The future of digital retail

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Retail is changing. Multi-channel is now firmly established as a consumer necessity, from click and reserve, any channel returns and super-fast delivery. It is also not just younger, agile businesses who are embracing a new approach. Tesco, John Lewis and Argos are hardly new entrants to the retail market, but they are some of the leaders. This isn’t a UK phenomenon either. In the US it is also established businesses such as Macy’s and H&M who are right at the forefront of innovation and experimentation.

There is no magic formula to create a successful digital retailer, but there are some clear emerging principles:

  1. Align with the aspiration of the customer and their changing habits
  2. Be committed to investing in and implementing change
  3. Have channels that are interdependent, not in silos
  4. Have a consistent brand view across all channels
  5. Have a single view of the customer
  6. Have real time analysis and insight
  7. Deliver a personalised customer experience
  8. Be clear on sales attribution
  9. Be clear on the role of the high street
  10. Test, learn, optimise. And do it over and over again.

Consumers are comfortable mixing shops, digital touch points, call centres and catalogues.

By having a digital presence across all touch points businesses are offering a clear benefit to consumers who are then able to make the choice as to how they want to interact with the brand.

There is inevitably organisational change that is a prerequisite to becoming a successful multi-channel business, but the perfect solution will evolve over time. The important step is to start.

Customers just want to shop with the brand, regardless how a retailer might have organised himself internally.

Businesses would do well to keep this simple philosophy in mind – test, learn, optimise, iterate.

At the heart of digital retailing is a mindset: a willingness and ability to understand and respond to emerging trends and changing behaviours. It is imperative that businesses evolve their model as consumers’ needs and behaviours evolve. And a genuine commitment to this approach is required, through failure as well as success.

So while much of digital retailing is in its infancy still – NFC, location based apps, social buying, interactive advertising – it is undeniably growing quickly. At the very least businesses today need to be multi-channel and starting to experiment with what it is to be a digital business.

Image © Chrisharvey

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