We see it everywhere. Digital transformation, particularly as it relates to today's innovative applications, has become a key driver in changing the way we shop and what it means to be a consumer. That's why retailers around the globe are focused on delivering better customer experiences and integrating digital channels across every stage of the customer journey. They're doing so partly in response to consumer demand, but also because technology innovation has become such an important part of their competitive strategy.
However, the prospect of digital transformation for smaller retailers (and convenience stores in particular) often raises the traditional concerns about security, cost, or a lack of skilled IT staff — leading to the feeling that it's just too daunting to undertake.
In reality, doing nothing typically presents an even larger risk of getting left behind as other retailers take full advantage of technology innovations. The good news is that retailers of any size can now begin their own digital transformation journey by selectively introducing technologies that quickly make their business more competitive. Here are five key steps smaller retailers can take to streamline their journey.
1. Decide what exactly "digital transformation" means for the business
Any retailers focusing on digital transformation first need to identify what challenges they intend to address and what results they want to achieve. For example, a goal might include gaining deeper insight into customer trends to increase in-store or online traffic. Or the objective might be to automate business processes to reduce sales friction and grow new or incremental revenue streams.
The primary aim is to commit to the right priorities, defining a strategy that can evolve as the digital transformation journey progresses. Having a clear vision and plan from the outset will make it much easier to identify which technologies will enable the business to achieve its objectives in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
2. Optimize for mobile
Today's omnichannel consumers are equally at home shopping online and in-store, and they value the convenience of click-and-collect services. They're also increasingly likely to browse and make purchases using a mobile device.
This ubiquitous use of mobile devices means it's increasingly important that every retail web site is optimized for mobile. Why? According to data captured by Adobe, 58 percent of retail web traffic generated during the 2019 holiday season came from mobile devices. In addition, research has shown that half of local mobile searches ultimately lead to in-store visits.
3. Deploy mobile apps
A strong mobile strategy also requires technologies that drive customer loyalty and purchasing behaviors. This strategy might include using mobile marketing platforms to deliver targeted and context-relevant messages (such as personalized recommendations based on purchasing history) directly to a customer's mobile device to stimulate add-on sales.
Similarly, using data captured from a mobile app to better understand shopping habits can allow retailers to share coupons for additional products their customers might want. Another option is to offer rewards in recognition of a customer's recent purchases and social media interactions.
Some retailers are even integrating their apps with in-store Wi-Fi and beaconing technologies, making it possible to build heat maps and identify in-store traffic flows. Along with helping retailers monetize floor space and optimize product placement, this level of integration enables sophisticated location-based interactions within stores.
4. Engage with customers on social media
Many retailers have found that social media adds huge value to their customer engagement efforts. First, social media can provide access to valuable data that makes it easier to identify the likes and preferences of individual customers. Second, it can also provide access to their social media feeds and the ability to send ads directly to existing or potential customers.
Tapping into customer reviews is another way to validate or improve services and product selections. According to SalesCycle.com, 70 percent of customers consult reviews or ratings prior to making a purchase, while over 60 percent say they're more likely to purchase from a site if it has product reviews and ratings.
5. Maximize customer engagement
Social media should be part of a broader effort to understand which communication channels and messaging modes appeal to which customers. With the right digital platforms in place, retailers can appeal to specific audience groups and then selectively target communications via email, texts, online chats, or app-based alerts.
For example, when a customer is standing next to a bicycle display, a retailer could automatically send a coupon for a bicycle helmet or clothing accessories to encourage related purchases that drive up the customer's basket value.
An Enormous Business Opportunity
At first, the prospect of digital transformation can be intimidating for smaller retailers. Many discover that the act of simply starting their journey is really the hardest part of the entire process. However, by embracing new technologies — especially innovative applications that can enhance and transform their customers' shopping experience, most retailers quickly see the incredible business opportunities are too good to pass up. That's why so many are learning to love digital transformation and the associated boost to their brand — and ultimately, their bottom line.
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