Retailers already knew digital transformation was important for their future prospects before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now, they consider it an urgent imperative. According to McKinsey, US e-commerce experienced ten years of growth in three months at the start of 2020. Customers are actively experimenting with different brands and stores in search of a retail experience that fulfills their needs in this new era, and their loyalties are up for grabs.
Retailers must quickly respond to this sudden evolution in the e-commerce landscape, and they face several major digital transformation challenges in doing so. They must adapt to new customer behaviors, shift to an e-commerce model and diversify their supply chains. Retail businesses that implement successful digital transformation initiatives now are best positioned to capitalize on new trends in the marketplace and earn long-term customer loyalty.
Determining how to initiate a digital transformation can be daunting. Here are five best practices for effecting a meaningful customer experience transformation in retail.
1. Identify outcomes
Building a digital transformation strategy starts with defining the specific objectives you aim to achieve. For example, you may want to create a more connected retail experience with improved customer checkout. You might seek to boost employee productivity at the same time. Whatever your desired outcomes, take some time to clearly outline them at this stage of the planning process.
As you do, survey your current landscape and your competitive prospects within it. Identify any marketplace advantages and existing technology investments that may accelerate your digital transformation or make it especially effective. Likewise, note any major challenges—such as disparate, out-of-date networks from multiple providers—that are currently holding you back from accomplishing your goals.
2. Select a framework
To launch a successful digital transformation initiative, you need an effective framework to bring it to fruition. According to research firm IDC, just 27% of organizations have comprehensive digital transformation implementation road maps today, but 75% are expected to have such road maps in place by 2023.1
A digital transformation framework can set you up for success by identifying cultural barriers and technological gaps. A framework can also help you ensure you're measuring the right key performance indicators to track your progress toward your desired outcomes.
There are many innovation frameworks available, some of which are better suited to certain types of digital transformation initiatives than others. An experienced partner who has successfully implemented retail experience transformation projects can help you identify the right framework for your needs.
3. Build prototypes
It's a good practice to build prototypes to test your assumptions about how well your product, service or enhancement delivers the intended outcome. This step is also valuable for evaluating multiple approaches to an innovative idea.
For example, you might be experimenting with augmented reality and virtual reality for the first time, in which case you might benefit from developing a few prototypes that demonstrate how the technology works and how customers engage with it. From there, you can deploy your prototypes, observe how customers interact with them, and discover which approach works best. The insights you gain will help you sharpen your strategy for accomplishing your retail experience improvement.
4. Pilot the capability
Once you've taken your prototypes for a spin and identified which one has the greatest potential to drive your business outcome, it's time to build and launch a proper pilot. While a pilot is narrower in scope than a full deployment, it's generally considered the precursor to a full, organization-wide rollout. You will want to subject your pilot to rigorous testing and carefully evaluate how well it performs under real-world conditions.
At this stage, you'll want to gain an accurate and comprehensive understanding of the user experience associated with your pilot. Many retail businesses find that user experience testing is valuable for detecting points of friction in the e-commerce experience, for example. You should also keep a close eye on your metrics to confirm they demonstrate progress toward your desired outcomes.
After you've got a successful pilot in place, it's time to turn your pilot into a fully realized digital transformation as you roll it out in stages across your organization. Since this step requires effective cooperation and collaboration from a broad group of stakeholders, you'll need to pay special attention to organizational culture issues that could impede your success.
Retail companies that are already undergoing a considerable amount of change might face challenges when it comes to fully embracing yet another change in the form of a digital transformation. An experienced implementation partner can help you proactively anticipate and overcome the obstacles that might arise.
Drive customer experience transformation in retail
Retailers know they must digitally transform—and quickly. Not only can digital transformation create innovative and impactful customer experiences, it can also open the door to improved operations and even new revenue streams—all while modernizing technology. Companies that pursue retail customer experience innovations now will have the best chance to earn loyal, long-term customers well into the future.
Learn how Verizon retail customer experience solutions can help you overcome technology barriers and keep up with your customers.