Regardless of industry, failing to fully embrace the digital world will almost certainly mean getting left behind. This article presents the top five steps retailers can take to help ensure the success of their digital transformation efforts.
Digital transformation is a phrase being used across just about every industry right now, but what does it really mean for retailers? In broad terms, it’s all about using new technologies to solve key problems and make your business more competitive.
Understandably, most retailers are more focused on running their businesses than the ins and outs of technology. However, ignoring the need for digital transformation can mean wasting a tremendous opportunity to revitalize your business.
You need only look at the largest tech companies and e-tailers to see where the momentum is coming from. Brands such as Amazon and Google are not only driving digital transformation in their own businesses, they’re completely changing customer expectations for every type of business.
That’s why so many of us now expect the superior convenience and user experience that digital transformation has enabled. In contrast, many smaller retail businesses have yet to realize their own version of transformation, primarily because they aren’t prepared to address the key issues of cybersecurity, cost, or a lack of skilled IT staff.
Thankfully, the latest retail technologies aren’t exclusive to the biggest brands. In fact, retailers of all sizes can accelerate their use of technology to compete more effectively today and well into the future. Here are five useful steps you can take to get started on the road to digital transformation.
1. Making the Decision to Transform
You first must choose to transform. The whole process starts with an important question: What problems are you trying to solve? The answer can come in the form of a wish list and might include: understanding your customers more effectively, increasing foot and/or web traffic, and growing revenueâ€”among many other possibilities.
That’s step one. Moving forward from there will almost certainly require input from technology partners and suppliers to create an implementation plan. This step is particularly important, because it makes it much easier to prioritize the right technologies for your unique needs.
Keep in mind that transformation is a journey, not a destination. Be careful not to view it as something that needs a huge upfront investment and don’t expect a big overnight change. Creating actionable steps or checkpoints will help you accomplish your objectives in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
2. Going Digital
It’s easy to assume that just about every modern business has a web site, but according to GrouponOpens a new window , 40 percent of independent local retailers still don’t have a dedicated web site. And 97 percent don’t have a dedicated app, despite the ubiquitous use of smartphones.
However, going digital isn’t just about building a web site. While many existing retail web sites were created when most traffic came from computers, digital retail sales are quickly becoming mobile device-driven. That’s why it’s increasingly important to ensure that your web site is, at the very least, mobile-friendly.
As retail shifts to an â€œomnichannelâ€ mix of in-store shopping, online shopping, delivery, and click-and-collect services, getting left behind is a real possibilityâ€”unless you make a decisive move online to deliver precisely what your customers want.
3. Going Mobile
It’s also increasingly important to examine the mobile element of digital transformation. Take mobile marketing, for example. Using a mobile marketing and customer engagement platform can help you maximize the value of the data you gather from your web site and other online activities (such as email campaigns). Mobile devices are a key part of this effort.
There are also mobile shopping apps, many of which begin life as loyalty tools, that can track customer preferences, trends, and spending habits. You can use this data to offer customers a more personalized shopping experience, including sharing coupons based on previous spending habits, offering reward points, or suggesting other related products.
Integrating mobile apps into in-store Wi-Fi can take things to a whole new level. By understanding the real-time data analytics collected by your Wi-Fi platform, you
can build â€œheatâ€ maps to identify in-store traffic flow. This is especially valuable when you want to monetize your floorspace and optimize product placement.
And don’t forget that mobile apps integrate well with social media. Combining the two makes an app easier to access, provides more functionality, enables in-app sharing capabilities, increases usage, and improves visibility. The list of potential benefits is huge.
4. Getting Social
Using social media as part of your digital transformation strategy can reveal valuable customer data, helping you to understand customer likes, dislikes, and preferences. It can also open the option of sending targeted ads and increasing online engagement with customers both near and far.
Similarly, encouraging customer reviews can provide a way to gain direct feedback that helps you quickly validate and improve your services, products, and business practices.
5. Getting Personal
Retailers who succeed in their digital transformation efforts typically understand how their customers prefer to communicate. While some will always prefer to speak to an actual person, othersâ€”especially younger peopleâ€”prefer digital communication. Understanding their needs and providing a personalized choice of communication methods and content can have an extremely positive impact on the overall customer experience and your bottom line.
Ultimately, digital transformation in retail can take on many different forms and timelines, but one thing is clear: failing to fully embrace the digital world will almost certainly mean getting left behind. The good news is there are virtually unlimited ways to get started on the road to digital transformationâ€”and keep moving forward as quickly as you want.