The downfall of the high street has opened up significant opportunities for the major online retailers. ASOS is in discussions to acquire Arcadia’s Topshop, and online fashion giant Boohoo has bought 242-year-old department store chain Debenhams for $75 million, putting its 118 stories and 12,000 staff at risk. Boohoo’s only interest is in Debenham’s digital assets – according to Boohoo’s Investor Presentation in January 2021 the website brought in nearly $450 million in the period January to August 2020.
The shockwaves of the latest brands to fall victim to the pandemic are being felt throughout the retail industry, however, the high street isn’t dead, yet. In fact, many are arguing that digital transformation is helping brick and mortar retail to evolve, not killing it entirely.
There is a clear argument for retailers to move with the times, according to research from IDC, digital transformation doesn’t have to mean transforming your high street business into an entirely new online concept (unless that’s your goal). It means taking advantage of digital solutions to help you operate more effectively, and ultimately, make life easier for your customers.
Here are five basic things you should be doing right now to future-proof your retail business:
According to Infovision 83% of customers want their experience to be personalized – how ready are you to meet those demands? How many of you truly know who your customers are, beyond simple demographics? Do you have a clean customer database? Is their in-store experience seamless? Do they often look for, but can’t find, something they need? What are their in-store frustrations? What happens when they don’t get what they want?
The first step to any digital transformation, no matter how small, is finding out your customers’ pain points and then working to solve them to create an unmatched customer experience. In 2015 Levi’s set out to do just that. In order to create a better in-store customer experience, the brand added an RFID tag to every item in the Levi’s Retail Plaza in San Francisco. It then used Intel’s analytics platform to track every movement in the store, from excessive inventory and stock in the wrong location to sold out items that need restocking.
It’s a common mistake companies make, but digital transformation is not about technology – at least not in the beginning. Esther Shein from CIO Middle East gives a stern warning to anyone considering a tech-first approach. ‘A technology-first approach to digital transformation is a recipe for disaster,’ she says. ‘Start instead by overhauling your organization with a customer-centric end goal in mind.’
Medium.com emphasises that tech and strategy isn’t one size fits all, ‘Small businesses and large chains invest in different technologies depending on different metrics of business success. They also invest in different technologies depending on different metrics of survival.’
Investing in a lot of high-cost tech will only lead to bigger problems later on when it doesn’t impact your business success. Assess the needs of your business first and then find the right tech solutions to help you deliver.
What does “mobile first” really mean? Daniel Newman from Forbes.com explains, ‘To be mobile-first, businesses must begin their digital transformation focused on creating a user experience that is just as effective on mobile devices. The idea is this: if we can create a user experience that converts using a mobile device, the rest of the devices will follow.’
When designing or updating your website, it’s easy to get caught up looking at detailed widescreen designs on a 15-inch computer screen. But the reality is that the majority of your audience will access your website on a screen a third of that size. If your website hasn’t been built with a mobile audience in mind, then you haven’t put your customer at the centre of your business.
Before you begin your digital transformation process you must decide what it is you are trying to achieve, what it means for your business, and what impact you want to see. McKinsey’s recent Digital Quotient analysis study found that less than 15% of organisations were using financial KPIs are able to accurately show the ROI on digital transformation investments. If you don’t know the impact you are looking for from the beginning, you will have a hard time understanding if the changes you are making are successful.
Digital transformation needs a village to make it happen. When developing your digital transformation plan, consider your internal resources and expertise and also look at where and when you might need to bring in experts and partners. The Boston Consulting Group’s recent survey points out that ‘behind every digital transformation is a team of people who make it happen.’ Adding, ‘To increase the odds of a successful programme companies must have a good strategy for partnering with vendors.