Unified Retail empowers brands to open new channels and reach more customers
While digital transformation means something different for every retailer depending on their roots, their current technology, their vision, and their state of digital savviness, they all have one thing in common: meeting customer expectations. To keep up, retailers need the platforms and tools to grow and adapt in what’s becoming a digital-first world.
As with any growth spurt, there may be growing pains, but with the right technology and roadmap, the immediate benefits of having a unified commerce ecosystem far outweigh the bumps in the road.
The journey from traditional to digital is lined with opportunities
Traditional retail was built on the business of selling products; knowing what customers want, in-store merchandising and customer service that bred brand loyalty. In the new retail environment, being able to deliver all of this consistently and seamlessly across physical and digital channels is an entirely different situation, requiring a new mindset, new technologies and new employee skillsets. Changes that can drive increased revenue streams, profits, and financial performance!
How to adopt a new mindset and willingness to change
In a world where e-commerce penetration soared during the pandemic to claim an estimated 20% of total retail sales, customers and retailers are still learning to adapt to new behaviors and expectations, many of which are expected to stick.
They’ve been introduced to (and have grown accustomed to) a new retail vocabulary including terms like curbside pick-up, contactless payment, mobile app alerts and real-time order tracking. Then there are the experiences they may not be able to name but expect, such as clienteling, searchandising, endless aisle, omni-channel fulfillment, and personalized online experiences.
Accepting this new reality means retailers need to have an open mind to what’s possible, a vision and a strategy, with a willingness to invest wisely and shift directions to always meet customers where they are. Let’s not forget, that 80% of total retail sales were still in-store! It would therefore be wise to stop for a moment and ask ourselves some questions.
- What is their vision for growth?
- How can they adapt their business model for digital?
- Where do stores fit in and how?
- How to re-gain customer loyalty?
- Where are new revenue opportunities?
How to leverage legacy technology
Legacy technology and traditional business models are two of the major hurdles most retailers are struggling with. Understandably, for many it’s difficult to flip the switch after all the blood, sweat and tears spent building their business over the years. Not to mention the technology investments and employee training along the way. Without dwelling on the negative, those systems were never built to handle the digital demands of today’s retail. Fortunately, with all the advancements in cloud technology, unifying legacy systems with new platforms and tools can be done in months, even weeks, with a much faster time to ROI.
Teaming up with the right digital transformation partners who specialize in unified retail solutions will get that ball rolling, answer all questions, and help in the onboarding process.
- What systems can they leverage?
- What needs to be ripped and replaced?
- What to invest in now to ensure scalability and growth?
- What is the roadmap to faster success?
- Where do they start?
Out with the old, in with the new – 3 unified retail transformation stories
From a firm foothold in brick and mortar to losing ground to digital disrupters
Many specialty retailers have roots in bricks and mortar going back decades, starting with local stores and expanding into surrounding cities, as their growing success over the years led to more investments in physical stores. They understood their market, their customers, and the merchandise and services they sought. Then e-commerce came along and their successful business model was disrupted. The more e-commerce grew, the more bricks and mortars suffered. In order to survive and slow the bleeding, some kind of transformation toward digital commerce was inevitable. Some had to start from scratch with no e-commerce or POS systems, others were strapped down by legacy technology not meant for digital commerce. Many weren’t sure where to invest first, or if they should be shuttering their stores.
A perfect example is a pet retailer who’s in-store services were second-to-none for pets and their owners, growing a hugely loyal customer base. But their customers also wanted the conveniences online shopping offered, like being able to stock up on supplies and cash in on deals without necessarily heading to the store every time. Allowing customers to order their favorite heavy bags of dog food or cat litter for home delivery every month is smart business for retailers, opening new recurring order and upselling revenue opportunities.
This retailer already had an e-commerce platform and ERP, but these systems were not talking to each other, data was fragmented, and their business and customers were suffering. Having already invested in somewhat modern technology, they needed to leverage what they had, identify how to unify all operations and map out their journey toward omni-channel commerce, and be future ready for the next disruption. By embedding their systems in the cloud, they now have the flexibility and agility of a unified ecosystem that allows them to offer customers a seamless and engaging experience wherever they shop, with consistent product content, pricing and promotions, a loyalty program, easy returns, and a single customer profile for enhanced customer service. Not to mention the visibility and insights to continually optimize their products and service and cement the loyalty of their customers.
