The five key steps to delivering a seamless digital retail experience

By René Aerdts Chief Technologist – Global Consumer Goods at DXC Technology. 

As a result of technically advanced e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, consumer expectation with regards to customised buying experiences and always-on services have skyrocketed. 

The omni-channel experience is no longer a nice to have, but a vital ingredient in retail success. In-fact, recent IDC data showed almost three-quarters of consumers prefer omni-channel retailers – unsurprisingly that group now drives 35% of ecommerce growth in the industry. It’s encouraging news, but omni-channel doesn’t simply mean a consumer has the choice to access a retailer on a mobile device, laptop, through a call centre, or in a store. For omni-channel to have real power, it requires that the buying experience improves as a consumer jumps between platforms. 

For example, if a business traveller knows she’s leaving for a week-long trip and wants to try the latest smart toothbrush, she might use her laptop to look online and put a couple of options into her electronic cart, but decides she wants to see them up close. 

When she gets to the store, her smartphone recognises she has already done some shopping and points her to the part of the store where the smart toothbrushes are sold. The phone could also identify special offers for the items and, recognising that she is about to travel, send recommendations for other toiletry items she might need. The experience is enhanced from the moment she opens the laptop, enters the store and logs on to her phone – and this is what omni-channel is really about.

With that in mind, here are five top tips for retailers looking to deliver an enhanced, cross-platform digital customer experience:

  1. Collaborate, experiment and create. In order to deliver a next generation digital experience, retailers must create environments where they can try new digital products and features to see if they work or whether they need to move on to the next idea. This requires the right team to be in place and fostering a collaborative environment where people can experiment without fear of failure. 

  2. Ensure everything is secure. Most organisations understand the need for DevOps alongside agile development, but when pursuing digital transformation nothing moves forward without security. This is why retailers must focus on DevSecOps where security gets built into the core product or feature as it is rolled out. This minimises the risk of a major security breach caused by oversights in the development process.

  3. Do you know your digital customer? Retailers must understand their customers from a behavioural perspective, and monitor buying patterns carefully. If a customer suddenly buys a lot of baby products, then it suggests they have either become parents or grandparents, and the retailer should send special baby care offers the customer’s way. Equally, tracking their activity and previous buying patterns makes marketing campaigns more effective.

  4. Social media is the key to communication. Many people ‘live’ on social media today. Customers are always giving opinions on products and retailers must become a part of the conversation. This means at a minimum, retailers have to understand Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram, and know how to communicate effectively with their client base.

  5. Get to new tech first. It’s vital the retailers make use of technology as soon as something looks like it will become popular. For example, 3D printers are becoming more common in homes today, so retailers might consider giving customers the option of printing a 3D version of a product so they can see if they want to make a purchase. Retailers might also need to offer an augmented reality option on their sites so customers can see how the product might fit into a living room or kitchen. Drones are also gaining momentum as a viable and faster delivery option – people don’t want to wait three to five days to receive a package anymore. By embracing new technology early, businesses can satiate customer demands whilst projecting a forward-thinking brand image. 

Retailers need to think of this transformation as turning themselves into digital-first enterprises, and to succeed they will need to update their back-end systems in order to provide a seamless experience. The truth is that consumers don’t care about the technical complexity of creating a return label, they just want to be able to create one, with the click of a button, when they decide to return something. 

Rather than focussing on iterative roll outs, retailers need to focus on creating a collaborative environment and make use of DevSecOps, while striving to understand their core customers’ digital footprints. This will allow them to embrace advanced technologies, whilst being on-top of the latest social channels to make the most of every potential customer and sale.

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