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Can digital acceleration save retail?

27 Nov 2020

Pier Sandro Damonte

Consulting Lead Retail and Logistics, Vodafone Business

Retail and the way we shop has drastically changed in recent years.

Thanks to developments in technology, more and more people are shopping online and the pandemic has increased this trend. Research suggests this will only continue once coronavirus is under control.

In a recent global study conducted by Salesforce Inc., 58% of consumers said they expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before it.

On top of this, 88% of customers expect companies of all kinds to accelerate digital initiatives due to the pandemic and 83% expect retailers to provide flexible shipping and fulfilment options such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store.

It’s clear from this that businesses in this space need to reassess their digital offerings long-term and work hard to create the best experience possible.

Managing demand

Part of that experience is reacting to and fulfilling changing demands.

While many retailers suffered a decline in orders at the start of the pandemic, others saw huge spikes in demand. Supermarkets had empty shelves as people stockpiled for lockdown, exercise equipment and leisurewear became hot property and there was an increase in the homes and garden sector as people turned their attention to DIY and gardening.

With customers expecting a fast delivery and great service every time, businesses need a robust system that works and is flexible, to avoid website crashes, incorrect stock information and data security breaches.

Cloud-based data analytics can help by tracking products, forecasting sales and predicting demand.

Data can also heat-map customers, helping brands understand their interests and popular products, informing shop floor designs and marketing campaigns, such as targeted ads. Insight obtained can even give the best location for a new store by providing information on the footfall and affluence of a particular area.

Delivering such a comprehensive view of customers, at scale, and reacting to create unique customer journeys, it’s no surprise that retailers of all shapes and sizes are starting to use these technologies to help inform key business decisions. Able to streamline operations and optimise the supply chain too, ultimately saving the business money, its popularity is only increasing.

For Italian sportswear brand DEHA, adopting these solutions during the summer lockdown meant it could process website orders quickly and identify which clothing lines were most popular, helping the team manage stock and business continuity over summer.


Can digital acceleration save retail

Can digital acceleration save retail


Can digital acceleration save retail


It’s important that businesses of all sizes are prepared and equipped to handle these fluctuations, particularly as we head into one of the busiest selling periods – Christmas.

Digitising supply chains

All this means nothing if you’re supply chain can’t keep up.

Retailer’s supply chains are global and immensely complex. Global trade uncertainty, not to mention COVID-19, disrupt these systems and a rise in returns from customers make them more costly and difficult to control.

These businesses are also under pressure to be more sustainable as new, disruptive eco-friendly competition enters the market.

Using the Internet of Things (IoT) brands gain much needed visibility of their supply chains.

Providing knowledge of the source, current location and overall condition of the items wherever they are, can improve the quality of the goods delivered to the customer and create a more harmonious relationship with third party organisations such as delivery partners.

Protecting people

Keeping employees and customer’s safe is another key challenge facing these businesses.

Working with various retailers and partners, we have already started to bring the digital experience in store. Smart shelving, digital signage and virtual queues can all be applied to create a contactless experience that is still personalised.

For example, digital displays can sense customers and adapt content to make it relevant to that person or, using apps, retailers can recognise when a shopper is in the store and send them offers based on their purchase history.

For shop staff, using tablets means they can serve customers at a safe distance, able to check for stock remotely and take payments digitally.

Other solutions such as smart lockers, click and collect and buy online and return in store drive convenience for customers and are an effective way of getting them to come back into shops – something that could make the difference when we move into a post-COVID world.

As retailers continue to face turbulent times, fostering customer relationships has never been more important and digital acceleration can drive this by delivering the best possible experience now, and in the future.

Ready to learn more about how technology can support your business through COVID-19?

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