It’s been a rocky time for retail but after the major disruption of the pandemic, the future looks brighter. During that time, buying habits have changed – and so have customer expectations. Successful retailers will be well-placed to thrive in this new landscape if they have embraced digital transformation and adopted technology that works to give them the edge over their competitors.
Here are five trends that we believe represent a long-term shift in the retail industry:
The growth of online shopping during the pandemic has been significant, accelerating trends that we were already seeing emerging. A 2021 Ofcom report found that in the UK last year, online sales increased an estimated 48%, reaching £112.7bn in revenue, compared to £76.1bn in 2019.
This is down to retailers responding to demand, having to upgrade their online presence, offering online sales channels and home delivery. Retailers have needed to find solutions that allow them to sell products at the same level of efficiency, and customer satisfaction as they did in physical stores. Those that are able to continue this will be at a competitive advantage.
From a technology perspective, retailers need to review and incorporate their ecommerce activity into their Digital Transformation strategy. Here, any existing or new technology needs to work to provide consistency across both operations and customer experience.
It’s not just ecommerce that retailers must focus on. The pandemic changed traditional retail overnight and a new focus on technology and self-service is key to keeping customers coming back.
Those with a physical store should look to create a seamless omnichannel experience. This means making sure that all touchpoints remain on-brand, giving customers an enjoyable shopping experience whether they shop online, instore, or using a combination of the two.
The digital shopping experience has changed customer preferences and expectations and online support is key – technology plays a big role in ensuring there are ways for customers to get in touch with retailers.
Customers may choose to call you, but increasingly people prefer to use different channels like live chats, email or social media. Luckily, many cloud-based contact centre solutions support omnichannel experiences. This means that your agents can meet customers wherever they are most comfortable – whether it be over the phone, email, video chat, texting, or Facebook messaging.
Contact centre agents can pick up and respond to questions or requests coming from various channels, your customers will get faster responses and in a way that’s most convenient for them.
Part of the omnichannel experience is bringing the digital experience in-store – all without requiring any staff interaction. We’re expected to see more ‘scan and go’ mobile apps allowing customers to scan as they shop and pay without queuing or interacting with staff. Customers want the in-store experience to be quick, smooth and with minimised touchpoints.
Value might seem a given, but post-pandemic it’s never been more important. You should offer value to your customers, whether it is through fantastic customer service, a wide-ranging offering or in-depth information that can’t be found elsewhere.
Recent research by PwC found that 73% of shoppers value customer experience more than price, or quality.
Value is what makes specific retailers stand out from others, as well as being one of the major factors that creates a loyal following.
A consistent customer experience across an Omnichannel environment is critical, choosing the right technology partner such as Onecom who can offer thought leadership across each of the service towers is imperative.
Changing instore habits
The traditional instore experience is now becoming more transactional, it’s clear that people are not browsing in the same way that they used to.
Instead, shoppers are going into shops knowing exactly what they want, with many having already researched or looked up stock availability online. If your products aren’t available on any online platform, you’re missing out on traffic and potential sales, so it’s beneficial that you look to put your business in front of shoppers while they’re browsing online.
With less dwell time in store, there is less opportunity to engage with customers there, however with the right technology there are solutions that can improve your ability to engage with customers and build loyalty.
Also, retailers with physical and online stores may be battling the challenges of poor technology infrastructures that are not scalable or flexible enough to meet the ever-increasing consumer demand. A solution such as Onecom’s OneCloud can help here.
Retail businesses typically work with a large range of software and data. You have your POS system, payment process, accounting software, ERP, CRM… the list goes on, and these all store masses of data and information.
It’s difficult to find a single solution that brings these together, which is why retail ecosystems are so important. An ecosystem is the idea of pulling various consumer services into a single platform or app. By seamlessly connecting your apps and processes with each other, you can keep your retail business running smoothly.
Onecom OneCloud can combine your communications and customer support into one location and keep data flowing across your networks. This can be easily accessed from one from app on any device.
The pandemic has taught retailers to plan for the unexpected and it’s likely that further peaks and troughs in demand will follow. By taking advantage of technology, retailers can keep agile, so they are able to adapt quickly to future changes.
To speak to one of our experts about a solution for your retail business, contact 03300 888 999.
Steve Owens is the Enterprise Head of Acquisition and Overlay Sales at Onecom where he’s been for nearing 7 years. Steve and the team are industry experts covering Onecom’s OneCloud service towers across SDWAN/MPLS, CCaaS, UCaaS and Enterprise Mobility. Steve is a telecoms lifer having spent close to 20 years in the industry working across many sectors for the likes of Vodafone Global Enterprise, Vodafone UK and Opal Telecom (TTB).
Over the past decade Steve has spent a lot of time focussed on the retail and banking retail sectors working with the likes of HSBC, Co-op, Nationwide and Topps Tiles thus is well placed to offer insight and thought leadership in this industry.