Lessons for retailers starting out in digital
Like many industries in 2021, retail is in a state of unprecedented flux. Online shopping is no longer an optional offshoot of the bricks-and-mortar store, but a necessity that’s taken centre stage.
Many retailers are preparing to bounce back, while at the same time rushing to meet new customer expectations through multiple channels removed from the physical retail space.
Larger consumer brands are rising to the challenge, leveraging existing loyalty to not only reach, but nurture customers with seamless, omni-channel digital experiences. In other words, they have shifted to digital in ingenious and exciting ways, utilising one resource in particular: data.
But for some brands, knowing how to harness data and effectively break into the digital space isn’t simple or clear-cut – especially with so many variables and options to consider.
This sparks the question: where do retailers starting out in their digital transformation journeys even begin?
Carlos Bravo, account executive at Simplus, put this question to a leading Australian retailer. Here, he shares his findings.
Start small and test the waters
While there’s no denying that going digital is the way of the future, both in and beyond retail, it’s best to resist the temptation to go all in from the jump.
Digital transformation can be a daunting task, especially when doing so exposes you to new concepts and processes that require time to really get to know. The bigger the commitment you make to any one initiative or system or technology, the more of a gamble you’re taking.
In order to not only minimise risk but also to determine what kind of digital transformation will work best for you, your brand, employees and customers, get something small-scale into a trial phase and test the waters. That way, you can learn from what doesn’t work and build off what does. If you continually repeat this process and take your time learning to scale the mountain, you’re far more likely to reach —and remain at— the top.
Ensure you have sufficient resources
Another mark in the pro column for starting small and implementing a test-learn-test again strategy is that it keeps your resources in check. Those who take on a sea change of a digital strategy all at once often find they lack the internal resources to support such a shift. By resources, we’re not talking about the financial realm (which is of course, also a concern), but more in relation to adequate perspectives, skill sets and manpower.
It’s rarely possible to implement new tech, systems or initiatives without enlisting the expertise of those able to put them in place. Whether this means taking on a tech partner (vendor or supplier), upskilling existing employees or hiring relevant talent —or some combination of the three— the digital tools themselves are in almost all circumstances, not enough.
Before taking on any transformation on any scale, ensuring you have sufficient internal resources is paramount.
Get the buy-in from leaders
These days, digital transformation isn’t confined to a single department or team, even if specific silos may get the digital treatment before others. It’s an organisation-wide concern that touches every employee in some way, shape or form. Which is why the most effective digital transformation strategies involve leaders.
Only two years ago, many retail leaders were happy to delegate digital concerns to specific departments or even reluctant to discuss them at all. Since the pandemic, that attitude has flipped on its head, and most leaders are now well-versed in technology, with CEOs actively discussing digital commerce.
This is a positive development, as it means that those overseeing digital transformation aren’t alone on an island, but rather getting the kind of top-down support that increases the likelihood of success.
Learn from digital natives
Not every retailer is able to leverage existing customer loyalty when digitally transforming. Most need to attract consumers without ever meeting them face-to-face. This is a new and evolving paradigm that requires agile thinking on multiple fronts, drawing on the lived experiences of just as many sources.
One such source that can offer a wealth of learning is the digital native – that is, a company that has never operated out of a bricks-and-mortar store and attracted a loyal customer base purely via digital.
They create meaningful connections with these customers through the use of data. They are able to leverage data and analytics to get to know the customer from a 360-degree view, often in real-time – which allows the creation of exceptional customer experiences in multiple channels.
Retailers starting their digital transformation journeys can afford to learn from these digital natives just as much as they can learn from larger retailers who have successfully pivoted to digital.
Engage a tech partner
While the above steps will help any retail organisation move onto the path to digital transformation, sometimes it’s hard to know which step to take first. Engaging a partner with the skills, expertise and experience can help you start off on the right foot, scale faster and more efficiently, and save you from falling into common, yet entirely unnecessary traps.
Get in touch with the team at Simplus to map out a solution for you.