24 April 2020
Geoff is the Director of Technology at Upp. He contributes posts on the present and future of retail technology.
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2019 was very much the year of the digital native retailer, with digital-first companies holding an impressive 13.7% of retail sales worldwide, a success that’s led to predictions they'll open as many as 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next five years. Although these plans may be on hold for the time being, there’s no doubt that once the world returns to normal, this long term trend will come to fruition.
Evidently — and thankfully — we’re very much living in a digital world, and retailers can’t afford to neglect digital immigration using tactics like data management and omnichannel approaches if they’re to stand any chance at competing.
Of course, competition in retail has always been fierce, with digital crossovers coming to the fore for a while. Now is the time that being online is imperative, with many retailers scrambling to improve their online operations.
This can be easier said than done, but competing against the ever-evolving changes in this market is possible and could, in fact, see you thriving if you do it right. Keep reading to find out how exactly you can achieve that goal.
You’ll hear the words ‘omnichannel strategy’ a great deal as you attempt to compete in the current modern retail market, and for good reason. At its heart, an omnichannel focus is about to become your company’s lifeline. It’ll undoubtedly form the centre of your online competition efforts.
There’s no doubt that an omnichannel approach is your best bet when it comes to being online — and now is the time you want to be as available to as many potential customers as possible. With all the competition out there, it’s something retailers can’t afford to neglect — it’s an edge you must utilise.
Put simply, an omnichannel strategy aims to provide seamless shopping experiences, even across platforms. You can gain the most out of putting yourself in front of as many eyes as possible. Using a data-driven approach will also put you ahead of your competition — now is the perfect time to optimise your strategy.
Along roughly the same lines, companies could see significant benefits by stepping away from the departmental silos that are too-often common in retail. Remember, seamless integration is critical. A marketing department that doesn’t communicate with your sales team is, therefore, a significant setback.
Your omnichannel efforts, in particular, impact everything from your IT department to sales, operations, and beyond. As such, simplifying departmental communications and information-sharing as much as possible is non-negotiable. Admittedly, this can be a significant challenge in a previously siloed setup — and especially right now at a time when communication isn’t as easy — but it’s by no means an impossible goal. Restructuring the way you approach company challenges, meetings, and more can, in itself, do a great deal to help.
One-source-of-truth data gathering should also come into play with your efforts here. Implementing programs that seamlessly allow individuals from one department to access findings from another is now essential. While some companies are achieving this with cloud storage, others are choosing AI-driven programs that deal specifically with this pain point. And doing so is proving invaluable for a more open business landscape that provides inter-departmental openness and ease at all times, as well as a better understanding of how departmental actions can impact performance across the business as a whole.
Your efforts to stay on top should already centre around the most effortless possible consumer experiences, but you need to take things further. Most notably right now, retailers are trying to keep on top of changing consumer demands in the current climate. It’s all about striking the right balance with discounting while ensuring revenue and profit margins increase and product value is maintained across the board.
In order to complete online right now, you need better visibility over your spend to ensure that the changes you make are right for your business and match the needs of your customers. This can be made easier using the right tools, such as the right AI platform. This will also help your departments gain an overview of exactly what’s going on in the business without the barrier of lack of communication in the way. You can then implement discounting strategies with peace of mind, knowing that you have greater visibility over your business, and gaining the customers you need.
Not only this, but you also need to ensure that listings are optimised across channels to ensure they’re visible. With more tech-savvy consumers turning to online retail, some of them may turn off channels when searching for products in order to get exactly what they want. Again, this can be accomplished more easily with AI software that can automatically enhance all listings.
In keeping with omnichannel efforts, loyalty schemes which crossover could prove especially efficient for giving you an edge and achieving that all-important retention. This is especially true right now — consumers want to know that they can trust brands, and going forward they’ll most likely be loyal to the ones who delivered a good service when it was crucial.
Transparency and simplicity should also both feature heavily, with everything from online chat capabilities to full disclosure policies in your online efforts. While not necessarily customer-led, these are transformative customer-centric efforts that are guaranteed to work wonders.
By implementing these strategies and paying close attention to consumer behaviour, you can improve your long term outcomes. In fact, The State of Fashion 2020 update claimed that to survive down the line, retailers need to adapt discounting strategies by “aligning promotions to their various channels” while looking to “reinfuse value to make it worthwhile for consumers to shop at full price.” This does help to reduce overstock — and help your revenue — but it’s also about getting the trust and enthusiasm back from consumers who, at the moment, are less inclined to make purchases.
As you’ve likely noticed, digital efforts have played a vital role in each of the pointers mentioned, a fact that’s not surprising given the digital-centric competitors you’re up against. Still, it’s worth noting that ill-fitting or poorly implemented technological focuses can cause more harm than good. What’s more, attempting to implement every new tech under the sun is going to lead to reduced results from every angle.
You’d do far better to take a long, hard look at pain points at play within your company right now, and focus on tailoring technologies that offer the best solutions. In other words, always put context behind these implementations, and make sure you fully understand their use before moving onto the next thing.
If you aren’t the most tech-savvy individual, this can be made easier with the right software. Some AI-driven platforms are helpful to online retailers who want to enhance their product listings and ensure they’re on the right channels. However, it's just as important that you have visibility of your online spend at a product level by using the right end-to-end solution, in order for you to really track how products are performing, which in turn will help you see the bigger picture. This AI-driven software can give you a 360 view of your products so that you can make data-driven decisions that are aligned with your overall business goals and ensure that you stay ahead of the competition.
Retailers need to remember that they must do everything they can to not only survive right now, but also be able to beat out the competition in the future. Now is the time to enhance your digital online presence.
In fact, if you follow our tips — building an effective wide-reaching omnichannel strategy, gaining better visibility over your business and using the right tools — you could become a significant market competitor and create waves in the online retail space down the line.
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