Ever since the inception of the internet, the way in which business and daily life are carried out has changed. Successful retailers today take advantage of evolving technology and work closely with their vendors to predict consumer demand, shorten lead times, reduce inventory holding and thereby, save cost. Wal-Mart pioneered the concept of building a competitive advantage through distribution and information systems in the retailing industry.
In the past, the perception has been that the high street and the world of online shopping are in direct competition, but emerging technologies such as tablet computers and smartphones have shown that a multichannel, symbiotic approach is necessary.
The great thing about the web is that consumers have a world of information at their fingertips, allowing them to make informed purchases and get the best price for the product or service they require.
Impact of Technology in Retail and Consumer Shopping
Big savings on everything from car insurance and travel, to mobile phones and utility bills, can be made via price comparison sites such as MoneySupermarket and because retailers are aware of how easy it is for customers to scrutinize prices and shop elsewhere if they are not satisfied, they have had to up their games to remain competitive.
Searching for products to buy online has been possible since the 1990s, but until recently, it was necessary to use a home PC or laptop to get the job done.
Web access has been available on mobiles for many years, but it is only with the arrival of modern smartphones and, subsequently, tablet PCs that m-commerce has been able to flourish.
Now retailers are racing to get websites and apps optimized for mobile users that will let them search and shop wherever they are, via portable devices with touch interfaces that cannot make do with portals previously designed for the mouse and keyboard control method.
The latest figures suggest that people who own both a smartphone and a tablet device will have purchased around 20 products using m-commerce sites or apps in the past 12 months.
By 2015, the m-commerce market will be worth an estimated £4.5 billion and it is all because consumers find it more convenient to do their secured shopping from their phones or tablets.
Where the world of mobile shopping collides with the high street is in the growing number of NFC (Near Field Communication) chips, which are found in smartphones and other gadgets.
NFC is a type of contact-less payment process that allows you to make small purchases in real world stores by passing your handset close to a compatible terminal.
NFC allows you to leave your wallet, spare change and payment cards at home and out of the equation, which is sensible when you are nipping to the shops or just generally out and about and not keen on carrying large sums with you.
Google Wallet is the search giant’s broader take on NFC and means that you can turn your Android smartphone into a digital wallet with impressive functionality.
As well as giving you access to credit cards and loyalty cards for your favorite retailers, Google Wallet also integrates offers to help save you money on the high street.
Google has big plans for this service as it will eventually let you add in extras like airline tickets and passes to events and gigs, digitising everything that would previously have been in paper form in your pocket.
Of course, Google is not the only internet company that is using technology to change the way we shop and the future of digital commerce looks bright for retailers and consumers.