How to Prepare for Retail’s Digital Transformation

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According to a 2017 survey by PwC, 69 percent of retailers pointed to emerging digital technologies as an area in which they planned to increase investment. Additionally, around one third of retailers planned to implement AI-enabled technology for customer service, as noted by eMarketer.

While it’s encouraging to see retailers excited to embrace these changes, the transition won’t necessarily be easy. As the digital movement sweeps an industry that dates back to the earliest civilizations, we can definitely expect a few growing pains.
Here are a few ways retailers can prepare for the digital transformation to keep pace and stay ready to take on new innovation.

Start with a strategy
Like any solid business move, taking on the digital transformation will be more successful with a sound strategy in place. Unfortunately, not all retailers make strategy a priority. 52 percent of the PwC survey respondents mentioned above said that they haven’t yet defined or started implementing a digital transformation strategy, and 19 percent say they don’t plan to define a strategy at all.

If you’re in this group, you may want to rethink things—and soon. Task a group of strategic leaders who can bring various perspectives to the table with helping you prioritize and plan for the digital future.

Turn to data
During your digital transformation, data will be your best friend. You may not even realize it, but retailers have data streaming in from every direction—in-store purchases, website interactions, mobile app usage, social media, and so much more. Use this data to your advantage to figure out what’s important to your customers. Do they want better customer service? Consider AI-enabled assistance. Are they begging for an improved in-store experience? Amp it up with interactive digital displays.

Put customers first
Retailers aren’t the only ones adjusting to the digital age – consumers are, too. In order to stay relevant and ahead of the competition, pay attention to what your customers are doing and how they’re responding to changes, then adjust accordingly.

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Delta Air Lines is a great example of a company putting the customer first using new digital tools. In 2016, Delta integrated real-time baggage tracking into their mobile app. Flyers using the app can now keep track of baggage status from check-in to claim, and are armed with more info in the event bags are lost. Identifying a recurring issue, Delta solved it with digital technology to better serve the customer.

According to Forrester Research, 77 percent of U.S. adults say the most important thing a business can do for them is provide good service. With new hands-on tech to enhance the customer experience, your customers should be front and center during the digital transformation. Meet them where they already are, and watch their loyalty grow.

Don’t abandon…adapt
Even with an increase in online shopping, it’s important for customers to retain the ability to shop at a brick and mortar location. Why? Because as long as customers are still coming through the door, there’s no reason to eliminate any sales opportunity; instead, retailers should tweak their approach as needed to adapt to current changes. Plus, what’s better than being in front of your customers both physically and online?

The digital transformation is happening. In 2016, 18 percent of retailers said they would prioritize for digital, and in 2017, 24 percent said the same. With this uptick in digital prioritization, we’re sure to see it continue to expand in 2018.

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