Digital transformation: 5 principles for the retail industry

Principle 1: Channel does not matter – to the customer. The retail customer uses various channels to shop for items of interest – whether it be online, via mobile phone, or a casual visit to the store. As current retailer focus on omnichannel programs indicates, customers simply want streamlining of the overall customer experience. However, omnichannel presents other challenges for retailers and demands fresh thinking. The online and mobile channels do not readily support the in-person handshake and emotional interaction that retail staff can have with customers. Customers are more likely to dismiss a pop-up window than negate an offer from one human to another.

Principle 2: Location should not matter. So what if my spouse is vacationing in Hawaii, gearing up for school at home, or just walking the Magnificent Mile shopping district in Chicago? If she finds an item to her taste, she should be able to order it and have it shipped to a location of her choice, to be received by the person of her choice. The recipient might be a close family member or friend located thousands of miles away. Retailersmustunderstandandactuponthisdynamic.

Principle 3: Automation – and people – both matter. Let us not lose sight of the human element. The greeter at the front of the retail store, the store clerk wishing you a nice day or a fantastic weekend – they matter for sure! Automation done right is all about increasing the overall efficiency of the retail process end-to-end, while redirecting the human brainpower to more innovative applications.

Principle 4: Innovation matters. However, such enablement requires an ecosystem that wholeheartedly embraces innovation across the community, with passionate members collaborating to bring together diverse perspectives. Collaboration is the most effective mechanism to sustain innovation – whether it be collaboration between retail enterprises or individuals with expertise in the business of retail or its enabling technology.

Principle 5: Context is queen.
With retail’s online presence, this mantra evolved to be Content, Content, Content – what is presented to the customer online. Remember the cliche, “Content is King?” Well, now it is about Context, Context, Context!
When the customer is at the store looking for a product, the retailer must have all the relevant information about the customer’s purchasing patterns and tastes within easy reach, in order to make appropriate suggestions. But this is true for all retail channels. Just-in-time context with relevant information defines the business moment for the customer. It is not just about the data itself, but about the combination of staff perspectives applied to the synthesized data. Diversity of thought results from the diversity in gender, ethnicity, nationality etc. The manner in which a male sales associate processes the data about a customer in the same situation could be very different from his female counterpart. The retailer wants a diverse array of perspectives serving the customer, to ensure the right context is provided. Context, augmented by diverse perspectives, is the new mantra! Thus, if Content was King yesterday, Context is Queen today!


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