Comment counts: To reignite retail, value has to come from a digital core

We’re entering a retail renaissance where value will come from personalised shopping experiences, innovative delivery services, and entertainment blended with commerce, says Lori Mitchell-Keller of SAP.

Digital is facilitating a retail renaissance, says SAP

Digital is facilitating a retail renaissance, says SAP

The retail industry has seen significant changes in 2017. Following traditional brick-and-mortar store closures across the spectrum – from sporting goods to fashion and general merchandise – some allege we’re on the brink of a retail apocalypse. However, in my opinion, the industry is undergoing an extraordinary period of change – one that is much more representative of a retail renaissance.

To stay competitive in the digital landscape, we’re seeing many retailers redefining their business models and putting technology at the heart of their strategies. To be successful and meet growing consumer expectations, retailers must focus on establishing a strong digital core and leverage the benefits it provides: creating personalised shopping experiences, offering innovative delivery services, and blending entertainment with commerce.


Personalised shopping experiences

With consumer demands continuously growing, it’s important that retailers are actively using technology to provide personalised offerings to make the shopping experience unique to each individual. In my experience, consumers expect retailers to have a comprehensive understanding of their likes and dislikes prior to purchase. After all, more than 61% of consumers value the ability to ask a sales associate for product recommendations.

One retailer that understands this and is employing a dynamic platform to collect data and build a comprehensive consumer history is ULTA Beauty. Through ULTA Beauty’s clientelling app, store associates have access to consumer’s shopping histories and preferences. This allows employees to assist with the selection process and ensure consumers, such as myself, are not overwhelmed while browsing the more than 20,000 products ULTA Beauty carries. Employees can review items specific to each consumer and provide targeted product recommendations – making our shopping experiences both enjoyable and more convenient.


Innovative delivery services

Another way retailers are using technology to invigorate their business processes is by providing enhanced delivery services. In this era of unprecedented innovation, consumers are starting to expect near real-time delivery. Therefore, it’s crucial that retailers expand consumer delivery options – an investment that has even greater ROI.

For example, sunglass manufacturer Maui Jim invested in UberRUSH to make purchasing items more convenient, affordable, and reliable. Through the partnership, the company can now ensure door-to-door delivery in one hour or less, elevating consumer satisfaction. Another service that many companies are implementing is click and collect, including curbside delivery. Retailers such as Walmart are focusing on incorporating the benefits of both traditional shopping and e-commerce by offering online purchasing and one-hour curbside delivery at local franchises – drastically improving the entire shopping experience.


Blending entertainment with commerce

Today, it’s clear that shoppers expect curated offerings unique to their specific styles and preferences. Many retailers are finding success by focusing on delivering personalised shopping experiences for consumers, instead of merely trying to sell their products. Amazon’s upcoming launch of a home makeover show, Overhaul, is designed to sell products by merging entertainment and commerce, for instance. It will feature many of Amazon’s home furnishings, and allow viewers to click on and purchase the items directly through the site.

Another example of a retailer that has merged entertainment with commerce to deliver a heightened shopping experience and increased sales is Nike. The company recently invested in the development of a new physical store location in New York City that features a mini indoor basketball court and a soccer field. By providing an entertaining environment, the retailer can attract consumers while expanding the shopping experience beyond just purchasing products.


The future of retail

The retail industry is rapidly changing to meet the dynamic demands of consumers and incorporate elements of personalisation, innovation and entertainment into their overall business strategies. Evident by new store openings from retailers like Bonobos, Warby Parker and Zara, it’s clear that traditional brick-and-mortar locations are not a thing of the past, but a living canvas of innovation and opportunity.

The retailers that understand that consumers are willing to pay more for a better shopping experience and incorporate technology into every aspect of their value chain will find great success – and, as participant and advisor, I’m excited to see how the industry continues to evolve during this time of extreme transformation.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the global general manager of consumer industries at SAP. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.