Success: Retail goes digital


By Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation, Salmon

It is no secret that the impact of mobile devices, and more generally technology, has entirely revolutionised the way that customers interact with their favourite brands. The rise of mobile devices has spawned an entirely new opportunity, with consumers shifting towards a more convenient and flexible shopping experience.

The challenge that this now presents vendors is managing popular peak trading events, while also ensuring that the necessary digital provisions are in place to deal with the increase in online footfall. The gradual decline in traditional high street footfall will continue to drive users towards online and mobile services quicker than before. Amazon leads the industry because it never fails to stop innovating and this is an approach that all shops should look to implement.

After mobile

A report recently released by Cisco found that by 2021 the global population will be using mobile phones (5.5 billion) more than bank accounts (5.4 billion) [Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index 2017]. This is hardly surprising as we’re fast becoming an always-on generation that relies on mobile for pleasure, business and everyday tasks; most of us can’t do without them.

The shift to mobile devices is quite obvious within all industries globally, let alone the retail sector. Uber disrupted the black cab market because of how quickly it was able to deliver services to consumers. Airbnb continues to irk traditional hospitality businesses through its inventive, easy-to-use platform that offers a convenient and cheap method of locating a place to stay. The simplicity of both Uber and Airbnb is what enables the digitally native firms to thrive, and mobile is central to this.

Consumers are becoming digital by default, and mobile devices are an undeniably powerful platform that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. Because of this, expectations and demands for digital services in every sector are growing as well. And this demand is predicted to move beyond the traditional interfaces of mobile and desktop.

One change is how customers’ demand for products and services will move beyond reactive and conscious decision making into a space where machines will reorder items for customers based on their usage data and stock levels; programmatic commerce as an idea remains in its infancy, although 57% of consumers admitted that they would be ready for Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices automatically reordering products within two years. The sensor-driven and loyalty rewarding concept is an opportunity for retailers to drive innovation. Combining programmatic commerce alongside mobile devices would transform retail further by offering customers an easy way to manage their relationship with brands, placing technology at the forefront.

Challenges posed      

The challenge posed by technology giants is another aspect that retailers will have to overcome. Google’s shift into households with Google Home continues the trend towards Zero UI. This is an interface-less concept that will see users utilise senses and actions (voice, movements and, maybe one day, thoughts) to action tasks. This can be anything from putting a reminder in the calendar to potentially ordering ingredients for the weekly shop. The possibilities are endless but one thing that is clear is the need for retailers to understand the shift that consumers are taking towards mobile, and for them to innovate their services one step further by embracing new technology-driven ideas.

Successful retailers must never ignore their customers’ desires and they must now provide the best digital services, not only immediately but in the future as well. Catering to the increase in mobile usage is no longer enough and businesses should prepare for technologies that are emerging in popularity, such as the IoT, augmented reality and chatbots. As digital disruption continues to evolve the business landscape, only the most visionary retailer will be able to give consumers what they truly desire, ‘locking in’ the customer away from competitors.

Salmon is a global e-commerce consultancy.


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