Digital Transformation for Retail Industry
Retail as an industry has gone through a phenomenal transformation in the past decade. From visiting retail stores and buying products to sitting at home and purchasing products online, from paying by cash for purchases to online transactions, from going to malls and shopping from various brands to listing products from multi-vendor marketplaces, digital commerce has come a long way and clearly revolutionized the retail industry. To the extent that there’s no future for the retail industry without digital transformation in retail, and retail will be powered by data and cutting-edge technologies to pave its way forward.
Some of the most prevalent adoptions of digital transformation in retail are:
Omni-channel commerce with Mobile Commerce
Statistics show that 80% of customers shop from mobile apps, and customer engagement is maximum from mobile applications. The customer portfolio has shifted and is getting shifted to those who are tech-savvy with more of an impulsive buying behavior, and the access to online stores when customers are on the go, waiting somewhere, or when they remember the need to buy something takes up a large percentage of purchases. Online stores, especially online marketplaces also provide a large variety of products to compare and buy from, with aggressive pricing offers and much simpler product recommendations. Omni-channel commerce has the advantage of hooking the psyche of a customer, reminding them again and again that they need to buy a specific product until it translated into a conversion. At the heart of Mobile Commerce and Omnichannel commerce, is a deep philosophy for customer engagement that is personalized and targeted, that it’s difficult to ignore, and can literally follow you everywhere!
Tools that can help with Omni-channel commerce
- E-Commerce mobile apps built in Android, iOS, ReactNative, or Flutter
- Headless Commerce implementations where the backend and frontend are de-coupled. A modern headless, API-first, microservices-based, cloud-native platform is the future of Headless Commerce
- Omni-Channel marketing tools like Marketo, Act-on, ActiveCampaigns, etc.
- SaaS platforms that offer Omni-channel E-commerce like BigCommerce, Fynd, etc.
Personalized shopping experiences and intelligent product recommendations
Personalized shopping experiences are a must-do strategy for online selling. Ensuring that the customer is segmented, targeted, and pursued is the KEY. Starting from personalized search recommendations, showing personalized related products or products ‘you may like to show targeted promotions makes the E-commerce experience extremely customized unlike before. Gone are those days when you can push the same products and the same promotions to everyone. The websites that have learned to crack this game has outperformed their competition and successfully created a mark for themselves in their respective industry.
Tools that can help you with personalization and tailor-made experience
- Google’s Analytics Tools – Google Analytics, TagManager,
- Hotjar and Crazy Egg give you heat map analytics, scroll maps, and click analytics
- All Factor & Metrilo give you real-time tracking, advanced analytics and buying behavior, and loads of other insights
- Clerk.io for AI-driven personalized product search results and recommendations with easy integration into E-commerce sites
- NetCore, an AI-Powered Marketing Platform for Ecommerce Personalization
- Woopra, gives you trend reports, journey reports, cohort reports, retention reports, and behavioral segmentation
- And many many more products that have come up in this space…
Multi-channel & Social Media Marketing
This is the digital era where customer touchpoints are many and it’s important to do a 360-degree marketing or outreach program for your brand.Customer life cycle management by adding them to nurturing campaigns and having constant touchpoints with your customer is the key focus here. The three buzzwords that you just cannot forget here are customer engagement, customer retention, and user journey mapping.
Tools that can help you with Multi-channel or Omni-Channel Marketing are
- Marketing automation tools like Marketo, Act-on, ActiveCampaigns, etc.
- HootSuite – For social media marketing and management
Logistics aggregation and delivery partners
Logistics aggregation and the role of delivery partners play key roles in the E-commerce fulfillment process to ensure a faster delivery process and easy product returns. Most countries have come up with quite a few logistic partners who have taken up this role, whereby smaller companies can work with a logistic partner or aggregator, and bigger companies like Amazon have their own delivery divisions. They have APIs available for integration or rate calculation, and for delivery tracking & great last-mile connectivity.
Logistic aggregators are specific to geographies, with FedEx and UPS being the most popular international ones, Aramax in the Middle East, and Delhivery, ShipRocket, and ShipDelight to name a few in India.
IoT in Retail Automation
The greatest use of IoT in Retail is in inventory management, warehouse management, and in shipment tracking. IOT can help business owners to maintain inventory records with the use of IoT-enabled sensors, have predictive engines for supply and demand planning, and optimize inventory management to the next level. Real-time inventory management gathers and sends relevant and updated data of the SKUs to ERP systems, enabling end-to-end automation of all the internal business processes.
IoT Tools that can help grow your retail business
- Better tracking and logistics planning
- Automation of inventory management, planning, and ordering
- Enable better connections between suppliers and customers
- Automated shopping processes and checkouts
- IoT-integrated eCommerce purchases like POS, Kiosks, etc.
There are many IoT platforms that can be used for the above, and some of the notable ones are Zebra, Intuz
An online store can have a multi-region reach, surpassing geographical boundaries and broadening customer reach. This can be achieved by architecting the platform with multi-currency and multi-region support, with centralized or decentralized inventory control and shipment. An ideal solution for such an implementation would be to use a distributed service stack-based architecture, with payment methods, shipment methods, taxation, etc configurable for each supported country, and keeping in mind compliance aspects to be taken care of for that particular geography.
Conversational bots for E-Commerce
Conversational bots have been used widely in Mobile Apps especially to do voice-based product searches, order placement, or chatbots to search for products in a store, track orders, get more details on a product, etc. There are a lot of AI conversational bot engines that can easily integrate with eCommerce platforms, with a plug-and-use model where the processing takes place at their end, greatly reducing integration times and overall support costs. On the other hand, for the customer, it gives faster turnaround time and easy access to information around the block. Some of the bots that are popular in this regard are Freshchat, Revechat, Google DialogFlow, and MobileMonkey.
Here are a few features that you can keep in mind when looking for a chatbot.
- Customer targeting features.
- A/B testing options
- Pre-built templates
- Integration capabilities
- Analytics and reporting features
AR and VR in E-commerce
Use of augmented reality, and virtual reality to enhance the customer shopping experience and engage them better is one of the trends in E-commerce adoption. Many eCommerce firms especially in the home, landscaping, and automotive sector are creating virtual showrooms and allowing customers to explore products from the comfort of their homes without having to visit a retail store. Fashion retailers have adopted real-time simulators where customers can try on clothes and jewelry before purchasing. Recreating the In-Store Experience is still something that brands are working on, and is still evolving in terms of adoption. In the future, we may see AR E-commerce Ads, Product demos, and many other adoptions of these as well.
Here are some interesting stats on the adoption of digital transformation in the Retail industry and its maturity from a study done by Mckinsey
Digital Transformation in Retail is all about integrating forward and backward. Forward integration will allow to the creation of a futuristic roadmap of what eCommerce companies will need to stay competitive, and customer-focused, and bring in a high level of customer engagement. This will in turn impact their brand positioning, overall sale, geographical reach, revenue growth, and brand value in the long run. Backward integration on the other hand would bring in automation, lean processes, faster turnaround times, visibility and insights into cost optimization, overall cost and profitability advantages, and most of all, agility for the organization. Both of these are important to go hand in hand while planning your digital transformation strategy, for long-term growth and brand building. There are businesses who believe that digital transformation is also a cultural shift within an organization that changes the way they work, the way they engage with the customer, and the way they take their product to the market, and I strongly believe that this is the case. It’s not just a technology adoption, it’s a cultural adoption that makes you future-ready! And sooner or later every E-commerce business irrespective of the industry will need to join this bandwagon in order to sustain its brand.
As Charles Darwin said
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent ones. It is the one that is the MOST adaptable to change”.