It can be challenging for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to compete with industry giants such as Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart, especially in light of a global pandemic. Larger retailers often have a set of advantages that SMBs lack – such as budget, brand recognition, and logistical infrastructure – ultimately allowing them to dominate the market.

However, technology in retail settings can help SMBs to level the playing field in order to reach customers in new and innovative ways.

How Technology is Changing Retail

Technology has been able to empower SMBs to revolutionize the industry at large, whether it be in stores or online. The rise of e-commerce platforms and online marketplaces removed the need for a brick-and-mortar storefront, exposing retailers to a global customer base. However, the benefits of retail technology go well beyond having a website to order from, and can assist SMBs in learning more about their customers, while growing their business.

Consider Gitnux's recent report, The Most Surprising Retail Statistics and Trends in 2023. Perhaps one of the most troubling statistics was this: In 2023, 88% of carts were abandoned due to high shipping costs, or a lack of payment options available on a website or app. How could these issues have been avoided? The impact of lost sales has proven to be detrimental and well-publicized during the pandemic.

How Innovative Tech Helps Small Businesses

Keeping up-to-date with the latest retail trends and technologies has proven to be very advantageous for SMBs. Here are some of the ways technology is changing retail:

Mobile Apps

Mobile applications have kept retailers in shoppers' pockets – literally. Mobile apps allow SMBs to engage with customers, offer loyalty programs, and offer yet another shopping platform. App-only perks not only bolster download numbers, but can persuade a customer to finally complete their transaction. Retailers are able to send push notifications, provide product recommendations and keep their products front of mind with shoppers.

Social Media Marketing

Okay, it can be argued that this one has been around for awhile – but with new apps such as TikTok, and perhaps Threads (whose success has yet to be determined), social media managers have been savvy to find new ways to promote their products. Whether it be through viral recipe videos, or the use of an influencer, SMBs are able to connect with their target audience, build brand awareness, and boost sales. Social media has proven itself to be a key resource for gathering feedback, demographic information and the place to run targeted advertising campaigns.

Data Analytics

Learning more about consumer behavior goes beyond determining best-selling products. Data analytics can provide valuable insights into the mind of the customer, their preferences, and market trends. Through analyzing data, SMBs are able to make informed decisions that will propel their businesses in the right direction. Retailers may choose to optimize their pricing strategies, bolster their inventory or supply chain, boost customer satisfaction and ultimately improve sales.

Managing the Customer Experience

Customer relations management (CRM) allows retailers to collect information about shoppers, their buying patterns, and past interactions, in order to optimize future transactions. CRM software allows SMBs to understand their needs and preferences, and can allow for personalized offers for better customer experience and the employment of targeted marketing campaigns.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The newest frontier spanning just about every industry is AI, and once again, its opportunities are endless. Chatbots can provide customer support on an e-commerce website, while algorithms can predict supply, demand, and where a retailer's numbers are trending. Much like the other technologies being deployed by SMBs, AI seeks to enhance efficiencies, reduce costs and provide excellent customer service.

Embracing Technology in Retail Stores Can Breed Success

The global pandemic forced retailers to make large strides in a short amount of time. While "the future of retail" was often discussed, it showed up in 2020 like an unexpected guest. Since then, retailers have persevered, adhering to demands such as speed, sustainability and omnichannel experiences. Those that are hesitant to evolve find themselves falling behind with customers who lack patience and loyalty.

In today's competitive retail landscape, offering an omnichannel experience sets businesses apart from their competitors. Customers increasingly expect a seamless integration between online and offline channels, and retailers that can provide a cohesive experience have a competitive edge. By investing in these tools, small- and medium-sized businesses can differentiate themselves while attracting and retaining customers – even in a world dominated by big box retailers.