Change is part of the DNA of retail businesses: to keep up with customer expectations, Retailers have always made adjustments: to stock, to store layout, to prices, and more.
The past 10+ years have seen a different kind of change washing over the retail sector. It goes much deeper than keeping up with seasonal ranges or stocking the latest must-have items – it challenges some of the fundamental structures of the retail ecosystem.
E-commerce: here to stay and grow
During the Covid-19 pandemic, shopping online became, for many millions of people worldwide, the only way to shop for certain products. In parts of the world where eCommerce had been a slow grower, it rocketed to new heights in 2020/21. According to Statista, for example, in 2020, eCommerce sales in Europe added up to around $425.2 billion. By 2025, that’s likely to hit an estimated $569 billion. The UAE is another country where e-commerce has emerged as a significant new force on the retail landscape: hitting 17% up in the first half of 2020. The same pattern is being repeated worldwide – even after lockdowns and restrictions eased, shoppers have kept buying online, and they will continue to do so.
Retailers who want to continue to be relevant in this new retail landscape need a plan. That plan needs to focus on delivering new shopping experiences that link together supply chains and stores as part of an evolving ecosystem. They will also need to redefine and transform the customer journey. Finally, retailers will have to work hard at supply chain transparency and sustainability. Offering a unified customer journey to technology-savvy, time-starved shoppers means slick operations, smart strategies and solid tech tools.
All about the shopping experience
According to IDC: “The growing complexity of the shopping journey puts further pressure on costs in an industry already operating on tight margins. Transforming operations is far from simple and asks for efficiency in the way the working parts of the retailer’s ecosystem – processes, assets, people, partners, and products – are leveraged to increase lifetime customer value.”
For retailers in Europe, just like the rest of the world, that means a series of key business transformation priorities, including a robust and flexible partner network, a streamlined cost structure and an undying commitment to improving the customer experience.
That experience has been totally uncoupled from the traditional constraints of the retailer/customer relationship. It’s not about what happens in the store. It’s not even about what happens on an eCommerce site. It’s about everything – from inspiration and discovery, to purchase and fulfillment, all the way through to after-sales care.
It encapsulates sustainable business behaviour, a sense of corporate purpose and identity. It also includes important considerations of data security in a retail world where the physical and the digital are becoming ever more entwined. Just a single point of weakness in this complex ecosystem can be fatal to customer loyalty.
Next week, on 21 September, these themes and issues will be discussed at length during the IDC European Retail Executive Digital Summit 2021. The title of this year’s summit is ‘Delivering the New Shopping Experience: Sustainable supply chain, intelligent store operations, and evolving ecosystems to transform customer journeys.’ Attendees and speakers will include representatives of some of the leading retail brands in Europe, including Public MediaMarkt, Carrefour, Sainsbury’s, Chanel, Aldi, Kiko, Lidl and many more.