From the headlines to trend reports; from keynote speakers to insider market analysis – the story is all the same: evolve or die. Shifting buying behaviors, fast-moving fashion trends, supply chain digitization, and ever-growing global competition: it’s enough to cause uncertainty with even the most forward-thinking brands. What was necessary to succeed in the past is vastly different than the technology that supports success in the future. But exactly what is driving this ominous call-to-action?
With so much to digest from so many sources, we’ve gathered the top 5 takeaways from industry experts who have identified the most critical areas of focus for retail brands today:
- Customer experience is key
Any retailer with more than a few years of experience can easily recognize multiple data points that reveal the power of customer experience. This is inarguably the key differentiator between revenue loss and revenue gain. But, delivering ideal, consistent, customized service is a lot easier said than done. From online experiences to physical retail stores, loyalty programs and recommendations engines to returns processing – customer data cannot be siloed across operational systems.
When customer data is at the core of your business, you can then gain insights that drive a customized experience, and revenue.
Delivering the most engaging, tailored brand experience relies on customer data that is shared across all touch-points and systems. Is customer data at the core of your business?
- Big Data Vs. Small Data
Most companies have data; and plenty of it. The challenge is understanding it, refining it, and applying the right data in the right ways that drive the most profitable outcomes. One technology consultant shared how retailers are using in-store cameras to gain insights into customer preferences. This input is then combined with other behavior analytics to inform product development as well as to fine-tune the customer experience.
The experts advise retail brands to not get hung up on “Big Data”; instead to embrace the smaller data points. Transactional events that live in the “small data” chunk should not be ignored. The key, of course, is making it work for you. And for that, you don’t need an expensive BI utility. Take the time to define a data strategy that fits your business today: identify and modify existing data assets against possible revenue triggers. Are you using your data to the maximum benefit of your bottom line?
- Seamless Customer Experience
Brands are competing for fleeting customer attention, and fragile customer loyalty. Consumers are looking to engage with brands in multiple ways – at physical stores, with catalogs and mailers, and digitally through apps, websites and social media platforms. They want to order from anywhere and pick up or deliver their purchases anywhere. They want rewards and they want a voice. All of that equates to a lot of brand touch-points.
Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.
All brand platforms should reflect the same experience. This demands an infrastructure that is not siloed by business process, but integrated for delivery of a seamless brand experience. Industry leaders have highlighted Master Data Management (MDM) as a key to unifying business processes such as merchandising, order management, procurement, relationship management, and product information. Are your brand experiences still siloed by business process?
- Empowering Employees
Many retail organizations are easily focused on differentiation in product or service. But, what makes that product or service delivery possible, are the people who run the operations, and represent your brand.
Speaking at a recent global fashion industry summit, IFF 2018, Anil Patel, CEO of HotWax Commerce, offered a unique perspective to this critical revenue lever. He says that a key differentiator for retail brands is the ability to arm their employees (that are running your business) with a useable toolset that easily generates optimal customer satisfaction.
“Empowering your employees with the right tools so that they can perform in a frictionless environment should be the first and foremost priority of any company. At the end of the day it is an employee’s job to serve the customer, and if they are able to do that to the best of their abilities, then customer satisfaction will be a natural by-product.”
Do the people who run your business have the best tools that deliver the best customer experience?
- Not “If” but “How”
A volatile global economy, online and multi channel competition, value chain digitization, decreasing foot traffic: all are considered top challenges for retailers in 2018. This is a pivotal year for the industry, and many in retail reflect uncertainty in adapting to the future. Along with challenge comes great opportunity – but the ability to engage the most powerful selling channels and personalize the consumer experience remain the top priorities to solve for in 2018. Brands can no longer afford to wait to answer “if” technology evolution is needed, but “how”. With non-Western markets accounting for a greater share of global apparel and footwear sales, the time is now to make a technology shift that can match to global growth markets.
The future of profitability in retail is contingent upon infrastructure that is optimized for personalization, omnichannel delivery, a global supply chain, and a uniquely satisfied customer.For fashion and retail brands to stay competitive, the obvious essential is unified commerce. This is clearly not another fashion trend. This is the new business imperative.
Outdated, overextended architecture, or a patchwork of unwieldy apps straining to relate – all are a recipe for decline. A unified omnichannel commerce framework brings immediate benefits to margin, revenue and brand value. Not sure where to begin? Try connecting with an omnichannel technology consultant who can identify the next steps that are right for your unique business.
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