Digital Retail is the watchword that any retail chain must consider in order to maintain adequate levels of competitive effectiveness and sustainability, even in the future.
Today the main challenge for retailers is to synchronize the physical sphere (store, showroom, event, etc.) and the digital one - from the online store to the social page, offering the consumer an experience that should be engaging, personalized and coherent with every channel involved.
In this scenario of complexity, enhancing the digital component is a non-trivial imperative, which requires solid and flexible IT infrastructures, but above all the ability to rapidly develop and deploy innovative applications, optimizing the customer experience.
Below are the 4 main challenges for Digital Retail which chains will necessarily have to face in order not to lose competitiveness.
1. Know your consumer
Retailers have to deal with increasingly demanding and unpredictable groups of clients, which require extreme customization of products and services. Developing winning Digital Retail projects means, first of all, identifying the preferences of each consumer, exploiting the multitude of data available online and offline.
Information management and analysis systems become essential for getting to know the customer, formulating ad hoc proposals and providing meaningful experiences, using appropriate times, ways and channels. Properly exploiting machine learning algorithms and in general, the opportunities of artificial intelligence are unmissable requirements for the success of Digital Retail.
2. Valuing experiences
The customer experience is another essential component for Digital Retail: only by offering the customer innovative and relevant services that create effective value, it is possible to launch an effective strategy of differentiation from competitors and get loyalty to the brand.
Therefore, retailers must be able to rapidly develop engaging and functional applications, to be used within physical stores or through online channels, getting ahead of competitors.
This way, a few abilities become crucial:
• the possibility to take advantage of new technologies (for example, augmented reality solutions, Natural Language Processing tools, Internet Of Things devices) for more efficient and effective applications
• the ability to use modern design techniques (such as microservices and containers) to improve software flexibility and quality;
• the possibility to adopt Agile and DevOps methodologies to accelerate and optimize development and release processes.
3. Optimize Digital Retail Logistics
Speed of delivery is an essential requirement for any Digital Retail initiative. Having gained their trust and persuaded the customer to purchase, the retailer must be diligent in respecting delivery times.
The eCommerce portals (and above all the efficiency giants such as Amazon) have accustomed the consumer to receiving any product very quickly, also solving the complicated return procedures in record time. Therefore, no delays are tolerated anymore and retailers must work in strong synergy with all the players in the supply chain, also exploiting the interoperability of IT systems along the supply chain.
From order to delivery to after-sales assistance, the consumer must feel at the center of an extremely efficient and coordinated physical-digital ecosystem. The task of retailers will be to optimize communication and collaboration processes with partners (manufacturers, logistics companies, etc.), integrating management systems and experimenting with UCC solutions.
4. Finding the skills
By opening new sales and communication channels, as well as affirming the centrality of the customer, Digital Retail requires specific skills especially in the fields of eCommerce, Customer Relationship Management, digital marketing and social networks.
However, expert professionals are also needed on other enabling technologies, such as data governance solutions, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, the Internet Of Things, virtual reality. Skills in modern application development techniques and Agile methodologies are needed to improve software releases.
Retail companies do not always have all these professional skills internally and will therefore have to plan new hires or training courses, considering the possibility of relying on an external partner as a preferential way.