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What more can retailers do to make their tech strategies pay off?

Modern retailers’ focus on customer service excellence across multiple channels is one of the signs of their commitment to building brand loyalty.

As they aim to optimise their strategies for the post-pandemic world, investment in technology and innovation remains a top priority for today’s retail leaders.

Technology is the enabler across the sector as it strives for greater supply chain efficiencies, improved online and in-store customer experience, greater employee productivity, and better use of data.

Vicky Hernandez, Retail and Real Estate Partner, RWK Goodman: “However, technology alone is not enough. Retailers can’t simply throw expensive tech at the problem and hope to solve it. It has to be incorporated as part of their wider strategy and entrenched within the organisation’s culture. Silos have to be broken down and employees empowered. Though we are seeing some retailers working hard to embed technology and innovation to give them a competitive advantage”.

Pivot to success

As all retailers pivot to digital, Fortnum & Mason, one of London’s oldest – and most illustrious - department stores, has embraced technology and data to provide exceptional service levels.

At the start of the pandemic they had to transition their customer agents to working from home. The business was then well placed to drive efficiencies and deliver an enhanced customer service by listening to their agents’ feedback and leveraging technology appropriately. The appointment of a Chief Transformation Officer has been a further step to drive improved customer experience (CX) and greater digital literacy across their teams.

Carl Selby, Corporate and Commercial Partner and Head of Technology: “Yet they are only scratching the surface. There is far more that can be done with the information retailers have at their fingertips. However, to do this retailers need to address the questions of how, why, and who should be using data within their organisation. To utilise data to deliver an outstanding experience you need to create a data culture”.

Another retailer who has embraced creating a strong data culture across their organisation is Marks & Spencer. Last year they launched their data technician’s course – an 18-month-long scheme open to everyone across the business. Apprentices are taught how to manipulate and scrutinise data and turn it into valuable insights that can be placed at the heart of everything they do.

Building brand loyalty

Our client Pets At Home is using to technology to make better, smarter and more profitable decisions. They sought to bring their data function in-house and create organisational change to exploit data driven insights.

They built a data platform to capture all interactions the customer has with the business, both online and in-store. This provided them with accurate data insight to make more informed decisions across the business around customer segmentation and personalisation.

“The use of data in retail is not a new thing, but its potential is not yet being realised. Retail is one of the more ‘data mature’ industries using it to make better, smarter and more profitable decisions”.
Robert Kent, Chief Data Officer, Pets At Home

Creating a data culture in your business means that employees across the board must be empowered to use and interpret data. This takes them back to the genesis of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition of marketing; “the management process which identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably”. This will enable them to market to customers in a meaningful way and offer the products and services they need when they want them.

Digital skills and capabilities are needed among workforces if retailers are to thrive in the future. As some retailers are already doing, staff need to be trained and equipped with basic data analytics tools so they can use the insight to deliver the best service they can. By creating a strong data culture that is accessible to everyone it will allow for more personalisation and consistency across both online and in-store channels. This data-driven personalisation will allow retailers to better understand their customers and add value to the buying journey.

Technology transforming the customer experience

Successful retailers are using technology, including augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) – to bridge the gap between online and in-store and keep customers happy. Once it was a nice perk to have these applications; now they have become more essential for retailers. From virtual assistants to digital try-before-you-buy experiences covering fashion, furniture and beauty, this is an aspect of retail innovation with untold potential. It has proven that it can add enormous value for customers during their buying journey. By allowing customers to preview products digitally in their homes and then instantly purchase the product, people can step inside the AR dressing room and make a purchase without ever leaving their home. These innovations have the ability to differentiate your customer service, make the biggest gains and compete better in an increasingly crowded market.

At the height on the pandemic when retailers were forced to reimagine how they do business, virtual retail (VR) was born. Virtual retail allows retailers and customers to meet online, engage with and showcase products through online platforms. Brands including TOM’s shoes and Patron Spirits have found their virtual retail experience builds more empathy with their customers and performs better than in-store retail because it broadens their customer base and allows them to try before they buy, hence driving more revenue. You can be wherever the customer wants you to be. This has led to retailers, including John Lewis and Asda, having a major rethink about staffing, their store portfolio and design.

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