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Here’s how executives can drive retail digital transformation across an organization.

March 17, 2022 By: Elissa Quinby

It goes without saying that Covid-19 accelerated retail digital transformation. Sure, the shift from in-person to online shopping was already in place before the pandemic. But that’s not the whole story. 

Retail leaders were faced with a number of challenges. Their businesses needed to offer new services that combined online and in-person elements, such as curbside pickup and BIPOS (by online pickup in store). Digital teams went remote. Frontline workers needed to be protected. Customers became nervous about shopping in-person. Coveted items went out of stock. 

For executives and other leaders across the industry, now is the time to start rethinking what it means to lead a digital team in 2022 and beyond. And let’s face it, in today’s world every team is digital-first.

For retail leaders, the shift to digital-first is not just a question of, “How do I help customers?” but also, “How do I help my team?” Retail digital transformation is finding ways to empower your employees, from your digital team to your front-line workers. To succeed in our digital-first world, retailers need to equip their teams with tools and technologies that enable them to truly become customer obsessed.

Driving digital transformation is really about obsessing around your customers and their needs.

So what will separate the good retailers from the great ones? Personalization.

Soon, both the iPhone and Android will allow users to disable app tracking. In response to this, retailers need a plan to leverage first-party data so that they can serve up personalized recommendations while respecting customers’ privacy. For retailers, this might look like asking customers for general information on their shopping interests and lifestyle choices, such as favorite hobbies and likes/dislikes.  

As retailers learn how to better leverage customer data, they have the opportunity to develop new and innovative ways to offer personalized shopping recommendations. 

If retailers succeed at personalization, they will not only help customers find the items they want. They will also enable shoppers to cultivate their identities. 

But before retailers can accomplish that, they need to make sure they can help customers solve for their most pressing needs. 

The future of the supply chain crisis. 

The supply chain crisis continues to impact shoppers across the globe, with no foreseeable end. Goods coming in and out of eastern Europe, for example, will face delays, thanks to the war in Ukraine. The new lockdowns in China will create new shipping delays as well. 

If products are delayed due to shipping problems, or out-of-stock all together, it’s more important than ever to communicate that as quickly as possible. Better yet, brands should help the customer find alternatives and enable them to make a purchase with you instead of shopping elsewhere.

The lack of inventory across the nation has also ignited a renewed interest in second-hand stores. Expect to see more eCommerce sites like Poshmark, theRealReal, and thredUp appear in the years to come. 

How inflation is impacting the customer experience.

The realities of inflation will reshape the American economy for generations to come. Some experts predict that Americans will need to start living more like Europeans, which means buying fewer but more expensive goods. 

With inflation leading to higher prices and driving out-of-stock outages, consumers are more hesitant to spend money than ever before. This means that your digital teams need to not only consistently deliver a standout shopping experience, but also a post-purchase experience. Patagonia, for instance, offers repair services and buy-back programs, in addition to standard returns.

Personalization is about helping your customers to find what they need. 

As retail leaders think about the future of shopping, they must be thinking about how to better personalize their digital services.

Brands like Target, for example, are doubling down on post-Covid era services (such as drive-through) and enhancing their approach to personalization. Target developed this idea from analyzing customer shopping behavior. 

Retailers are embracing loyalty programs and customer profiles to better understand customer’s shopping habits. Sephora is a great example. They offer a “community aspect” that enables you to filter reviews by people with similar profiles to you. If someone else has dry skin, wants a more even skin tone, and liked this face cream, it might be a good fit for me too

With the next frontier of personalization, brands will not just meet customers’ needs; they will broaden their horizons by assisting customers with finding their own style. 

Leading your team during uncertain times means enabling them with the right technology.

In our post-pandemic world, leaders need to adapt quickly, in addition to empowering their employees with the right tools. 

The great resignation is still upon us. 

The pandemic has challenged every employee, from frontline workers to CEOs, to rethink their relationships with work. 

