All indications from the 2015 holiday season and the National Retail Federation’s annual ‘Big Show’ point to a pivotal year ahead for the retail industry. As retailers realign their go to market strategies in response to market conditions, digital disruption and speeding change must be a business priority for remaining relevant in today’s economy ruled by consumers with mobile ‘malls’ in their hands and an incredible array of choices. Agility to influence customers with tailored engagement strategies will be paramount for securing wallet share and staying in the game. Here are five tips from Verizon Enterprise Solutions’ retail experts for getting ahead of the pack this year:
- Get your ‘store’ in order with a sound Unified Commerce strategy: It may sound like more industry jargon, but this one is loaded with substance. Achieving a ‘single view’ of a retailer’s POS and CRM systems combined with its ecommerce, mcommerce, in-store and call center channels can enable one view across the entire business for streamlining operations and ultimately improving the customer experience. Recognizing your customer and their shopping preferences and habits whether they are online, mobile or in store - without being intrusive - can earn the sought after brand loyalty that is the holy grail for the industry.
- Digital and mobile strategies matter: Identifying the best engagement formulas -- which involves refining the timing and channel for targeting consumers with compelling and tailored offers -- is a must in today’s digital marketplace. Statistics from a recent survey commissioned by Verizon reveal that 56% of smartphone owners made a purchase in 2015 using a mobile app. Though Millennials accounted for the lion share’s (70%), usage by Gen X’ers (66%) and Baby Boomers (39%) is on the rise. Digital outreach then via a consumer’s mobile device that is either infrequent or not compelling runs the risk of ending up as a deleted app rather than a potential reward for both parties.
- Take stock of ecommerce platforms: A key component of successful digital customer engagement involves assessing a retailer’s supporting infrastructure and platform operations. What do your customers encounter once they’ve followed the digital path to your website? Will your customer be personally greeted and is the functionality user-friendly and fast? Is it easy to get customer service support if needed and will those associates recognize the returning customer? How good are your analytics for predicting inventory needs and customer preferences? And, most significantly, can your ecommerce platform handle traffic increases around holidays and promotions? A flexible and secure network infrastructure and robust IT hosting environment are essential for a strong operational model.
- Remember to inventory ‘back office’ operations and supply chain logistics: As retailers continue to introduce new practices which help speed merchandise delivery to consumers -- such as expanding a retail location to double as a fulfillment center -- assessing back office and supply chain operations is essential as ultimately everything is a brand reflection. A late delivery may rest with a distributor for example, yet the retailer will always be in the hot seat.
- None of the above will matter if security is not a priority: Part of earning a customer’s loyalty and trust means protecting their proprietary information across a retailer’s ecosystem. All it takes is one data breach to undo all of the foundational brand building that is essential to a company’s vitality. Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that 88% of the attacks across the retail industry occurred in three major categories: denial of service (44%), crimewave (23%) and point-of-sale intrusion (21%). Cybersecurity measures then should be at the forefront of every sales channel, strategy and function across a retailer’s business.
Visit http://www.verizonenterprise.com/industry/retail/index.xml to learn more about digital transformation for the retail industry.