The Digital Transformation & Retail: A Primer
As the term suggests, digital transformation is the shift to having technology integrated with just about every part of our lives. However, for retailers in particular, digital transformation has been something of a double-edged sword in its utility. On one hand, the benefits to be gained by proper utilization of technology are immense, but on the other hand, our competitors have access to this technology too. So do our customers.
In this post, we’re looking at some of the biggest changes coming from the digital transformation and how your business can understand and seize them on your path to retail success.
A Few Changes
Mobile Everything: Aside from the obvious, that your customers are spending way more time on mobile devices than ever before (did you know that in the beginning of 2017, ½ of all web traffic worldwide came from mobile sources?), how exactly they’re passing time is important too. You not only want your products to be accessible via a mobile site and/or app, but also to ensure that your customers can get all the necessary information they need to make an informed decision.
For example, let’s say your customer is considering buying a dining set. Consider if you have a slow mobile site, with limited product information, and maybe not the most aesthetically pleasing layout. Now imagine that you have a customized app portal, full product details (including suggestions for use) and an attractive user interface. Even though your products might be identical, if yours aren’t presented in a manner that makes the buying process, from prospecting to payment, you’re automatically going to be missing out on a huge volume of potential buyers.
Mobile technology can also have a number of interesting physical and in-store advantages too. These can be custom suggestions for those browsing whilst in a brick-and-mortar store or beacons sent to local potential customers who are in the vicinity and could be interested in your products. A huge benefit of both of these things is that they allow you to collect tons of information about your customer and campaigns to help find out which are working more effectively.
Automation: More and more businesses are automating an increasing number of processes to free up valuable human effort and brainpower for focusing on more pressing and complex tasks. As useful as this is, it’s important not to get too carried away by it and to lose the human face and voice of your brand if you start to utilize automation for some customer service activities.
Automation can be particularly useful when it comes to supply chain, merchandising, and inventory related matters because it can ‘learn’ patterns to help adjust your orders to meet with a fluctuating level of demand. And this trend is starting to become norm, with 83% of respondents predicting that in 2018 they will be pursuing ways to automate and streamline their operations.
How exactly is automation a key part of our present digital transformation? Partially because of how deeply ingrained it is becoming in our efforts and partially because the amount of data that we’re able to derive from our retail businesses is enormous. And to make sense of this data, we need incredible, advanced, and totally integrated technologies.
Seamless Availability: This doesn’t just mean having products in stock and ready to ship. This also means that all the different and essential parts of your retail business are working together aided by the right technical solutions to ensure this is supported by a great customer buying experience - across all channels.
But in order to have a great experience, you must first have a consistent one. It’s not enough to just have your products on a website, all of the data that you’ve been collecting needs to be used to create a buying process that is recognizable as part of your brand, secure, and with an eye to making the best experience possible for your customer.
What’s Next for Retailers?
While technology has made all of these things infinitely easier overall, the process of getting started with the right solutions to support the specific needs of your business has only gotten more complex. Choosing the right technical solutions, such as ERPs and CRM tools can make all of these processes much easier, but the right systems must be chosen and implemented with care by an experienced partner that you can trust.
The digital transformation isn’t so much a movement as it is a new way of life. This means that the sooner your business accepts the new norms of retail, the faster you’ll be able to take the right steps to harness the knowledge and power provided by such technologies. If you think your retail business could benefit from any of these things but you’re not entirely sure where to start, make sure to write to us at email@example.com with your questions and we’ll come back to you ASAP.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.