3 Key Digital Transformation Tips for Local Retailers

Updated IT News

As brick-and-mortar businesses go digital, they’ll be rewarded for listening to their customers and keeping things personal. 

As we approach the 1-year mark of the onset of the Covid-19 crisis – which still appears very far from being over – one thing has become undeniably clear: having a strong digital presence is no longer just an option for most retailers – it’s a necessity. 

That being said, a broader trend towards digitization was already well underway before the pandemic. And while Covid-19 has definitely acted as an accelerator to the process, the transition to digital for businesses is something that will definitely be here long after we have returned to ‘normal’. 

Small businesses that previously relied on foot traffic as their main business channel will be well-advised to continue adapting their offerings to digital if they are to survive prolonged lockdowns, and to be able to keep up with competitors going into the future. 

Indeed, it is expected that retail e-commerce will have grown by about 27.6% in 2020, even factoring in the economic downturn. Many other metrics indicate that customers have in the last year tried very new methods of shopping, including in-store pickups, while 75% of both buyers and sellers surveyed by McKinsey & Company say they prefer digital interactions over face-to-face transactions. 

So, with all that in mind, what are some of the key tips for small businesses that have wisely chosen to double down on digital transformation? Below you’ll find what we consider to be three of the most important. 

Embrace Omnichannel

Omnichannel retail (or commerce) is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but its meaning often gets lost in the process. 

More specifically, many people tend to confuse Omnichannel with Multichannel, concluding that pursuing an Omnichannel strategy simply involves having physical, digital and tele-sales capabilities. 

However, while that’s true, it also misses one of the concept’s most important points: Omnichannel implies that different sales channels are not simply working in parallel to each other, but are working with each other. 

Take the example of a clothing store. It might have an e-commerce site as well as its physical store, but the inventory on the e-commerce store may not be in sync with what is available in the physical store, or it may be more extensive – which is normal. 

The question is, how to unify these two different channels using an Omnichannel approach? 

One technique is ‘Endless Aisles’, which essentially allows shoppers to view a full range of inventory available in store rooms and other shop branches through an app on their smartphone. Once in a store, they can access the store’s app, and using geo-location, the store can provide them with a list of inventories that are both available in-store, or can be ordered to be collected or delivered later on. 

Another Omnichannel approach is Unified Commerce, which we’ve already written about in the past. Unified Commerce provides a very interesting way for small to medium sized retail businesses to unify their front and back end inventories, providing a much smoother shopping experience for their customers while also making inventory management much more straightforward and rational for management. 

The basis of Omnichannel is that it needs to create a seamless experience for customers moving across your platforms and physical stores. 

Use Data Insights (Properly) 

Another key component of a digital transformation that often gets sidelined by the more obvious aspects – such as a website and social media presence – is the efficient use of data. 

Data is only as valuable as the analysis that is applied to it, and with the abundance of data being generated from a multitude of different customer touchpoints, the ability to accurately decode it into useful, actionable insights is becoming more and more difficult. 

For local retailers that have already established a digital presence and have set up a digital marketing campaign, ensuring that they have a clear picture of how their customers and potential customers are engaging with them – and what could be done better – is of utmost importance. 

One way to effectively decode customer data is through a Customer Data Platform (CDP). When properly configured and managed to accrue data from various customer touchpoints, a CDP can inform a local retailer of important metrics such as what items are most popular with walk-in or digital customers, what segments of their omnichannel are most effective at sales, and where customers are running into obstacles or abandoning the sales process. 

The great thing about a CDP is that it isn’t necessarily restricted to aggregating data on digital sales only. It can also be used to reflect physical sales, which can then be contrasted and compared with those originating from digital channels. The more information that you can have on your customers and their preferences and behaviors, the better you can adapt to reflect and serve their needs. 

Keep it Personal

With all of the pressure and talk about going digital, companies can (sometimes) be forgiven for putting all of their energies towards improving and strengthening their digital channels. However, whether their customers will forgive them or not is another question. 

What we mean by that is that a digital transformation should not – and does not have to – imply that a company loses its personal, human touches. This is especially the case for small local businesses that have built their reputation and customer base through day-to-day, face-to-face interactions and relationships. Suddenly thrusting a flashy website, social media presence and smartphone app on loyal customers that enjoy human interactions might not be the best strategy to follow for these types of businesses. 

However, when done right and with the right IT development partner, a digital transformation does not need to be intrusive or disruptive to a physical store’s brand and identity. Indeed, expanding a business’ digital presence and capabilities should be framed in terms of how it can better serve customers, as well as how it can reach and retain new ones. 

For this reason, it’s important to tread carefully, and to ensure that the benefits of your new digital assets are communicated transparently and unobtrusively to your existing customers. By doing so, you’ll be able to convince them that they’ll continue receiving the same personal service they have always had, while also boosting your credentials in terms of what you can offer them through a new digital experience. 

At Bocasay, we specialize in developing many different types of digital solutions for clients from a wide range of different industries and sectors. We approach each project as unique, and seek to truly understand our clients’ unique situations, markets and customer bases before creating solutions that reflect their identity and improve their business. 

Are you thinking about taking your digital transformation to the next level? Get in touch with us and we can have a conversation about how to make it happen. 

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