The term ‘digital acceleration’ is used to describe the phenomenon where organizations use digital technology to make rapid advancements in areas like strategy, business model, process, marketing, and customer experience. Numerous industries and technologies like AI, the cloud, and omnichannel communication platforms are currently undergoing digital acceleration.
The retail sector has had to reevaluate many parts of their operations in response to changes in consumer behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has created tremendous opportunities to utilize digital acceleration for adaptation. One example is how many brick-and-mortar stores have upgraded their online shopping services to better meet customer needs. Additionally, due to supply chain disruptions, they have had to scrutinize how they send and receive goods.
By 2023, numerous retailers will review their digital advancements to date and evaluate whether further digital acceleration is necessary in the future. This article examines some of the most noteworthy applications of digital acceleration in the retail sector thus far and offers vision and direction for potential developments and improvements on the horizon.
Advancement of Online Business
According to Software Advice, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted 25% of brick-and-mortar stores to launch an online store. For many of these businesses, this move was initially scheduled for 2023, but the pandemic-related economic downturn necessitated accelerating their plans to maintain financial viability.
Retail companies with a track record of newly establishing or expanding their online presence could achieve further success by leveraging this medium appropriately. For example, they could sign up for free social media platforms to advertise their brand, or develop new services to attract and retain customers, such as an improved recommendation engine or personalized coaching sessions.
Several stores may determine that they should concentrate solely on selling their products online, capitalizing on the benefits of e-commerce to achieve wider distribution and brand recognition while still reaping the advantages of having a physical store. It is crucial for any company to have at least one online store in order to withstand probable logistical challenges, natural calamities, and the later phases of the pandemic.
Recent Developments in Communication Platforms
Merchants had to revise their approach to interacting with customers. Initially, they depended on live chat, video chat, and IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Due to mandated stay-at-home orders, many have modified their strategies to include social media messaging.
A large number of businesses have adopted an omnichannel strategy that focuses on leveraging multiple channels instead of relying on a single one. This encourages customers to enjoy improved service at their convenience, using their preferred mode of communication (e.g. text, chat, email or social network messaging) at any time of day. To remain ahead of the curve, astute stores must continue to create groundbreaking pathways for interacting with customers.
Improvements in the Supply Chain
The worldwide supply chain was heavily affected by the pandemic, with even more devastating repercussions than those on revenue. Social distancing measures and other production and logistical procedures were impeded, resulting in difficulty meeting customer demands. Companies have reacted by accelerating efforts to seek alternative suppliers in the short-term and enhancing their long-term management of the supply chain.
An efficient supply chain system enables stores to shift to alternative suppliers promptly and conveniently when regular suppliers are not available. Reliable technology is essential for deploying such a flexible system, as it empowers company executives to track shipment progress at any time and swiftly transition to a new provider when necessary. Sophisticated analytics enable earlier detection of issues in supply chain planning.
To adapt to this dynamic climate, companies are examining their supply chains to pinpoint vulnerable areas. They are investigating technologies including shipment-monitoring software, data compilation, problem anticipation, and decision-making for possible solutions.
An Increase in Delivery and Pickup Options
The demand for delivery and pick-up options has increased significantly due to e-commerce and the pandemic. As customers remain wary of face-to-face contact, they expect to have their groceries and other items delivered to their doorstep or picked up curbside.
Merchants will need applications that enable consumers to place orders quickly from their mobile devices in order to expand or upgrade delivery and pickup options. As previously stated, it is crucial to keep customers informed of the delivery or pickup process. Software is necessary for businesses with complex, interconnected processes.
Fully Automated and Contactless Checkout Processes
Establishments that stayed operational during the pandemic implemented rigorous safety measures such as providing masks for employees, frequent cleaning of the premises, and installing barriers between cashiers and customers. If possible, cashier-less or contactless checkouts were also introduced.
Certain businesses now offer payment options allowing customers to tap their smartphones on scanners to complete transactions. Automated checkout, where purchases are added to the bill as items are added to the shopping cart, has also been developed, although its use is not yet widespread. To learn more about Amazon’s implementation of this technology, please view the following video.
This is an increasingly important aspect of interest for merchants, and as the associated technologies advance, further prospects will emerge.
It is evident that the pandemic has had a substantial impact on the retail industry. Retailers should revisit the modifications they made in 2023 and evaluate whether they continue to satisfy consumer demands in the post-COVID era. It may be necessary to decrease the capacity of an IVR system which was created to manage the surge in calls. Furthermore, with business levels rising, there may no longer be a need to provide curbside pickup.
It is vital to confirm that technological advancements align with a company’s long-term goals. For instance, e-commerce platforms should be able to scale up to cope with unexpected spikes in online sales. This will guarantee that any digital improvements are tailored to present and future needs.