Most retailers agree that building a digital store is key to success in a highly-competitive climate which is becoming increasingly driven by technical advances.
However, many are only now taking their first steps on the path to a solid, scalable digital store strategy with enhanced customer experience at its core. Here are practical ways to remove potential roadblocks for those retailers who find themselves having to take action to secure their future:
Roadblock: multi-stakeholder projects involving established systems can be daunting for retail CIOs – they believe they will be big, slow and expensive. Some retailers may think the risk to existing operations is too high.
How to clear the path: the key is to break projects down into manageable chunks with swift results. It’s possible to run quick pilots of small initiatives - modern software has a small minimum viable product, with agile development and fast speed to market. Retailers and their technology partners have the ability to choose a product which is simple to develop – a click and collect app, for example - pilot it to show business benefit, then use it to prove the case for building further developments.
Roadblock: digital stores rely on integrated data, and legacy systems in retail can be ‘locked in’ – closed by design. Those in IT and related departments may feel that it’s not possible to get data in or out, and businesses tend to think there’s too much risk even in simply building a new system, let alone opening up and integrating data across departments.
How to clear the path: there is always a way to integrate, as long as it’s logical. It’s time to move on from the ‘computer says no’ mindset by providing an obvious customer journey via a new ‘quick win’ platform, using a central platform to harmonise data and bridge the gap between legacy systems and end data user.
Roadblock: the perception that an upgrade in customer experience which embraces in-store technology and the ability to deliver all the benefits of online on the shop floor is not necessary – some retailers are happy with their isolated operational departments and ‘swimlanes’ for channel management.
How to clear the path: when retailers bury their heads in the sand, it tends not to work out well for them. A number of big-name businesses fundamentally misunderstood how to maintain a high street presence in an online/ecommerce age – their stores don’t exist any more. It’s a case of acknowledging the fundamental need for a mobile-first, cross-channel customer experience, because your competitors already have.
Roadblock: equipping staff with the right kind of technology to deliver a successful digital store experience and training them to use it is perceived to be expensive and time-consuming. It’s an investment which is often deferred in favour of other, more immediate projects.
How to clear the path: retailers need to recognise and make use of their most valuable asset – one which they can immediately take steps to deploy to maximise customer experience.
Equipping staff with technology which delivers the same kind of information, knowledge and sense of brand connection as retailers afford their customers will have a profound and rapid effect, not only on customer experience but also on sales, operational efficiency and employee satisfaction. Thanks to simple-to-use interfaces, centralised data and integrated cross-business systems, sales colleagues can be up and running with the technology they need to do an excellent job in a matter of weeks.
Sometimes all it takes is a common-sense, fact-based approach to enable people to take the leap of faith necessary to do something which will truly revolutionise their method of working. This has never been more true than in the adoption of technology to build a digital store. Once retailers open their minds – and their data systems – to the concept of a truly integrated customer experience which both empowers sales colleagues and improves sales, they will be able to deliver a more secure and profitable tech-enabled strategy for the future.
About Dan Hartveld
Dan Hartveld has a global reputation for excellence in the field of mobile retail. He has developed award-winning, first-in-class commercial solutions for leading retailers including Topshop, Burberry and MasterCard. Known for his expertise in the practical application of innovative technology to achieve measurable results for retail, Dan is a trusted expert and advisor with a proven track record in real-world business.
He was instrumental in developing Red Ant’s Connected Retail Platform and rolling it out across retailers, and he was a key member of the team which won the prestigious IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge for its cognitive sales associate app.