2020 was a year of learning for the retail sector. While the industry was pioneering digital transformation for a long time now, the COVID-19 pandemic created a situation where digital was the only chance of survival for most retailers.
Prolonged lockdowns, restrictions on mobility, and physical contact led to a sharp decrease in footfalls at stores worldwide. Irrespective of brands or category, shopping as an experience was largely confined to online-only modes for a good part of 2020. eCommerce websites worldwide see close to 16.07 billion visits in January, and the pandemic led to the number rising to over 22 billion by July 2020. Online commerce has been one of the most prolific digital trends that has gripped the retail sector for years. But is going online enough for retailers to succeed in the digital era?
Certainly not! Even before the pandemic, a host of digital innovations were amplifying results for forward-thinking retail companies. The events of 2020 accelerated the pace at which such innovations need to act for ROI to be realized quickly. On this note, let us explore the digital transformation trends that the retail sector needs to capitalize on in 2021 to remain competitive:
According to McKinsey, when companies increase their focus on digitizing their logistics operations, it could result in nearly a 3.2% growth in their annual earnings. As more retailers foray into the eCommerce space with different operational mechanisms like fully online, hybrid sales channels, etc. there will be a huge demand for optimizing the supply chain to help support the growth ambitions of retailers. As with other sectors, the supply chain and logistics of retail too can leverage the power of digital to enable frictionless movement of goods and services and help retailers fulfill commitments even if sales volumes are highly fluctuating.
Did you know that 81% of customers search online before making a purchase? The purchase may be made online or at the store depending on their choice. But, what is important for retailers here is that they need to ensure that when customers reach the store to pick up a product they saw and loved online, the experience needs to be seamless and rewarding. For this to happen, they need to have a synchronized shopping experience at the store that acquires the preferences of a customer during their online search for a product and then guides them to buy the exact same product or a similar one that suits their needs. We partnered with Microsoft to make this experience available for the purchase of their tech products with one of their leading retail partners wherein a user gets a recommendation on their phone when they are in proximity to the partner store, saying that the product they searched for or one that matches their needs is in stock at the store and they could walk in and have a demo and a seamless checkout all in a matter of minutes. A blended online-offline shopping experience like this will certainly be highly appreciated in 2021 when people want to spend less time inside crowded shops searching for a product.
Great retail sale experiences can never be offered without setting up an equally efficient service that helps consumers navigate through their buying journey from the first glance of the product to after sales-support.
Consumers would love experiences that incorporate live, interactive video interactions with an associate. Solutions like Tap-a-Tech solutions offer audio, video, and chat-based interactions with knowledgeable associates and can help increase sales conversion rates dramatically. Consumers get a chance to access live virtual assistance from an expert by simply scanning a QR code in a store aisle or clicking a call-to-action button on a product detail page during an e-commerce journey. Imagine this – A customer is browsing a product that from her cellphone, and she is interested in purchasing it. There is an option to do a video chat with an agent live. The call happens, the agent answers all her questions and helps her make a more informed decision, and can even help cross-sell relevant accessories.
Marketing is a retailer’s biggest weapon to attract customers. From billboards and television ads in the past, today’s retailers have transitioned into digital channels for running their most promising promotions. Fujitsu, in their recent survey, found that nearly 79.1% of retailers are planning to make active use of social media for their consumer outreach programs. To make campaigns deliver better ROI, there will be a slew of technologies like AI and big data analytics that will help marketers deliver more customized and contextually relevant campaigns. This will ultimately land more leads that have more potential to convert into real business opportunities for retailers.
Retail in 2021 will be riding high on the digital transformation wave. Everyone will be running to have a share of the pie. The key to success is identifying the best digital tools and platforms that are needed to deliver superior experiences to your customers and on-boarding them systematically so that your employees and customers can leverage the power of these digital platforms to seamlessly handle business.