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3 more ideas in retail innovation to stay at the industry's forefront

Posted by  Taj Onigbanjo

(originally posted 10 August 2016)

In 2016, I wrote about the evolving expectations of today’s shoppers. Retail innovation impacts the way people shop, and because we’re seeing that innovation happening more quickly, it is difficult to predict the way consumers will shop. Today, more than ever, businesses must be on high alert, switched on to the latest developments in the world of retail, or risk being left behind.

Following on from my post, 5 Ideas in Retail Innovation that will keep you at the Industry's Forefront, here are three more ideas retailers can use to get ahead of competitors, and keep their customers happy.

1. A truly universal view

In the “clicks versus bricks” battle, the case for building an omnichannel experience has never been stronger. Designing campaigns with multiple touch points for consumers will bring the online and offline experience together, but managing and monitoring activity across multiple store locations and through multiple channels is becoming increasingly difficult.

Legacy back office systems and superseded software weren’t built to cope with this kind of retail technology. Their siloed department views keep data segregated, which serves to widen the disconnect between consumer and supplier. These solutions are not only expensive to maintain, and clunky to use, but they also offer little-to-no opportunity for real integration with new systems, and struggle to hold the ever-expanding volume of customer data effectively.

Organisations need integrated systems, which can provide real time insight for every user, including customers, suppliers, and employees; a universal, consolidated view.

2. Customer service all the time, anywhere

Brand loyalty is becoming more difficult to build with consumers relying on peers and online reviews to sway their buying choices. Customer service excellence is a key differentiator and with so much of it being in the public eye these days, it plays a lead role in influencing brand perception.

Today’s customer service must work across time zones and across channels: social media, webchat, video, SMS, and the humble telephone. The number of channels available to consumers isn’t what makes customer service excellent, though; it’s the quality of that service. To build truly interactive customer relationships, organisations should monitor interaction data from all channels and cross-reference it with company-relevant data such as market trends, supply and availability, and other KPIs.

Consumers don’t want to wait, and so customer service excellence is now a meticulous blend of human interaction and automation. Intelligent call routing, and chatbots can handle the top-level, less complicated aspect of customer satisfaction, while a real person should be on hand for more complex queries. Consumers want a quick response, and a swift resolution.

3. Personalisation and mobility

In order to stay ahead of the competition, brand should have mobile at their core. Advancements in technology, and our reliance on mobile devices means that the smartphone has forced the physical store into a showroom role. A mobile site, or mobile app will fall into consumers’ desire to search first and buy later, but expectations are high, and all-too-many brands fall victim to poor usability either via their website being unsuitable for mobile, or thier web app being unintuitive.

Mobile sites and web apps should be designed with the customer in mind, providing instant gratification, at the right time, in the right place. Consumers search for operating hours and product availability, as well as more personalised elements like their customer preferences, visibility of their transactions, and tailored shopping reminders. With the right integrations, retailers can use intuitive technology coupled with business intelligence metrics to apply historic behaviour data, and deliver a personalised, seamless shopping experience, which combines the convenience of online shopping with the personal interactions of physically visiting a store.

Keep on top of retail innovation to stay ahead

Asking a brand to “be innovative” is one thing, but actually following it through is far more difficult. But without innovation, a company will simply tread water until it becomes outdated and, inevitably, obsolete.

Innovation comes from collaboration and sharing ideas. Inviting employees from all departments to submit their thoughts and feedback will bring different perspectives together, offering differing views depending on where that employee sits within the business. Even if the ideas aren’t revolutionary in themselves, they may spark a change that could trigger true evolution in your business. Explore innovation to ensure you stay ahead in retail.

Taj Onigbanjo

Taj Onigbanjo is a Business Manager at Unit4 with a particular focus on the Unit4 Financials solution – the best in class accounting software. He brings over 20 years of Enterprise Sales & Sales Management experience across three different product sets and three continents having managed teams in the UK, Middle East & Africa; latterly in the telecoms arena providing worldwide data networks to Global corporates. He is an ardent reader, writer and passionate Chelsea FC fan.

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