store Customer Engagement

The I&O role continues to notably evolve from a mere IT role to becoming a BT — Business Technology — role. This means taking an increasingly role in empowering customer-facing technologies. And as I&O pros shift toward becoming customer enablers, you should begin to closely track — and to pilot — a number of emerging technologies that can help your company attract, retain, and serve customers. Currently, myriad solutions exist; as one start-up vendor told me, "there are so many new technologies out there, it's hard for buyers to decide where to place their bets, so we just try to get our products into trial to prove the value." While the number of these technologies (and their vendors) is great, they tend to share one or more of the following characteristics. As you read the list, ask yourself the question associated with each factor:

  • Hyper-local. Are you experimenting with technologies that engage customers on a highly geographic (e.g. within 1 foot) basis? (Example: iBeacon)
  • Targeted. Are you piloting any technologies that can customize customer engagement based on who they are or what they feel? (Example: Facial Recognition)
  • Interactive. Have you designed in-store interactive experiences that make it worthwhile for shoppers to actually download your app? (Example: Augmented Reality)
  • Novel. Which technologies will blow the minds of your shoppers? (Example: In-store, glasses-free 3D)
  • Wearable. Have you piloted wearable devices for employees, partners, or customers? (Example: Google Glass)

These are emerging technologies to be sure, and many remain unproven. Yet as one retail banker told me, "tech trends are moving too fast for us to wait — we need to start learning now." 

My recommendation? Work with your business partners to use these emerging technologies to design a VIP experience — whitelisting, if you will. Whitelisting entails identifying your best customers and offering them incentives to engage in loyal, iterative, long-term relationships with your brick-and-mortar retail (or other physical) location. 

To learn more about these ideas, I invite you to please read and download the full report here.

J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder