Frictionless Commerce - The Challenges Retailers Face

By : Tom Chittenden

April 27, 2018 01:00 PM

Retail is in the middle of the most significant reinvention that we’ve ever seen. What it means to be a retailer is evolving, just as the definition of a store has been evolving since the introduction of e-commerce. Mobile technology and social networks are changing the way people shop, and influencing consumer expectations in every aspect of their lives. All this is coupled with the traditional market influences of growing competition, cost pressures, and the economy – forcing retailers to simultaneously focus on innovating and improving operational efficiencies. And let’s not forget about Amazon: frequently selling items online that are cheaper than what retailers can offer in-store, expanding into traditional grocery through the Whole Foods acquisition, and opening the highly-anticipated Amazon Go store in Seattle, WA. In response, leading retailers are launching their own innovative in-store shopping experiences, such as Walmart Store No. 8.


Retail has reached a tipping point


Traditional retailers have the opportunity and the motivation to reinvent themselves and transform the shopping experience inside the stores. The two biggest question most retailers face are – what’s the best approach towards transformation to better align with changing consumer expectations? And, how do they get started?  Although more than 90% of retail sales still occur in-store, consumers expect more from the brands they shop, and need a compelling reason to visit physical stores. And experience is key; according to a study conducted by Capgemini – 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Retailers must respond to stay relevant, earn loyalty, and be prepared for tomorrow.


Challenges retailers face when transitioning to their own version of frictionless commerce


  • An underinvestment in technology over the past few decades leaves most retailers with legacy IT ecosystems without the flexibility or capacity to adopt new technologies
  • The speed of innovation: retailers are faced with an ever-increasing host of new and innovative technologies hitting the market that impact how consumers live their lives. How do retailers figure out which technologies they should invest in that will bring long term benefits?
  • Organizational and system silos that cause inefficiencies, errors and the inability to access reliable, actionable insights on consumer preference and demand
  • Tighter labor markets and rising wages, making it harder to find and keep good associates
  • Retail COO’s and CIO’s may be hesitant to take action due to the uncertainty of what innovations will come next, not to mention the daunting prospect of replacing legacy systems and infrastructures
  • In-store shopping experiences that that don’t meet their shoppers’ demand and have friction points throughout the shopping journey
  • Increased pressure to get the basics right: accurate inventory planning, reducing shrink, and having to do more with less


In the wake of growing competition, changing consumer expectations, and technology advances, retailers are looking towards technology to reinvent the consumer experience inside the store…ultimately leading to frictionless commerce.

Tom Chittenden

Vice President and General Manager – NCR Retail Solutions

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Tom leads the strategy and direction of the company’s retail business solutions worldwide, spanning the Food & Drug, Mass Merchandise, Petroleum & Convenience, and Department/Specialty segments. Prior to joining NCR, Tom held solution leader roles in numerous capacities within retail at GE, Wayne Fueling Systems and VeriFone.