COVID has changed human perspectives in the way people work, shop and even live and businesses, especially those that affect a customer’s day to day life has seen the most extensive change. With retail being once such business it is apparent that the pandemic has more effect on the vertical than any other. Although, retailers have always been the first to embrace technology, the pandemic has only emphasized the need for a more digital and customer intensive business model.
Retail today is in the midst of an exciting revolution in which power has shifted from the retailer to the consumer. It’s not about buy low, sell high, and optimize everything in between. It’s about data and insights that you get from it to create true actionable objectives aimed at customers at the right time, at the right place, for the right reasons. As today's empowered consumers demand more of the retail experience than ever before, leading retailers need to re-think and reinvent their customers' across-touch point experiences.
Getting started with Digital Transformation!
- Digital transformation provides retailers an opportunity to understand the modern-day buyer, engage with them and deliver on their expectations for elevated customer experience. Digital is not here to take the EQ out of shopping but it can enable and assist in making informed and active actionable decisions. Being passive is a passé but being human will continue throughout. Advanced retail technology such as IoT, AR/VR, AI/ML, personal assistants, etc. presents new possibilities for retailers to gather, process and analyze data to glean insights that can help them understand trends and customer sentiments better and devise more effective experiences and processes.
The customer’s perception is your reality!
Key areas of focus for retailers:
- You have to start with the customer and the customer’s journey when you’re thinking about how to create the right retail experience. Understanding customer data is the way to go forward. Recommending the right products to the right customer at the right time is required for building staunch loyalty and segmenting customers is the foundation. A recent Mailchimp survey says, segmented campaigns have a 14% higher open rate than non-segmented. The intelligence quotient for intelligent personalization lies in AI. Artificial Intelligence in retail enables retailers to analyze, segregate and create unique customer profiles. Last but not least, personalized content, targeted messaging and an emotional connect with the consumers is a pathway to customer loyalty.
Parameters such as weather, pricing, past purchases, customer measurements, styles etc. are being used by retailers to deliver hyper-personalized experiences.
- Walmart for example, keeps a check on the weather to decide what food items shall have a better sale each day. When the weather is warm and dry / cloudy and windy they tend to stock more steaks while when the weather is hotter and less windy, burgers seem to sell better.
- eBay is using AI to help its sellers sell more. It’s AI solution alert retailers about gaps in inventory of products so that they can stock up accordingly; pricing recommendations help sellers price competitively.
- Retailers deal with very crucial and sensitive data and must be kept in secured but always available environments. Multicloud solutions, a hybrid cloud offering best of private and public clouds. The benefits go beyond cost reduction and productivity gains; it's a solid gateway to digital transformation. Nutanix study found that for retailers, having the flexibility to choose the right cloud for each application was the most popular benefit of deploying a hybrid cloud (at 18%), followed closely by using cloud ‘on the fly’ for periods of high traffic loads.
- Nowadays, consumers tend to select a shopping channel that provides an optimized customer experience. Traditional retailers must amalgamate stores and online channels, offering experiential features and cutting-edge technology that sets them apart.
Experiential stores offer more than just products; they showcase their brand, niche or latest product line up and offer purchase options through an online channel, all in the same place. To be successful, retailers must offer consumers a desirable retail experience to drive sales.
For example, Nike does an admirable job of marrying in-person experiences with digital capabilities in its stores. At the company’s flagship store, customers can use the Nike app to reserve products for pickup, scan QR codes on mannequins to check for available colors and sizes, pay for merchandise instantly, and book in-store consultations with Nike experts.
- Retailers must focus on enabling technologies for Unified Commerce, offering retailers a single view of their inventory, orders and customers on every channel. According to BRP Consumer Study, 87% of consumers are interested in a personalized and consistent experience across all channels. Continuous real time integration needs to happen right here, right now.
- According to the BRP Consulting Consumer study, 79 percent of consumers indicated that personalized service from a sales associate was an important factor for them in determining at which store they chose to shop.
Store associates thus need to be equipped with:
- Retail technology solutions,
- Powerful apps,
- Real-time relevant data that empower them to provide personalized, informed services to individual customers.
As retailers shift focus to new ventures, consumers, and channels, new metrics, KPI’s and benchmarks are required for crucial aspects of business performance. New metrics can incorporate elements of well-respected value measures: customer lifetime value and enterprise value. From these measures, retailers can focus on what is controllable by the business, operationally relevant, and drive performance.
The whole sustainability and growth for a retailer is no longer just tied to selling products and gaining direct revenue. It’s about an experience that end customer expects/demands and which can only be fulfilled if the whole organization is unified to providing that.
By: Abhishek Mahajan- Senior Manager, Retail, Aspire Systems