2020 has seen a seismic shift in the retail landscape with retailers and consumers both changing their habits and behaviours.
Huge swathes of consumers have turned to online shopping and, as a result, retailers across the globe are rushing to accelerate their digital transformation. The race is now on to create seamless cross-channel in-store and online experiences for their customers.
Digital channels are booming – however, brick-and-mortar stores will still play a significant role in ensuring long term success for forward thinking retailers.
So what are the secrets to this success? And what do you, as an ambitious retailer, need to be doing right now to safeguard success beyond 2020?
Here are the five essentials every retailer on the planet should be prioritising:
1 – Best-in-class CX
Now, more than ever, delivering a first-class experience – whether physically or digitally – should be the number one priority. Your customers are more informed and more demanding than ever before. They expect the convenience of all sales channels having the same information and being connected. They also expect your associates to have enhanced product and inventory information at their fingertips (your associates want this too) so they can give customers what they want when they want it. This can be done by turning your point of sale (POS) into a point of service and making store associates a big part of delivering a unified commerce experience.
From building loyalty, growing trust and creating compelling in-store experiences, the more you prioritise CX the more successful you will be.
2 – True unified commerce
It’s vital you put systems in place now to accelerate your journey towards unified commerce. Retailers who implemented technologies to allow for inventory accuracy and cross-channel visibility prior to 2020 – with enhanced ship from store capabilities – were able to perform better through the pandemic than those retailers who didn’t have the same visibility.
With real-time access to the same product, stock, order and customer information everywhere, all stores and online sales channels are unified. Alongside, with the ability to sell and fulfill everything from anywhere, you’ll never miss a sale and you’ll be able to give your customers what they want, when they want it.
As we said above, you need to provide customer convenience across stock, purchase, payment, delivery and return. And you should be able to use tech to provide a personalised CX, for example through levelling up your clienteling by integrating your POS with a CRM solution.
3 – Improved inventory management
Unified commerce begins with your inventory. That’s why your POS needs to communicate in real-time with your other systems. This means you always have one true view of your complete inventory across all channels.
It’s a problem store associates face every day. Even if they can check stock levels in another store, they have no real idea if they are accurate, which leads to a lack of trust in the system. The same applies to customers. They may be able to check stock online but, because it’s not real-time data, there’s no guarantee it’s accurate.
When you have a unified commerce platform – with real-time data shared across all channels – it’s simple to view and access all inventory everywhere and manage orders in a cost-efficient way, and you’ll use less capital by maximising inventory availability and minimising excess inventory.
4 – Flexible fulfillment
When many retailers went into lockdown earlier in the year, they didn’t know what stock they had in their lockdown stores, and had no way to use those stores as distribution or fulfillment centres.
It led to long delays for customers receiving their goods, it meant stock was static, and retailers were faced with a scenario where products were “out of stock” online yet “in stock” in locked-down stores (where retailers had no way of selling them).
This is why enabling the ability to ship from store, create micro-fulfillment centres, and turn closed stores into dark stores is one of the most important things you should be doing right now – both to be ready for the “new normal” and to safeguard your business in the event of further disruption to the status quo.
To meet your customers’ needs in a cost-efficient way, you need to not only amplify your store fulfillment possibilities with options to buy online and pick up in-store, to buy, reserve and pick up in other stores, and with “endless aisle”, where the customer can browse items that aren’t in stock but can be ordered on request. You also have to turn your stores into fulfillment centres, meaning e-commerce orders can be shipped from those stores, and that they can ship orders placed in other stores. With e-commerce sales soaring it’s also important for the stores to handle returns of goods bought online. It will keep the costs for returns down and also help turn returns into exchanges and stimulate upsells.
5 – Clear vision and purpose
Consumers crave experience and look to brands with authenticity and honesty at their core. 2020 has only highlighted brands that do not have a clear focus on their core consumers and that don’t deliver a compelling and consistent point of view, executed relentlessly and driven by a “benevolent dictator” style of leadership, that keeps strong even when the storms come. Brands becoming “verbs” and not just “nouns” still highlights the need to stand for something descriptive and action-oriented rather than just being a name.
Embracing technology and digitalisation will empower your associates, turn your customers into brand champions, and lay the groundwork for a thriving, successful business both now and in the future.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a unified commerce platform and a Retail POS built with cloud-native technology, explore more here.