Being Prepared for the Unpredictability of RetailJanuary 6, 2023
Does the acceleration of digital commerce triggered by the pandemic continue to haunt retailers? The repercussions of lockdowns and drastic changes in consumer shopping habits exposed weaknesses in traditional retail business models that forced a digital restructuring seemingly overnight. Two years later, retailers have a better footing with modernized eCommerce platforms and more fulfillment options. But new challenges and industry trends continue to baffle decision makers about the next best move. What they all agree on is that digital commerce capabilities to deliver unified commerce experiences are critical.
Unified commerce has become the number one priority
According to Forrester Research, more than 83% of retail and CPG decision makers agree that delivering a connected, unified customer experience is vital to their success. In that same study, over 75% of leaders say that improving digital commerce capabilities is their most urgent business priority to “keep pace with digital commerce growth”.
“Keeping pace” is perhaps not adequate for forward-thinking companies who want to stay one step ahead of the competition. Differentiation is key, and one sure way to achieve that threshold is having the right tools in place and trustworthy data at hand to be agile, fast, responsive, and proactive. In other words, ready for whatever comes next in a highly volatile and unpredictable retail environment.
Now is the time for retailers to capitalize on the momentum of digital transformation with new strategies and unified technology. Below, we discuss omnichannel strategies to help conquer some of the big challenges keeping retailers up at night, followed by the hot tech trends and solutions to accomplish them (i.e., achieve unified commerce).
How to adapt to a changing retail landscape
With a new consumer mindset recovering from a global pandemic hangover, shopping behaviors and category spending has shifted drastically. The repercussions of a fractured supply chain are testing consumer patience not to mention brand loyalty, and with inflation and price spikes, once again consumers spending habits are all over the map, depending on the news of the day.
The flexibility to adapt to all of the above calls for streamlined operations and visibility across the organization. Unifying all retail systems on the cloud, and the power of BI and AI to reveal real-time and actionable insights that feed intelligent decision making, are THE most valuable and reliable assets for retailers to connect with omnichannel customers in meaningful ways.
As an example, unifying all POS systems on the cloud ensures visibility across the supply chain, more secure integrations with mobile and payment apps, and better in-store experiences.
The only thing that retailers can carve in stone is that consumers are in charge, so regardless of industry trends and challenges that get thrown their way, meeting customers where they are is the key to success.
Here are 3 ways to offer customers better omnichannel experiences
- Having accurate and reliable data to predict and prepare
Trusting the data is essential in today’s fast-paced environments. Retailers need to be able to rely on the accuracy and timeliness of their data. Combining multiple data sources into a single 360-degree view of the business allows retailers to be agile, make quick decisions, and change course fast to meet changing consumer and market demands.
Retail analytics helps businesses gain critical insights about inventory, sales, supply chain activities, consumer demand, and more. By implementing an analytics-driven retail environment, organizations can make better decisions for procurement, marketing, merchandising, and operations. This, in turn, enables retailers to create a better buying experience and for identifying opportunities for organizational improvement.
According to IDC researchers, within two years, 40% of the top 500 retailers will use AI-enabled decision-support to drive improvements in the new KPIs of omnichannel retail.
- Consistently delivering seamless shopping experiences
The pandemic created the demand for seamless integrations with new digital channels and a re-invention of the store. Delivering omnichannel experiences means enabling a personalized shopping journey which covers everything from search and transaction to fulfillment and pre/post purchase customer service, in stores, online, on mobile, socials, and IoT enabled devices.
Built in AI and machine learning capabilities help delight customers one purchase at a time through unified shopping experiences across all channels and personalization of their shopping journey, helping increase conversion, sales, and brand loyalty. Using AI and loyalty data insights allow for unique recommendations (new products, products based on preferences, reminders, or automated replenishments).
Many retailers are investing in a DXP (Digital Experience Platform) as the core of connected retail experiences. A DXP is more advanced, more powerful, and far more intelligent, offering all the content management capabilities of a CMS plus eCommerce, personalization, and experimentation. The power is the modern, open technology that connects with other commerce and marketing systems to provide feedback of every customer interaction across all digital touchpoints. The magic is the ability to use that information and optimize the next interaction. These connected, customer-centric experiences are the brand differentiators retailers need today.
- Managing and maintaining accurate inventory visibility
Inventory is typically a retailer’s largest single expense. Gartner predicted in 2020 that by 2024, Tier 1 retailers in North America and Europe will have reduced inventory carrying costs by 30%, dramatically improving free cash flow for digital investment while revamping their balance sheets. At that time, of course, no one expected the pandemic, and many retailers learned a hard lesson from it, with inventory management being one of the major pillars of cost optimization.
Accurate inventory visibility is paramount to increase omnichannel capabilities and fulfillment execution. Today’s discerning customers expect choice, convenience, and speed on product availability whenever, wherever, and however they choose to engage with your brand be it online, instore or both. Leveraging AI and Inventory visibility also enables retailers to leverage stores for optimal merchandising, avoid dead inventory and reduce waste.
Prioritizing investments in digital capabilities
With a whopping 95% of retail CEOs planning to invest in digital capabilities as reported by IDC, knowing which tools and strategies to prioritize can be a daunting decision. With no time to waste, one of Thinkmax specialities is helping retailers identify the best technologies to help them deliver the most value for their organization and their customers, as fast as possible. This often involves leveling up their legacy technology to ensure they have the flexibility demanded to continuously evolve.
To achieve unified commerce and meet evolving consumer expectations for a seamless and complete experience (speed, convenience, and choice), there are 5 Essential Elements Of A Successful Unified Commerce Ecosystem.
- A single point of truth for key data
- The reinvention of the store
- Smart supply chain
- Personalized, seamless experiences at every touchpoint
- Data-driven business operations
A unified foundation on cloud also provides the agility, scalability, and security needed to rapidly respond to changing demands, whether adding new capabilities, new products or new services, or connecting with new partners across the value chain.
As the digital retail landscape continues to evolve, experiences, products and services need to adapt in order to meet market demands and customer expectations. Reach out to a Thinkmax retail industry specialist to learn more.