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The Game Plan to Bring Customers Back into Stores

The horse is out of the barn, and there's no closing the door. Driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, years of discussion became the inescapable reality — retailers must embrace digital transformation to survive.

 

During the mandated store closures, we saw that retail leaders who had moved on their digital transformation journeys were able to continue to serve customers with products and services that kept the business operating and customers engaged. Keeping some level of activity flowing is critical to maintaining base operational objectives, plus it is mandatory to keep the dialogue with customers going to protect your brand loyalty.

 

19.7Million-01At the same time, consumers who had never placed an online order began digital experimentation. Prompted by necessity, fear, convenience, and other factors, digital neophytes learned how quickly and easily online engagement could be adopted. That response now makes many wonder if, how or when they'll return to the stores they once frequented. 

 

The explosive growth of digital during the pandemic is stunning. However, the fact is, stores, or at the very least, the volume of transactions that still happen in stores matters a lot to any retailer with a physical store estate. Can you bet that hunger for the social side of in-person shopping is enough to bring your customers back? How can retailers overcome lingering concerns about health and safety? It's clear that retailers have their work cut out for them but there's no question that the physical footprint remains critical to business strategy. With those challenges in mind, here are some issues retailers need to overcome and how digital transformation can help.

 

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#1: Admit that your customers don't care about channels. 

The time has long passed for retailers to admit that they need to create brand experiences, enable one-click shopping engagement, and build checkout experiences that transcend the concept of channels, without having to duplicate efforts for every place you want to sell. Your customers want to shop, period.  The faster you are in control with a development platform that supports your 'Commerce Anywhere' mindset so you are able to engage wherever your customer wants or needs to be, the faster you'll own a next-gen strategy built on unified marketing, engagement, and service.

#2: Create convenient, easy, and appealing online and mobile shopping experiences linked to physical stores.

Digital transformation is about using innovative technology to engage customers in the places and ways they prefer to shop, both digitally and physically. There is little point in trying to compete and defeat an online-only retailer. Instead, use online to stimulate a visit to a physical store or to start a shopping transaction that completes in-store or at the curb.  

#3: Attract digital natives to the store, stem the drift of traditional shoppers to online, and reclaim customer loyalty. 

Embrace your own 'Commerce Anywhere' strategy by bringing digital experiences (trending online, recommendations) into the store. Simplify and increase store experience relevance to drive footfall traffic with appointments, pickups, personalized shopping, shopping lists, and shared carts. Enable your 'Pay Anywhere' mentality to get your staff out from behind the counter and instead arm them to bring value wherever the customer is ready to transact. 

#4: To go from product-centric to customer-centric, retailers must focus on delivering value in the experiences customers want.

Build processes and technology that optimize excellent customer outcomes. Leverage a modern tech stack to capture, interpret, and understand customer activity, behaviors, and preferences. This creates an insight-driven culture that uses data and analytics to drive decisions on products, promotions, and how to use tech to serve customers.  

#5: Target digital transformation investment for impact and value by harvesting what you have in legacy systems.  

Build modern digital channels and front-end experiences that easily connect to legacy systems. Leverage the latest cloud architecture to embrace new digital development and delivery methods, use new software tools (APIs, microservices) and new integration architectures to create a single-minded focus on innovation, speed, and agility. 

#6: Customers want convenient and flexible fulfillment options for purchases and returns. 

Fast delivery, pick up in store, curbside, reimagining the return process that engages and gets stock where it needs to be, are just a few of your customers' continuously evolving needs. It is well past time to empower yourself with tools that finally link the online and in store journeys so you can eliminate friction and delight customers. 

#7: Make stores an information-rich hub of learning and engagement. 

There has to be value in coming to the store. Recognize your store staff as the critical link and arm them with digital data, including product details, preferences and trends, and AI-driven recommendations that can tie carts, past purchase history and intent together. Curate the store visit to increase your customer's value by managing personalized shopping, blending pickups with in-person add-ons, and recognizing the need for safe and efficient store visits. 

#8: Agility to scale new technology fast is essential to the equation.

A headless store commerce platform is the next-gen retail technology that provides a single transaction engine to build experiences and commerce engagement, anywhere. At no time has it been more evident that where you need to be today might not be where you need to be tomorrow. Taking control of the tech stack and breaking free of black-box constraints that define legacy store systems is the driving force in next-gen strategy. Building on a headless store transaction engine that finally moves at the speed of your business puts you in control to reduce time to market and costs to achieve meaningful results. 

 

What do you see as the major challenges to keep physical stores relevant? See how leaders like Kroger are tackling next-gen and let us know what you think. 

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