What type of customer experience do you want your brand to represent?

We’ve helped a lot of retailers and restaurants realize their vision for a superb customer experience through well-planned and thoughtful use of advanced technology. And we’ve come to understand the many distinctions between retail and restaurant customer engagement. I bring up that point because the kind of experience you want technology to drive for your customers may not be the one you’d expect. Let’s break down those distinctions, and take a closer look at where IT fits in to take your customers’ experience to the next level.

What Are We Doing Here?

In a restaurant, customers sit down at a table with the goal of enjoying themselves — they’re there to eat and have a good time. And most of a restaurant’s engagement with their customers centers on getting those customers in the door to enjoy their meal and have a positive experience throughout. Restaurants offering Wi-Fi or mobile applications may enhance their customers’ dining experiences through targeted marketing, consumer rewards programs, and supporting specific activities.

From a foundational perspective, the differences here are minimal: Both businesses need to develop and deploy the same LAN solutions — local routing and switching solutions, and wireless solutions — to effectively interact with customers via their mobile devices. That infrastructure supports back-office operations in both instances as well, with perhaps greater emphasis placed on mobility in the retail environment as more customers and retail associates rely on mobile devices in-store to search for products and conduct transactions.

So while the technology that retailers leverage, compared with restaurants, is pretty similar on the back end, how they leverage it is where the two segments begin to truly diverge. Retailers today are much less dependent than restaurants on their physical location and onsite IT. As such, choosing the right – or what we like to call SmartRetail – solutions help retailers reach their desired outcomes, including customer purchases and ongoing customer loyalty, without requiring customers to even enter a store, which is exactly the experience many customers desire.

Shifting Gears

Indeed, retailers rely much more on mobility compared to restaurants. Mobile apps allow retailers to continue to interact with customers after they leave a location through push notifications, loyalty points or by helping customers to continue shopping for goods or inventory after they look up a particular item. Maybe they left the store without buying, or perhaps the style they wanted was not available in their size. Mobile apps allow retailers to continue to drive customers toward a purchasing decision, and even help them make the purchase through their device.

Another great distinction between restaurants and retailers is the use of data analytics. Through a SmartRetail solution, analytics empowers retailers to gather more insights through location awareness and mobile integration. The analytics component opens up a treasure trove of data on how frequently customers visit a store, how much time they spend inside, the products they searched for or viewed, and more. From there, retailers can make more informed decisions about how to interact with or better engage those customers. Retailers may choose to strategically target advertising spends within specific regions based on those customer insights, for example, or refine brand messaging to certain segments in more meaningful ways.

In terms of back-office functionality, security systems, POS systems and how those interact with your business, smart retailing offers more robust control, an improved security posture, and a more reliable network for customer transactions.

And finally, retailers’ inventory management can be streamlined, offering greater flexibility and control. When managers order too much of a product, they tie up cash and assets unnecessarily. Order too little, and they may miss out on opportunities to fulfill customers’ needs. A real-time, holistic view of inventory, in any location, offers even the smallest companies the chance to compete with very large retailers, and investments here offer significant returns.

CDW SmartRetail bundles a unique, customized solution for retailers based on specific goals and customer benefits they require, at scale. That modular approach provides a level of IT service that otherwise might be out of reach for small businesses. It also allows larger businesses to refine their approach to IT and meet diverse locations’ needs. CDW’s help desk option allows those locations to reach out to troubleshoot customer or associate issues without requiring an IT administrator to work onsite. By leveraging CDW Services, your business can enjoy these benefits with minimal impact to your current support teams.