Four Ways to Future-Proof Your Retail Business

by Vijayanta Gupta

Posted on 06-26-2018

The retail high street is suf­fer­ing one of its tough­est years ever. In the UK alone, almost 6,000 shops, trav­el agen­cies and estate agents shut their doors in 2017, more than in any year since 2010. More recent­ly, lega­cy brands like House of Fras­er and Marks & Spencer announced they would be clos­ing stores as more peo­ple shop online.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. For every major brand that is strug­gling, we are also see­ing retail­ers adapt to a dig­i­tal audi­ence and align their in-store and online offer­ing. Some­times in ways that weren’t even pos­si­ble just five years ago.

Above all, retail­ers must close the gap between their own dig­i­tal capa­bil­i­ties and the dig­i­tal ser­vices cus­tomers now demand. Encour­ag­ing­ly, many are begin­ning to do so. Our research found that 72 per­cent of retail­ers plan to increase their dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing spend to meet the needs of cus­tomers crav­ing dig­i­tal experiences.

But invest­ment in mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy is only half the bat­tle. Just 25 per­cent of com­pa­nies plan to invest in upskilling their staff, so they can work with these tech­nolo­gies. To real­ly close the gap between their ser­vices and what con­sumers want, brands need a work­force that knows how to achieve this, and fast.

In short, align­ment is the key. Here are four tips on how retail­ers can bring togeth­er their peo­ple, tech­nolo­gies, and approach and con­tin­ue to thrive in a fast-chang­ing market:

  1. Per­son­alise ser­vice with data, with some help from AI

Retail­ers have nev­er had more data at their dis­pos­al. Pre­dic­tive ana­lyt­ics and a deep­er under­stand­ing of cus­tomers allow them to deliv­er more per­son­alised ser­vices, but to get this right, brands also need a coher­ent data strat­e­gy. Infor­ma­tion kept in silos has no con­text and adds min­i­mal value.

AI-dri­ven machine learn­ing has upped the ante by allow­ing retail­ers to dig fur­ther into their data and deliv­er more rel­e­vant, indi­vid­u­al­ized expe­ri­ences. They can build hyper-per­son­alised pro­files in a mat­ter of min­utes, and ensure their tar­get­ing is as robust as possible.

  1. Fos­ter a uni­fied, cus­tomer-cen­tric culture

The brands dis­rupt­ing retail today have built them­selves on a dig­i­tal cul­ture from the inside out, one that puts cus­tomers first. This is the secret to align­ing the retail expe­ri­ence across online, mobile and phys­i­cal chan­nels, and it starts with a company’s lead­er­ship. From the board­room down, busi­ness leader must be com­mit­ted to build­ing cross-depart­men­tal bridges and reward­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive behav­iour. With­out a uni­fied cul­ture, the same siloes will remain, result­ing in dis­joint­ed expe­ri­ences that will only turn cus­tomers off.

  1. Invest in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and dig­i­tal skills

Adobe’s 2018 Dig­i­tal Trends report found that com­pa­nies which have increased their invest­ment in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing are more like­ly to exceed their busi­ness goals. Cru­cial­ly, top per­form­ing com­pa­nies are twice as like­ly to be plan­ning sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment in dig­i­tal skills and edu­ca­tion, so their employ­ees can stay on top of the lat­est trends and tools. This invest­ment on both lev­els is cru­cial for any retail­er aspir­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate its cus­tomer experience.

  1. Focus on the right process­es and col­lab­o­ra­tive work­flows… and invest in the right tools to fos­ter collaboration

One of the biggest chal­lenges for retail­ers is to facil­i­tate col­lab­o­ra­tion between cre­ative, mar­ket­ing and dig­i­tal teams, and to gain the effi­cien­cies that come with this. With a sin­gle cus­tomer expe­ri­ence plat­form in place, roles can be eas­i­ly allo­cat­ed and tasks man­aged more effec­tive­ly across depart­ments, align­ing the way teams work and ensur­ing that process­es are opti­mised. By invest­ing in the employ­ee expe­ri­ence, brands will make it eas­i­er to man­age their dig­i­tal assets and enhance productivity.

Retail­ers may be tempt­ed to keep cut­ting costs and hope that the chal­lenges they face are sim­ply down to sea­son­al­i­ty or an uncer­tain econ­o­my, but the clo­sures we’ve seen in the past year are a clear indi­ca­tion that peo­ple expect some­thing new. It is by deliv­er­ing a joined-up expe­ri­ence across every chan­nel and plat­form that brands will engage their cus­tomers and con­tin­ue to dri­ve sales.

Click here to learn how Adobe’s solu­tions help retail­ers uni­fy their cus­tomer experience.

Topics: Digital Transformation, customer centric, digital technology, Mobile Experience, personalisation, retail, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA