By Susanne Zander, Partner Syskoplan Reply and Reply Practice Lead “Digital Commerce”
Last year may have marked a tipping point for retailers. Whether the high street ever fully recovers from the strains of prolonged lockdowns, it is fair to say that COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on how consumers shop. Having grown accustomed to buying online, many will continue to shop this way even when stores reopen. For retailers to survive and ideally come back stronger than ever before, they must embrace digital commerce.
And not just any digital commerce. In this new world where digital is a higher priority than in person shopping, hyper-personalisation and ‘micro-moment’ technologies are essential for a successful e-commerce strategy.
That is the finding of a new report by Reply which examined trends and strategies in digital commerce. From expert interviews, digital surveys and bootcamps with over 40 clients, the report showed that mastering the latest technologies and unleashing creativity should be the focus for retailers no matter the product.
For retailers, that means the race is on to find or enhance a digital strategy that allows it to establish a relationship with customers.
Invest in analytic and predictive technology
Customers want to feel known and appreciated, so retailers need to create unique online experiences to engage and retain them. This matters more than ever, across both B2B and B2C accounts, as consumer shoppers’ budgets shrink and spending falls.
To do this, retailers should invest into new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Data-driven processes, like offering suggestions based on previous purchases or customer preferences, are important ways to transform shopping applications into emotional shopping experiences. As consumers spend more time online, retailers can capture behavioural data and use those insights to stand out from their competitors and retain customers.
Offer bespoke customer interactions
There are many different technologies specifically designed to streamline the retail experience. Voice commerce, digital shopping assistants, digital twins, social commerce, data-driven e-commerce and interactive shop windows all these take the online shopping experience to a new level.
In the digital age where customers have enormous amounts of variety and choice available to them, they know what they want more than ever before. Therefore, shops must provide this as smoothly and easily as possible. One of the most successful ways to win and retain customers is through the use of hyper-personalisation. This means offering a bespoke and exclusive shopping experience that is unique to each customer like offering deals based on their usual shopping habits or showing suggestions for alternate brands they might like on their weekly food shop.
Put personalisation at the heart of everything
As more companies integrate this hyper-personalisation into their services, retailers must be ever more aware of individual considerations and needs. This poses a challenge for retailers who must balance consumers with internal processes. Online shops can only attract consumers in a creative way and with a tailored approach. This means sending customers promotions for what they want to buy and not continuing to share offers for products that customers have already purchased or ones they are clearly not interested in.
Data is a core part of this. For many retailers, the amount of data they have available is growing unwieldly and overwhelming, this cannot be the case in the long-term. Stable and accurate algorithms and predictions must be put in place to ensure the added value of the data. Data-driven technologies such as AI and ML are therefore at the top of retailers’ priority lists – as are technologies with the potential to automate processes like resolving customer complaints and supply chain issues.
In addition to data processing, targeted tech such as adverts and chatbots should also facilitate direct communication with customers, addressing them in surprising and individual ways. Retailers cannot just deliver technically efficient work but also creative solutions which keep customers onside and engaged.
The challenges of the future are to attract and enthral new shoppers while transferring your existing in-person customer base online. To do this, retailer must make skilful use of new technologies which, perhaps ironically, means the creation of a more personal approach. As retailers prepare for an uncertain future, those which will survive and thrive are ones who use intelligent digital shopping assistants that close the gap between “attraction” and “conversion” in the customer journey.