Not all retail disruptors are super-hot online start-ups. The likes of Sephora, Zara, Bonobos, Lidl and Adidas are considered disruptors because of their enhanced omnichannel offerings, and ability to engage across multiple channels. These retailers have stores, and they invest strategically in technology which they believe will give them an edge. The goal is to sell better and more, by personalising the buyer’s journey across web, mobile, social media and stores. Such retailers aspire to connected commerce, and the global retail industry knows this is a challenge all players must eventually rise to.
Using technology to gain competitive advantage
Doing this successfully means investing in unified commerce solutions. But it’s true to say that creating an application that works for each unique retail organisation can be challenging. Before unified commerce can begin to work its magic, there is a vast body of work around collecting, sharing and aligning all the necessary data sets that will underpin connected commerce.
There is also the challenge of integrating the necessary touchpoints to facilitate the free flow of information – including stock, logistics, CRM, and sales data – in line with security and compliance requirements. The end result of digitised stores and frictionless ways for customers to interact and pay for their purchases, is well worth the effort, so how can
Be sure of company-wide buy-in
Retailers making a success of this tend to be those with top-level commitment to unified commerce and its capabilities. Once a strategy has buy-in from the top, and is well communicated down through all layers of the business, there is more likelihood of a successful implementation, and ongoing delivery of commercial results. Careful planning and good company-wide communications will ensure everyone from the CTO to shop floor teams are on the same page, and know exactly what is being done and why. By ensuring unified commerce is top of mind at head office, and that the process of putting it to use is democratised, with results and learnings shared and celebrated, business wins are more likely to come through.
Train store associates to bring experiences to life
Transforming the store to a place that distributes not just products, but also customer experiences will not happen overnight, because you are dealing with far more than a new technology infrastructure. There is a human element too and this is why staff education is so vital to the process. People working in stores will need to take responsibility for bringing the reality of unified commerce to life in the physical retail space. Store managers and sales assistants will have access to a host of new tools – on-hand inventory, customer information, marketing messaging and insight – and they need to know how to use it with confidence and ease.
With unified commerce, sales associates are likely to be working with a tablet device to access information about the customers they are dealing with, and the products and services on offer. They are able to facilitate the sales process and optimise the client relationship – perhaps building on known shopper preferences, store feedback, or social media interactions. If teams involved are fully trained and competent in this new way of working in stores, they are likely to be more engaged in their work, and in the long-term will help drive profitability in the store. Needless to say, customer loyalty is dependent on this human side of unified commerce.
Brands that digitise their stores and equip their sales associates with innovative, digital and mobile tools, are better positioned to offer full omnichannel services, and never miss a sale.