Digital has transformed the way we live. In almost every walk of life, the smartphone elevates our experience, adding value and streamlining the way we do things.
Within retail, digital is transforming everything from the consumer experience, to marketing and the supply chain. The consumer is now a digital shopper, with the whole of the internet at their disposal - a gigantic cybermall that never shuts, and where the journey from browsing to buying can be condensed to mere seconds and often just one click.
The strong Christmas trading results show the consumer came out to spend. Perhaps this was a pre-Article 50 celebration and more likely a move to beat the prospect of 2017’s currency-driven higher prices. My prediction is that next Christmas will be tougher and a digital connection is just what retailers will need to be better than before, thereby enabling them to win in this harsher retail environment.
A crucial area for providing this much-needed digital connection is the in-store experience. Yet it is firmly stuck in the past. It’s as if the digital revolution comes to a halt the second you step through a retailer’s door.
If today’s age of consumerism is characterised by one thing, it is the total blurring of all previous marketing divisions. There is no above and below the line any more - that line has vanished.
A brand is accessible at all moments of the day. Consumers have come to expect instant gratification, maximum convenience and hyper-personalisation. Online shopping and in-store shopping all play a role in your brand because people expect brands to be coherent.
The entire retail operation needs to digitalise, including the in-store experience, and operate as a single organism. Data is the key to success in cohesive, digital-led retail. In the physical world, it was easy for management to walk the floor and spot a tatty sign or battered display unit. It took ‘invisible’ data to see that ‘free-from’ products secured a basket of other goods that gained market share and raised the bottom line.
E-commerce and mobile shopping generate vast quantities of shopper statistics. Attempting to glean useful knowledge when confronted with this mass of data can be a daunting task. As a result, retailers sometimes ignore their data, study the wrong parts or misinterpret statistics.
Data must lead to insight, which drives action, to create loyalty. The smart use of data, across the entire retail operation, enables retailers to truly earn the Holy Grail of customer loyalty and advocacy. Without it, retailers are left with a mish-mash of small-scale initiatives that do as much to confuse the consumer as the business itself.
Tim Mason is CEO of Eagle Eye