Tackling the Digital Transformation Challenge in retail means bridging the online-offline gap

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July 9, 2019
Marco Salvetti

data analytics Retail digital transformation

This article is also available in Italian / Questo articolo è disponibile in Italiano.

Retail is in the middle of a seismic shift. Bricks and mortar stores are disappearing from the high street as consumers continue to transition to digital channels: by 2021, online shopping is expected to account for 17.5% of global retail sales. In the third blog of our Digital Transformation Challenge series, we look at how CKH Innovations Opportunities Development is helping savvy retailers embrace technology to create the seamless customer journey consumers are craving.

There's no question, the last few years have been challenging for the retail sector. E-commerce sales have grown rapidly – almost doubling between 2015-2019 from 7.4% to 13.7% of total sales. In this environment though there is opportunity: successful retailers who embrace innovation and develop a clear digital strategy can reap the rewards of enhanced competitiveness and a deeper customer relationship.

Blending sales channels for a true omni-channel experience

What's become clear is that the retail journey begins online, and retailers without an online presence are missing out. In many ways the physical store has become an extension of the online experience. We're seeing click-and-collect facilities appearing in stores where a consumer has made a purchase online and is simply using the store as a collection point. Successful retailers are those who see this as an opportunity, rather than a further sign that their bricks and mortar strategy is failing.

Around 85% of the online searches lead to a purchase, which may be completed either online or offline.

In the midst of this challenging environment, we are seeing significant innovation by retail brands who have adopted technology to bridge that gap between the online and physical world. According to Google 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another. This is why we're working with our retail customers to help them build a successful omni-channel strategy. Some of our standout customers are allowing consumers to seamlessly flit between channels in order to complete their buying journey. In the UK for example, we're working with a leading retailer to effectively blur the lines between digital and physical. Their online customer support facility is real-time video chat with a real person. This sophisticated blend of online and real-world works to supplement the convenience of the online channel and encourages repeat business and customer loyalty.

We're also working with retail customers to continue the digital experience in-store. An interactive app provides consumers with additional information about the products they're interested in. Consumers simply pick up a product and a nearby screen comes to life, providing them with extra insights into the product. This 'lift and learn' application has several purposes: it can encourage shoppers to stay in a store for longer - the longer they stay, the more likely they are to make a purchase. By using mobility data, retailers can display personalised information on-screen, which can also increase the likelihood of a sale. The application gives the shopper the information they want, when they want it, which is a key selling point of the online channel.

Maximising consumer data to build loyalty

We've spoken in a previous blog post about the power of data and how it can be used to better understand a customer's needs and wants. In today's world, where brand loyalty is quickly eroding, this knowledge can be vital for retailers as they try to retain, and attract customers. Alibaba, one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world with 700 million users, serves up customised web pages to each user. The content is based on previous purchases, searches and online behaviour. By delivering personalised content, retailers can deepen their relationship with a customer through targeted promotions.

Across Europe, we're working with retailers to maximise their in-store Wi-Fi to attract customers walking past their shop window. Targeted deals are pushed to shoppers' mobiles in an effort to encourage them to come into the store. Leveraging already available data through simple technology solutions such as Wi-Fi is a good starting point for any retailer looking to develop their digital strategy.

We're also helping retailers to use customer data to deliver relevant rewards to their customers. By analysing customer data, retailers can get an insight into the purchasing habits of their customers and follow up with targeted promotions or rewards such as discounts, early notice of new products or invites to relevant product launches. All of this will help retailers to deepen their bond with their customers.

Speeding up the buying process to boost sales

It's not just consumer loyalty that has waned; shoppers' patience, too, has dipped considerably. The internet has ushered in a 'right now' culture that has infiltrated the retail sector. It takes less than 8 seconds for an online customer to make a purchasing decision; if they are to work within that extremely tight timeline, retailers need to eliminate as many hurdles as possible from the buying process.

It takes less than 8 seconds for an online customer to make a purchasing decision.

In a concept London store, one Italian high-street brand has reinvented its store experience with clever use of touchscreen tables that allow shoppers to browse the entire collection. It has also eliminated traditional checkpoints, replacing them with payment stations dotted throughout the shop, making it easy for shoppers to complete their purchase. And the strategy appears to have paid off, with the Italian retailer on track to open numerous new stores globally during 2019. In an era of physical store closures, this is a great example of how embracing technology can have a dramatic impact.

Innovation built on solid ground

Being innovative and adopting technology needs to be a core part of any retailer's digital transformation. However, if that transformation is to be successful, it's vital that these developments be reliable. Stuttering video chat, unreliable connections with warehouse inventory, slow website or in-store Wi-Fi speeds will all halt any digital transformation in its tracks. Connectivity is the foundation that underpins any technological advancement, and at CKH Innovations Opportunities Development we pride ourselves on our ability to work with retailers right across the technology spectrum. From network solutions (both wired and wireless) and data analytics to consultancy and applications, we offer our customers a seamless experience.

It's the agile and adaptive retailer that will succeed in this era of retail everywhere or everywhere commerce. Sticking solely with traditional channels is simply not an option anymore. Consumers expect to have the same experience across any channel they use, and they want to use them all. Successful retailers are those that support that demand and create a seamless journey from online right through to the store.