The Retail Reset: Test and Learn to Innovate and Address New Customer Needs
By Johan Liljeros, General Manager and Senior Commerce Advisor, North America, at Avensia
After navigating the pandemic, supply chain constraints, the Great Resignation, massive inflation – not to mention global instability, many retailers would appreciate settling into a comfortable go-forward state. However, these issues won’t let up anytime soon. In fact, uncertainty will likely be the defining trend of 2022.
To combat these uncertainties, retailers must reboot their commerce strategies and find new ways to hone their competitive edge while conserving time and resources. Savvy retailers will do this in two ways – by taking stock in what they know now, and ensuring they have the ability to experiment, learn, and adapt fast to learn what they don’t know yet.
Take Stock of What You Know
What can retailers do in this time of extreme uncertainty? First, start with what you know – review your data. Consider where your business is at right now, focusing on the pillars of e-commerce and how the last few years have changed for your business and industry.
Here are a few places to start:
- Adaptability: Ensure that you have the agility needed to continuously and quickly adapt to change – the rate of change is not going to slow down. This pertains to your technology stack as well as how your organization works with the tools and the empowerment they are given to follow or lead change.
- Discoverability: How long has it been since your key teams connected to review search engine optimization strategies, with the goal of attracting additional organic search traffic? Look at trends, paying attention to the differences in the past years, months, weeks and even days.
- Omnichannel approach: Compare your pre-pandemic sales mix to how it has changed over the last few years. E-commerce has grown exponentially and has become hyper-convenient, so what can you learn from your sales? Are your customers now coming back to physical stores? Are they being drawn in by the experiences there or perhaps considering them a delivery hub for last-minute e-commerce purchases? Constantly challenge your customer journey in and between all channels! Are you offering a coherent experience? Can you seamlessly transfer your experience between channels?
- Average sales price: Customers want a connection with the brands they buy from as well as a relevant price. Be sure that your customers understand that you get what you pay for. It is not about being cheapest, it is about offering the highest level of convenience – this builds loyalty in the long run. Are you providing intelligent, relevant data to improve the customer experience? Does the value of these subscriptions translate into an increase in average order price? Are your upselling and cross-selling suggestions enhancing customer loyalty?
- Sales conversions: Every business hopes to create the smoothest checkout process possible to avoid lost sales. An important part of your customer’s journey is just that! A checkout (just one example) should be able to be done within 5-10 seconds. What is your businesses’ conversion rate? Where are the pain points? Is there a common point where most customers abandon their carts?
Read More: How To Recruit & Retain Top Sales Talent
Experiment to Learn
By having a better understanding of where your business is, you can embrace business uncertainties and experiment strategically. With today’s advanced technologies, businesses have the means to do small-scale testing of new concepts – at low cost and low risk – leading to meaningful discoveries in the key areas:
- The channel-less journey: Digitally mature consumers are used to tech-driven retail concepts, now even more so in a post-pandemic world. The customer journey may begin in the digital realm and then seamlessly move to the store, or vice versa. Experiment to determine shifting buyer dynamics, loyalty boosters, effective in-store digitizing and more. What shopping trends are most appealing to them? How can consumers and retail associates engage to make the experience more interpersonal and less transactional?
- Department store 2.0: Under-utilized physical spaces are ideal for experimentation as retailers move to “Department Store 2.0.” Think of this as a giant showroom that provides consumers with hands-on product experiences. This also provides the ability to quickly set up specialty marketplaces where brands and products can be adapted to trends, seasons, or other outside factors. These in-person spaces can be further reinforced later with unique digital experiences.
- Embrace local partners: With so much uncertainty and rising costs, this could be the right time to look at new sources for materials and products to circumvent international supply chain issues. Then, consider sharing the news about how your business supports local partners. How do your customers feel about “shop local” initiatives? Can local connections help solidify a stronger bond between the customer and brand?
- Consider sustainability initiatives: A sustainable mindset isn’t only a matter of reducing a carbon footprint and publishing a sustainability report. It is about addressing the massive and tangible consumer demand for total transparency and sustainable business models. Is now the time to make changes that will foster a positive customer response?
Experimentation is the Key to Innovation
The pre-pandemic playbook for commerce is outdated. Agile retailers need to experiment now to meet new customer expectations and to make new, more sustainable business models work; those that do will know what works and what doesn’t work, quickly.
The race to discover what these models look like has already started; retailers are now assessing where they are, reviewing the data to their advantage and experimenting their way out of business uncertainty. This is the recipe for an innovative 2022: Start small, scale fast, to say goodbye to uncertainty and hello to innovation.