A new study reveals that 64% of Western European retailers are currently undergoing a formal digital transformation effort.

Also according to IDC Retail, all the top Western European retailers are in the process of determining the impact of digital and developing a respective digital transformation strategy.

It now seems that digital transformation is firmly on the agenda for the majority of marketers and the businesses they work for, and retail is leading the way.

However, Digital Transformation is not an easy process and certainly no two business’s approach will be the same. But there are ideas and technologies that can be applied to make any retailer’s transformation a success.

Give unfettered access to data

It is essential for retailers to have an easy-to-access, real-time updated core of data when it comes to orders, customers and inventory.

This needs to be true across the whole business, from store to ecommerce to customer service to head office.

Offer multichannel customer service

Providing customers with options for communicating with a brand across a variety of two-way channels is a must, and the more seamless this experience is the better. 

This means that no matter what channel a customer chooses to make an enquiry through, the response (in terms of speed, tone of voice and outcome) should be the same.

Of course this makes things very complicated for customer service teams. Consumers hop across various channels in order to carry out even the simplest of tasks, whether it’s purchasing from an ecommerce site or checking the opening hours of its retail shop.

This is why the core of data, as mentioned above, should be available throughout the business.

This also brings us neatly to our next point…

Use a single customer view (SCV)

A SCV provides businesses with the ability to track customers and their communications across every channel.

The obvious benefits of this include much improved customer service levels, better customer retention, higher conversion rates and hopefully an improved overall customer lifetime value (CLV). 

Organisationally this will also lead to better communication between traditionally separate teams and a more cooperative approach to customer service.

In our Customer Experience Optimisation report, we asked our respondents: “what types of data do you or your clients collect for the purpose of customer experience optimisation?” 

SCV also means being able to use the huge amount of data highlighted above to be pulled in from all your channels into one place, and be able to use that data in a meaningful way. 

By building a fuller, personalised picture of the customer and their journey, a business will have a more insightful guide to improving future sales and make improvements to future customer interactions. 

Measure and manage the customer experience

Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all the experiences a customer has with a business during their entire lifetime relationship, taking in not just the key touchpoints (product awareness, social contact, the transaction itself, post purchase feedback) but also how personal and memorable these experiences are.

It’s important to use customer experience management (CEM) to track, oversee and organise all consumer interactions, in order to help a business focus on the needs of its customers. 

This practice is meant to ‘close the gap’ between the intended customer experience and the actual customer experience.

To help with this, CEM software can be also used to automatically collect and analyse customer feedback.

Digitise physical stores

The high street’s survival isn’t dependent on competing with the internet, its dependent upon working alongside it.

This means integrating digital technology to improve the customer experience, through convenience, seamless multichannel customer service and personalisation.

Click and collect, multichannel returns, free WiFi access, the ability to check stock online, beacon technology… this can all enhance the high street experience, bringing it more closely in line with the ecommerce experience.

Develop virtual tools 

Offering practical solutions for online shopping problems is a key facet of online retail success.

Whatever you may think of Ted Baker’s virtual showroom, at least it offers a chance for shoppers with accessibility problems the chance to visit one of its branches.

However it’s the retailers investing in genuinely customer-focused tools, like sizing and measurement applications or virtual wardrobes, that have really figured out digital transformation.

Beyond this, the development of virtual reality as a genuinely useful customer service tool is increasing, and therefore something you may have to consider.

Go mobile or go home

  • Visits to ecommerce sites via smartphone and tablet devices accounted for 45% of all ecommerce traffic in the UK.
  • Retailers missing out on £6.6bn a year by not going mobile.
  • Consumer spending on mobile will top £53 billion by 2024.

I think these stats say it all really. 

You can learn more about digital transformation at our two day Festival of Marketing event in November. Book your ticket today and see how you can drive change from the inside out.

video by LondonVideoStories

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 13 August, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (5)

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Jacob Dsd, E-commerce at Rand

I think it’s very important to let your potential customers find the information they’re looking for. If the customer is presented with a wide selection of other customers’ reviews, they’re more likely to make the buying decision (provided the reviews are positive).
A great way to grow your customer base is to simply let their voice be heard and this will do half the job for you. Clients highly value personalised experience and even negative reviews can help companies showcase their initiative, thus boosting loyalty and satisfaction.
The easiest option to manage that is through hiring a third-party feedback collecting company, like eKomi or Bazaarvoice. It is very important that the solutions they offer be purchase-based to boost the credibility of your brand. Independent reviews gain much more trust that in-house managed testimonials. By carefully listening to what your customers have got to say, you can quickly react to any issues or make changes to your product to make sure your clients don’t start exploring the competition’s offer.

almost 3 years ago

JENNIFER LEDET

JENNIFER LEDET, SALES at LIONBRIDGE

Good advice

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Re: "I think it’s very important to let your potential customers find the information they’re looking for".

Exactly,why effective personalization works so well. You only have a few chances to show the shopper a product that they are interested in, before they bounce, and personalization significantly increases your chance of success.

Social proof is a great way of helping turn that interest into a purchase, but it's secondary: you have to show the shopper a "potentially buyable" product first.

almost 3 years ago

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Darren Ward, Director of Product Marketing at User Replay Ltd

One interesting omission from the bar chart is whether customers use qualitative data about the customer experience rather than just the very quantitative "behavioural" aspect. Leading eCommerce organisations are now using customer experience technologies (such as UserReplay) to capture much more data about the quality of user experiences and the reasons why customers do not achieve their objectives on the site. This is crucial to be able to pin-point key issues in the "now" and also to be able to quantify and monetise bad experiences to prioritise improvements and rectifications.

However, I am guessing that if it was included, the bar chart would show that many organisations are still not using these technologies and are effectively blind to the real experiences their customers are having.

almost 3 years ago

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Pauline Ashenden, Marketing Manager at Eptica

As you say no two retailers approach to digital transformation will be the same – however the key point is that whatever they plan it has to be focused on the needs of the customer, rather than simply deploying technology for the sake of it. There’s some more ideas based on the IDC report in this Eptica blog at http://www.eptica.com/blog/need-digital-transformation-retail

almost 3 years ago

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