Boosting Retail’s Digital Presence in 2023 and Beyond

Organizations that utilize digital technology to rapidly advance in areas such as strategy, business model, process, marketing and customer experience, are said to be undergoing ‘digital acceleration’. Many different industries and technologies – including the cloud, AI and omnichannel communication platforms – are all currently experiencing digital acceleration.

The retail sector has been compelled to reassess numerous aspects of its operations in response to changing consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has provided almost limitless opportunities for utilizing digital acceleration to adapt. For example, many physical stores have implemented or improved their online shopping services to meet customer requirements. Furthermore, due to disruptions in the supply chain, they have had to analyze how they send and acquire goods.

In 2023, many retailers will be taking stock of the digital advancements they have made thus far and planning for any further acceleration of digitalization that they may wish to implement in the future. This paper looks at some of the most significant applications of digital acceleration in the retail industry to date and provides insight into potential directions of travel in the years ahead.

Development of Online Business

Software Advice found that 25% of brick-and-mortar stores had opened an online shop in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of these businesses had originally planned to do so by 2023, however the economic downturn caused by the pandemic necessitated an acceleration of their plans in order to remain viable.

Companies in the retail sector with a recent history of establishing or expanding an online presence could benefit from further utilizing this medium. For example, they may utilize free social media platforms to advertise their company, or create new services that could attract and retain clients, such as an advanced recommendation engine or one-on-one coaching sessions.

Many stores may opt to focus solely on selling their products online, leveraging the advantages of e-commerce to reach more customers and strengthen their brand, whilst still retaining the benefits of having a physical presence. It is essential for any business to have at least one online store, in order to survive potential logistical issues, natural disasters, and the latter stages of the pandemic.

Recent Advances in Means of Transmission

Merchants were required to alter their approach to customer interaction. Early on, they relied on live chat, video chat and IVR (Interactive Voice Response). As the result of mandated stay-at-home orders, many adapted their strategies to include social media messaging.

Many businesses have embraced an omnichannel strategy, which emphasizes the use of multiple channels rather than a single one. This enables customers to access better service at their convenience, via their preferred method of communication (e.g. text, chat, email or social network messaging) and at any time of day. To stay ahead of the trend, savvy stores must continue to develop innovative ways of interacting with customers.

Enhancements to the Supply Chain

The global supply chain was significantly impacted by the pandemic, with even more severe effects than those on income. Social distancing and other manufacturing and logistical processes were hindered, making it difficult to meet customer requirements. Businesses have responded by accelerating efforts to source alternative suppliers in the short-term, as well as improving their long-term supply chain management practices.

When regular suppliers are temporarily unavailable, an effective supply chain system facilitates stores to swiftly and effortlessly transition to alternative suppliers. The appropriate technology is essential for a dependable system that allows for this level of flexibility, as it enables company executives to monitor the progress of shipments at any time and quickly switch to a new provider if necessary. Advanced analytics provide for earlier issue detection in supply chain planning.

In order to respond to this changing environment, businesses are looking into their supply chains to identify areas of vulnerability. Technologies such as software that can monitor shipments, compile data, anticipate potential problems and make the necessary decisions are being explored as potential solutions.

An Expansion of Available Delivery and Pickup Methods

There has been a significant rise in the demand for delivery and pick-up options due to e-commerce and the pandemic. As customers are still cautious about face-to-face interaction, they now expect to be able to have their groceries and other items delivered to their doorstep or retrieved curbside.

Merchants will require applications that facilitate consumers to make orders quickly from their mobile devices in order to grow or improve delivery and pickup options. As already established, it is vital to inform consumers of the process they should expect when ordering delivery or pick up. Software is essential for businesses with multiple, interrelated processes.

Checkout Processes That Are Fully Automated And Contactless

The stores that remained open during the pandemic adopted stringent safety procedures, such as providing masks for employees, regularly cleaning the premises and installing barriers between cashiers and customers. Where possible, a cashier-less or contactless checkout was also implemented.

Clients at certain businesses can now make payments using their smartphones, simply by tapping them on a scanner. Automated checkout, where purchases are added to the bill as they are added to the shopping cart, has also been developed, although it is not yet widely used. To find out more about Amazon’s use of this technology, please watch the following video.

This is a growing area of interest for merchants, and as the related technologies improve, more opportunities will present themselves.

The Pandemic Is Over

It is clear that the retail industry has been significantly affected by the pandemic. Retailers should review the changes they made in 2023 and assess whether they still meet customer expectations in the post-COVID era. For example, it may be necessary to reduce the capacity of an IVR system that was set up to handle excess calls. Additionally, with business levels increasing, it may no longer be necessary to offer curbside collection.

It is important to ensure that any technological advancements are aligned with a company’s long-term objectives. E-commerce platforms, for example, should be capable of scaling up to meet any sudden increases in online sales. This will ensure that any digital enhancements are tailored to both current and future requirements.

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