This year alone, 3 out of 4 full-time employees plan to quit their jobs, per Forbes. Employees are looking for better pay, more flexible working hours, hybrid or remote work, and a better overall digital employee experience. 

Think about the QSR trend of pre-ordering and picking up your meal at a specific time, without talking to anyone. For brands like Chipotle and Panera, this process improves employee satisfaction, since they can anticipate pre-booked orders and spend more face time with high value or needier customers. 

Embracing internal digital transformation.

So what leaves employees feeling frustrated at work?

Today’s marketers, product designers, developers, and IT/Ops professionals care more about your organization’s tech stack than you might think. Employees across industries such as retail, healthcare, and financial services are frustrated with their organization’s legacy tech stack, outdated software, and other roadblocks. 

Investing in new technologies that enable employees to thrive is key to recruiting and retaining top talent. When your employees can gain visibility into customers’ struggle, and quickly determine what product features and fixes will drive the most value, they will be more energized and eager to solve the business’s most pressing problems.  

Retail digital transformation is about leveraging insights and empathizing with customers, not hoarding data. 

With new technologies in place, retail leaders can empower their teams to not only crunch numbers, but to better empathize with customers across the board. 

The current problem? Many retail industry leaders rely too heavily on data points, and not enough on actionable insights. Sure, analyzing customer behavior and conversion rates can tell you a lot about how users navigate through your digital products, but what you really need is tools and strategies that help you understand customer motivations. 

Using the Quantum Metric platform, Canadian Tire discovered that a large number of customers were attempting to use expired or invalid coupon codes. As a result, around 70% of these customers abandoned their carts and left the website. The team discovered that these customers were mainly buying older products. So Canadian Tire decided to re-activate the out-of-date coupon codes in their systems to 1) reduce older inventory and 2) increase online customer satisfaction. 

Canadian Tire not only discovered what went wrong, but also what workflows and features drive the most conversions and increase customer satisfaction. 

Retail digital transformation doesn’t mean abandoning in-person shopping all together.

Focusing on building standout digital experiences for mobile and web are crucial. But retail leaders need to remember that some customers still want to shop in-person. For retail leaders, that means leveraging technology to boost in-person engagement. 

Even before the pandemic, department stores and shopping malls were seeing sharp declines in attendance. During the pandemic many stores were shuttered, which further accelerated the shift to online shopping. 

Data savvy brands, especially those that have built up their eCommerce presence or launched without brick-and-mortar stores from the get go, are taking a different approach. They are tracking online shopping trends in order to identify potential cities for future stores. 

If a brand has a physical presence in, say, San Francisco, they are more likely to see an increase in eCommerce sales from that area as well. 

The bottom line? In-person shopping is not dead, but expect to see fewer, but more strategically placed store locations. Moving forward, bringing tech into the physical space, such as tech-based fitting rooms for apparel companies, will set the good brands apart from the great ones. 

In-person and online shopping both form part of the omnichannel experience. 

For retail leaders, driving digital transformation across the organization also means thinking about how in-person shoppers leverage digital channels as well.

More and more retailers are using mobile apps to improve the in-person shopping experience. Today’s best mobile apps enable consumers to order online and pickup in-store, to see what items are available at a given store, and more. Some shoppers even use mobile apps to look up where items located are at a specific store. Who knew the toilet paper was in aisle 8, next to the paper plates? 

Retail digital transformation is also about empowering your front-line workers, too. 

Most importantly, don’t forget to think about your front-line workers: cashiers, personal shoppers, stockers, managers, and the other essential employees that keep your stores running. They can also benefit from using mobile and desktop devices with a standout user experience.

Think of it like this: If your employees can find the answer without friction, that means your customers can get the answers even faster. 

How Quantum Metric helps retailers.

The future of retail is ripe for innovation. Curious to learn how retailers such as Lululemon UK-based Footasylum use Quantum Metric to drive digital transformation across their organizations? Click here to request a demo.

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