How Covid-19 is Accelerating Digital Transformation in Retail
Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have been forced to embrace digital or suffer.
As the global economy reels and second waves of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns appear to become more and more likely, the retail sector is understandably in a difficult place.
Many retail businesses have already faced bankruptcy, and many more are struggling. However, despite the challenges, the retail sector – known for its resilience and imagination – is finding intelligent ways to make use of the potential of digital to persevere and continue serving customers in the shadow of the pandemic.
We’ve previously covered some of the ways that companies in general have been adapting to the pandemic through digital transformation.
Now let’s take a look at some of the innovations happening in the retail sector:
1. E-commerce, the essential solution for any retailer
It’s clear that companies that had already established operational e-commerce divisions have been able to deal better with the crisis. However, for many smaller businesses that rely on foot traffic and local customers, the transition to e-commerce may have never felt urgent.
The pandemic has changed this situation dramatically. While it’s been well reported how well-established e-commerce giants such as Amazon have seen their profits rocket this year, the situation for smaller companies, who have to operate with smaller margins, is much more difficult.
Smaller or boutique retailers have felt the economic costs of the crisis harder; however, with the abundance of effective online payment gateways and the growth in adoption of BOPIS (Buy Online Pick Up In Store) systems, there is hope that small retailers with a dedication to digital transformation will be able to weather the storm.
2. The growth of self-checkout at points of sale
Another innovation that has seen a sharp rise during the pandemic is the self-checkout. As retailers have sought to reduce chances of infection in their stores – as well as save on labor costs – they have been increasingly opting for self-checkout systems.
While these systems have so far been mostly limited to larger supermarket chains, there have been some interesting innovations made for smaller businesses. One such company is Wheelys, which provides futuristic, mobile self-checkout stores powered by AI that businesses can choose to sell their products in.
The possibilities of self-checkout aren’t simply restricted to those machines you have seen in your local supermarket.
3. The growing use of Virtual queuing
Another system that has seen adoption rates rocket with the pandemic, Virtual Queuing allows visitors to stores to log into the store’s app and obtain a place in a checkout queue virtually, enabling them to continue browsing the store while they wait for their turn to pay.
It helps save time, and allows people to avoid having to stand in close proximity to others in crowded queues.
4. The growing potential of Unified Commerce
Have you ever had the annoying experience of finding an item you wanted to purchase on a website, then going to the shop’s store to try it on and finding it’s not there, or more expensive than what it was on the website?
Unified Commerce is a tech approach that seeks to solve this problem, essentially unifying all of a retailer’s inventory and front end e-commerce site so that it is all in sync.
Companies adopting Unified Commerce hope the approach will offer a significant challenge to larger online retailers by re-personalizing e-commerce and allowing smaller retailers to be more reactive to customer demand.
5. Augmented Reality Customization
We’ve already explored some of the ways that Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Extended Reality (ER) have been revolutionizing marketing for many retail companies, by providing potential customers with fun and innovative ways to explore products.
The increasing reliance of companies on digital channels for marketing and selling their products has led to retailers increasingly seeking ways to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital for their customers.
The most promising technologies for doing so are augmented and extended reality, which allow potential customers to customize their product choices according to their own specific characteristics and needs.
In the future, buying a pair of jeans, shoes or even the ingredients for your next dinner online won’t be reduced to simply ordering a size or quantity you think you need – those values will be formulated by uploading a picture of yourself or entering the amount of people you want to feed (and choosing whether you want to be healthy or indulge, for example), and letting the AI do the work for you.
While the Covid-19 crisis has undoubtedly created a lot of problems, and the economic outcome is still uncertain – it has also established challenges that the retail industry is going to overcome through digital transformation and innovation.
Do you have ideas for the digital transformation of your company, but don’t know how to realize them? Get in touch to find out how Bocasay can help you.