The last few years have brought radical changes when it comes to customer experience, demand on inventory, providing creative digital experiences and more. To identify how the industry is changing — and how retailers are keeping up — my company partnered with other leading enterprises to survey 358 stakeholders across the industry.
An interesting learning I took away was that the market is moving rapidly, complexity is surging and retailers are struggling to scale in the new reality. Additionally, less than 50% of retailers believe they can effectively manage all aspects of their digital operations over the next 12 months.
But, with some changes in their approach, retail businesses can thrive in complexity and unpredictability. Here are four recommendations to meet customer demands, create unparalleled digital experiences and outpace competitors.
Benchmark and Plan for the Growth of Core Capabilities (Like Channels and Content) in the Next Year
Overall, there is a significant disconnect between retailers’ projected growth areas and their expected effectiveness in those areas. For example, 67% said they believed the number of digital assets to manage would grow in the next year — and only 32% stated they would be effective in managing the growth.
The first step to take here is to analyze where you are right now. Are you delivering campaigns and content at the pace of the market? Are customers satisfied with their brand interactions — why or why not? Measure where you excel, and where you fall short.
Then, I recommend scenario planning, taking into account macroeconomics. For example, you might be planning to launch your product in three new markets in the coming year. If your primary site is in English, do you have a plan for translating content for these new markets? What about launching a website targeting each region? If leadership wants to get more aggressive to beat the competition, what will it take to launch in five new markets versus three?
Evaluate the limitations you’re facing with each potential scenario. Then, you’ll have a more realistic view of how much you have to manage, and how effectively you can with your current resources.
Related Article: 2 Years Later: How Customer Service Has Changed
Prioritize Investment Into Areas That Were Added Quickly During the Pandemic or Generally Underserved in the Past
Retailers need to be able to match the speed of the market. The study showed that only 17% of retailers could launch an online marketing campaign within a week. The constant fluctuation of customer trends and desires demands agility, so figure out where you are weak and where you are slow.
When deciding how to prioritize investments, look at the tech systems you’re currently working with and identify their successes and failures. If it isn’t delivering what you require, invest and find different tools and technologies to try instead.
My advice during this process is don’t buy or invest in anything that is hard to change. If you keep iterating your tactics and leveling up your tools, you’ll see an improvement.
Focus on Quick Wins and Solving High-Impact Problems to Clear the Way for Future Investment
When it comes to digital transformation, you often have one or two champions that are fully committed. You always have the doubters; it’s human nature. But when they see the results, they’re sold on the value. Focus on transforming a specific use case with a high probability of succeeding and delivering clear results.
I've seen companies quickly replace any technology that wasn’t cloud-native and API-first. When a project like this is successful, skeptics turn into believers as they see how updated technology helps deliver better customer experiences than the competition. When the next project is a bigger ask, buy-in is already ensured because of previous results.
Which brings me to my next point: Sometimes, you need to take a calculated risk. People don’t want to fail, so they tend to do what they know will succeed. To be a leader in the retail space, you need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Related Article: How Have Customer Expectations Changed Over the Past 2 Years?
Level up Omnichannel Capabilities to Match Consumer Expectations
The expectation for omnichannel commerce isn’t new. In fact, it has quickly grown from in-store, online, and app to include channels such as kiosks, point-of-sale systems, social media and games. Being available in these channels isn’t enough — consumers expect to buy products from these channels, too.
On top of that, there’s the demand for content in those channels to be personalized. Customers want to see ads for products they would buy, offers and discounts unique to them, and other content that signals the brand is looking out for their needs. Whole Foods pushes out targeted offers and recommendations when a customer drives by a store. Nike’s loyalty program allows customers to scan items with their phones to see if they are available in their preferred sizes and colors.
Conclusion: Can Your Current Technology Meet All These Demands?
It’s understandable that retailers are daunted by the demands over the next 12 months. Complexity is here to stay, but retailers can do more than survive it. Stay focused. Plan. Invest in technology.
With time and commitment, you can build a better future for your company and customers.
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