With technological advances aiding brick and mortar retailers in reaching customers in new ways (social media and handheld device apps), things are becoming just a wee bit creepy if you ask me.
While most retailer fun facts are public knowledge and could be found through a run of the mill Google search or on Edgar, what is not so plain to see is how retailers are quietly entering your mind. Remember that toothpick bathing suit at Abercrombie & Fitch that 25,000 fans “liked” on the company’s Facebook page? Guess what, Abercrombie & Fitch will likely produce more of those skimpy threads and charge full-price because apparently, 25,000 “likes” represent a pool of possible willing customers.
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I don’t get the sense that “mining data” from Twitter is as far along as it is on Facebook, but in the financial services industry, entire departments have even established to monitor those stocks that are being most discussed. The technology will go where the eyeballs or possible sales exist, and it’s a matter of time before retailers are rigorously tapping into your retweets for clues on what you are itching to buy or may be suggesting to friends.
Important things to consider:
If a retailer is aware of the product that you are likely to purchase, it will choose to stock a greater quantity of the product. In turn, those are fewer goods that a retailer is ordering from a Campbell’s Soup or a Sara Lee. As retailers order less, the consumer products companies will require fewer people and machines, and that has far-reaching effects on the global economy.
It’s those retailers that are utilizing technology to the fullest extent possible that should be invested in. These companies will be planning their merchandise in line to consumer demand and hopefully, reaping hefty profits as prices won’t have to be chopped. As this unfolds, the stock prices of said retailers go higher, causing shareholders to feel wealthier and likelier to consume goods and services.
In the end, the marriage of technology and retail will be a necessary if for no reason than retailers having immense cash piles and a burning desire to allocate it to the most productive means possible. Store closures in the U.S. continue to be the name of the game, so that removes one former usage of cash.
The majority of successful companies long-term will be those understanding technology’s benefits to productivity and profitability (even though investments cause a near-term headwind to profit margins), and unleashing the power of new tools on consumers on a global basis.
Names like Wal-Mart, Nordstrom, and Polo Ralph Lauren stand prominently above the fray for their integration of the online and in-store experience.