From old-school direct mail catalogs, to digital selling, to e-commerce domination
Here is a perfect example of how a business enjoyed tremendous growth during the pandemic because their agile mindset and vision for change had them prepared for anything. This retailer’s roots were as traditional as it got, dating back to the days of print catalogs. As the world transitioned toward digital selling, they slowly and steadily shifted their business model. In 2008, when more and more companies started selling online, they understood the need to expand their own online presence and adjust their ROI strategy to invest even more in digital technology. Over the next decade their investments paid off, establishing them as a true e-commerce player. In 2019, they saw opportunities to get ahead of the competition by delivering personalized experiences and more conveniences customers were growing to expect. With outdated applications and processes preventing growth, and a CMS, ERP and e-commerce platform that weren’t connected, they saw the potential of how a modern digital experience platform could bring their new vision to life.
Their decision to adapt, modernize and re-platform paid off in spades, because this retailer was prepared for the unimaginable surge in demand for gardening supplies, their bread and butter, seemingly overnight during the pandemic. In fact, in terms of deliverability, they were able to easily scale and handle the load of an increase in demand for gardening supplies by 60% in just weeks!
From nothing to launching a new line of business in just months
The complexities of retail for provincial crown corporations go deep. In this case, a sudden delegation of supervising omni-channels sales of an entirely new line of business, to be launched in just 6 months! Without instantly embracing revolutionary new ways of retailing, because of an extremely tight timeline imposed by the federal government, it would be impossible. There was no time to waste on trying to connect old and new systems or trying to cut corners. Things had to be done properly the first time, and the only way would be to rely on the experts do their thing, help identify the best technology and roadmap priorities to meet their needs, and their deadline.
With a modern, cloud-based infrastructure and unified ecosystem including finance, operations, and supply-chain management, as well as sales and marketing on a single platform, they were able to successfully launch in time. In addition, their willingness to be agile puts them on a forward-thinking trajectory with exceptional elasticity and functionality to scale and grow as needs evolve. As a new business, they can also gather immediate insights into customers, their needs, their expectations, and rapidly adapt to ensure enhanced offerings and services online and in their stores.
It’s a journey, not a project
In a very versatile landscape, and because customer expectations will continue to evolve along with technology and innovation, retailers should consider digital transformation as a journey, not a project. In the past, adopting new technology was more a patchwork project, adding new disparate systems resulting in fractured processes and a constant game of catchup.
With a more innovative vision for growth and mindset open to change, it can be a very exciting and successful journey with constant quick wins. Working with partners to design, build, and implement unified retail solutions built on modern cloud technology allows retailers to achieve short-term goals based on long-term strategy.
Retailers are now becoming technology companies, understanding that the same type of agile methodology used to develop new software is ideal to develop new customer experiences. It ensures retailers maximize their investments and resources, avoid getting thrown off track or distracted by shiny new solutions, and provides provisions for sudden changes in direction, avoiding roadblocks, and minimizing growing pains.
Ongoing benefits of adopting an agile methodology for retail growth:
- Satisfy customers through early and continuous delivery
- Welcome and harness change for a competitive advantage
- Deliver value frequently and consistently
Golden opportunities around every physical and digital corner.
Today’s retailers are no longer in the business of just selling products. Serving customers and meeting them where they are requires a certain level of sophistication. An understanding of the consumer psyche and changing retail landscape. Unified experiences blending technology and human interactions to engage them personally online and in-store. Unified data to deliver relevant product information consistently wherever they shop, with access to real-time availability. Omni-channel fulfillment and options to get products into their hands ASAP and keep them satisfied.
The possibilities are very exciting for retailers who adopt a more innovative vision and openness to change. By accelerating digital transformation and their digital maturity, they open doors to rampant new opportunities.
Let the journey begin!
Contact us to find out more about our unified commerce solutions for retail, distribution and manufacturing.
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