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:
- Align with the aspiration of the customer and their changing habits
- Be committed to investing in and implementing change
- Have channels that are interdependent, not in silos
- Have a consistent brand view across all channels
- Have a single view of the customer
- Have real time analysis and insight
- Deliver a personalised customer experience
- Be clear on sales attribution
- Be clear on the role of the high street
- 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