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The 6 Major Ways That IT Is Disrupting the Retail Industry (and What You Can Do About Them)

To say that the retail industry in Australia is thriving is actually a little bit of an understatement. Retail sales in May of 2018 grew by 0.4%, well ahead of the original expectations of 0.3%. This means that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sales came at around $26.67 billion when all seasonal adjustment are accounted for. 

But at the same time, the retail industry is also changing. As a retail professional, you've probably felt this happening for a long time. Over the last decade, both online and brick-and-mortar businesses have been in the throws of transformation. A retail business today barely resembles one from 2008, let alone 1998, especially once you peak behind the proverbial curtain.

The important thing to remember is that this disruption shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. You cannot control it. You can only anticipate it and take advantage of it.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind.

1. Digital Problems for the Retail Industry

Perhaps the biggest way that IT is disrupting the retail industry is also, sadly, one of the most negative. As the popularity of a more digital retail industry continues to increase, the frequency of data breaches has done the same.

In Australia, for example, there were 63 reported data breaches in the first 38 days since the recent data breach notification laws went into effect averaging to about two such incidents per day. That is only what is being reported, mind you. The real numbers are probably far higher. 

In addition to all of the other stresses that come with running an ecommerce retail business, entrepreneurs must now concern themselves with warding off security events as much as possible. You need to make protecting customer financial details a top priority because the consequences of failure here are far too severe.

People have come to expect retail sites that are A) secure, and that B) are reliable to the point where they never experience disruption themselves. You're now in a position where you need to meet or exceed that expectation every single day.

2. Changing Payment Methods for the Retail Industry 

Another one of the major changes that the nexus between retail and technology has brought with it is how customers pay — something that itself has always been in a state of flux. Just as cash payments eventually gave way to debit and credit, the tides are once again changing — this time, favoring mobile payment solutions like Afterpay, PayPal, Apple Pay, and others. 

Part of your job as a retail professional involves making it as easy as possible for your customers to make a purchase. These days, part of that involves accepting these types of secondary payment options that seem to crop up more frequently overnight. Rest assured that if your business does not accept PayPal, Samsung Pay, or similar services in the modern era, now would be an excellent time to start.

3. The Niche Retail Industry of Australia 

Thanks to technology, the industry itself is changing. These days, it simply isn't profitable to try to be the next Amazon and appeal to the biggest possible audience in a world where Amazon already exists. This led to a bevvy of new competitors over the last years but then it created an interesting trend too.

To make sure that you don't get lost in a crowd and to help combat your competition, you need to go in the opposite direction. Don't try to do it all — instead, try to do one thing incredibly well. There are always niche markets that need filling and if you're able to get in on the ground floor of one, there’s a huge market for customers out there just waiting for someone like you to take care of them.

4. A Retail Industry that Banks on Customer Experience 

Along the same lines, it's important to understand that customers don't just want you to perform a service any longer. Thanks to technology, they want you to wow them. They expect a true experience in every sense of the term.

So at that point, your job becomes clear: you need to give it to them, no matter the cost. Start by outlining and meeting both your UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) expectations. Make sure that you're able to give personalised recommendations based on past purchases. Guarantee that the search functionality of your site is easy to use and accurate. Let people interact with chatbots to perform basic functions of their customer accounts. 

All of this will go a long way towards improving the customer experience, which will itself go a long way towards increasing your audience.

5. Welcoming Blockchain in Retail

Another key way that IT is disrupting the retail industry involves Blockchain, which itself is the very foundation that crypto currencies like Bitcoin rest upon. Yes, Blockchain in retail means that you'll start to see more businesses accept these types of digital currencies, but it also brings with it a number of opportunities too.

With the right supply chain, Blockchain will make counterfeiting far harder than it is now. It'll make business-to-business payments far easier. It'll shed valuable light into the legitimacy and the visibility of digital advertising, making it easier to reach out to your audience instead of an army of lifeless bots online. But it will only do these things if your retail business is willing to support it. 

6. The Rise of Voice Shopping in Retail

Finally, one of the most important ways that IT is disrupting the retail industry is not just what people want, but how they want it. Voice search has become so popular over the last few years that it's literally changing the way people shop online.

Instead of going to their computer, opening their web browser, going to your website, typing in a product, adding it to their cart, etc., people want to be able to stand in the middle of their kitchen and say things like "Hey Siri, go to X website and buy more paper towels." Your job becomes doing whatever you need to do in order to support this option.

Make no mistake: voice search is a trend that isn't going away anytime soon. One study revealed that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Gartner predicts that 30% of all searches will be done without a screen of any kind by the same time. This is a major trend that you need to start taking advantage of today to win the customers of tomorrow. 

Powernet: Helping You Prepare for the Future of Retail, Today

At Powernet, we've always made it a point of pride to be more than just another managed IT services provider. We want to help you use technology to better prepare yourself for what the future of the retail industry has in store for us all. By taking steps to address these and other rising trends today, you won't just be ready for the future disruption of the retail industry in Australia, you'll be right at the forefront of it.

If you’re looking to explore new ways to use technology in your industry, speak to Powernet to discover how a managed service provider can give you access to a host of new options that can help you get the results you need to be a forerunner today.

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