Digital Transformation In The Retail Sector – How You Can Benefit

Introduction

Covid-19 keeps bringing up new challenges and unexpected surprises for businesses across all sectors. With the discovery of a new mutant strain – the world has been shaken yet again. 

This reinforces the urgency for a business to start investing in their digital transformation – especially the retail sector. 

While essential services (groceries, grains, toiletries) stayed afloat during lock-downs,the more colourful side of retail – shoes, clothes, accessories etc took to the shelfs. 

Challenges 

As the world continuously evolves, consumer buying patterns have also started evolving. There has been a rapid shift towards the online marketplace. Retailers who offer essential items like food, cleaning materials and medication have had fairly steady revenue. 

However, on the flip side, the ‘non-essentials’ like apparel and beauty products/services have been presented with a spectrum of challenges such as: 

  • How do they stand out from their competitors? (People are not spoilt for choice) 
  • How do they make their social media creative/unique 
  • How to gain customer loyalty without the customer experience from a physical store 

Keeping the world connected 

No matter how much social distancing, the world functions on connectivity and engagement. 

Brands need to explore how they can keep their customers engaged in times like this to retain their brand loyalty and any upcoming brands need to explore innovative ways to create that loyalty virtually. 

One great example of customer engagement is Google Pay’s in-app games that allow users to scratch cards and win coupons or the recent “Go India’ game. 

One of the biggest lessons to take away from this crisis for a retailer is understanding how essential it is to understand your customer. Even when they may not be shopping with you or using product/service – how can you keep them engaged? 

Knowing your customer will allow you to get insights about how to create personalised virtual experiences and keep them engaged across multiple challenges in a way that’s both innovative and scalable. 

Data collection and strategy 

How do you sit behind a screen and understand your customer? 

Data is key and today is all about data. 

Using AI tools, you can help customers find the right product and deal easily and promptly. Furthermore, other than using AI to enhance customer experience – you can use AI to gather data on customer behavior and buyer preferences. 

This data will allow you to devise a strategy for closing the (data) gaps. Having a mature digital and data strategy will help you stay relevant and ahead of competition.

Your digital strategy will determine the role of each digital touchpoint in your customer’s journey. 

For example, the website might be about informing customers – opening times, social distancing and hygiene measures, customer services details, and so on;  the mobile app, on the other hand, might play a very different role – personalized content, offers and teasers that encourage customers into the store or shop online. 

Email newsletters, SMS, social media (such as WhatsApp for Business), POS, self-service kiosks can all play different roles within the customer journey.

Touchless Technologies 

Who didn’t love going to the mall on the weekend to try on a whole bunch of apparel, shoes and accessories? 

We all know that reality is still in the distant future and with how the world has been shaped, it may be a reality we never go back to. 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is something a retailer can incorporate to give the customer a better experience. By choosing a product – being able to view how it may look and feel in real life will enhance buyer experience. 

Furthermore, when malls do open, retail stores will have new norms to live up to. “Touchless” is the new reality and brands should now start considering ahead of the game by digitally transforming even physical stores that will allow customers to use mobile apps to pay for purchases without touching point-of-sale checkout screens.

Cloud 

The rapid shift to remote working, though, unsettling, has become something that large and small organisations are considering till revenue and economy stabilizes. 

As a business you can agilely respond and explore what is essential to ensure your team’s productivity and business productivity. 

Your IT infrastructure must effectively support increased mobility and collaboration as your  employees work remotely. 

Moving communications and core applications to the cloud can help you improve availability, reliability and resiliency—capabilities that are essential in crisis and in growth periods. The cloud can also immediately scale to adjust to massive—or everyday—fluctuations in computational needs.

Another benefit is that the cloud model can help IT staff, whether in-house or remote, operate more efficiently. That’s particularly advantageous right now, as businesses are being forced to trim IT spending in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Internet of Things (IOT) 

This is a major digital transformation to be considered for retailers to enhance warehouse productivity and improve your supply chain logistics. With many restrictions on how many people are allowed in a space, retailers need to turn their attention to how to bank on IoT. 

B2C retails need to harness the benefits of automated fulfillment warehouses that are staffed by picker robots working alongside humans. 

However, a major challenge that is obvious in this case is the high costs of robotics. 

Retailers can explore new partnerships with others or work with third-party warehouse automation vendors. 

Ride or Die? No – evolve and adapt or die. This crisis has not been survival of the fittest, but rather, survival of the fastest. The quicker you learn to adapt your business – the more likely you are to thrive in the future. 

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