Digital in-store experiences, individualisation and omni-channel integration are topics that can only be realised using technical methods to a large extent. That’s why I will be looking at digital infrastructures in retail in this blog post. For many retail experts this is an unpopular topic as successful digitalisation requires expertise and extensive investments. Yet these two basic prerequisites are not available in many cases. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the importance of a well-functioning and well-thought-out digital infrastructure in order to remain competitive in future.
Online and offline should go hand in hand
Younger consumers in particular changed their purchasing behaviour during the pandemic. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to win back this generation Z especially, as its purchasing power is considerable. The combination of physical presence in a store plus digital elements could successfully help make inner cities and shopping centres more attractive again for (young) people. After all, the thing that consumers miss when shopping online is the feel of a product and expert advice. So the key factor for retail success is connected shopping. You can read more about this in the following blog post: https://moniquefischer-consulting.ch/en/connected-shopping-generating-added-value-for-your-customers/
Uniform and efficient IT systems
Uniform and efficient IT systems are the prerequisite for a data-driven organisation. The IT strategy should focus on the standardisation of systems, if necessary across different departments and countries. It needs to include all digital channels as well as stores. This is the only way that retailers can ensure that standardised data can be systematically recorded and evaluated. If you use your own data intelligently, you can configure your operational business efficiently and develop customer-focussed offers. This may require the modernisation of the inventory management system as well as material requirements planning and logistics management, and the standardisation of the data infrastructure.
A full and accurate product database is an important factor. Whether for self-scanning in store or click and collect: the basis for all actions is a functioning IT infrastructure. After all, if you don’t manage your prices, products and goods quantities centrally, you cannot offer many digital services or can only do so insufficiently. You no doubt know from personal experience how annoying it is when a QR code leads to an error message. Or when you travel to the store specially and then find that the item, displayed as in stock online, isn’t actually available.
The second key aspect is individual customer data, which is an key element of customer relationship management. Thanks to this information, you can draw conclusions about your customer structure, purchasing behaviour and interactions with apps and your website/online shop. In this way, it is possible to use the data in a targeted fashion for acquisition and long-term customer retention. For instance, through targeted advertising measures you can increase the number of purchases in stores and thus increase sales. A digital customer card can offer support with the personalisation of advice. When recording personal data it is, of course, important to take note of valid data protection guidelines.
The App Attention Index 2021 by AppDynamics confirms that 54 per cent of those surveyed in Germany say that their expectations with respect to digital services have changed. Poor performance is no longer tolerated. In concrete terms, this means that if digital offers don’t work simply and smoothly, customer loyalty, which you may have established laboriously over the course of years, is eroded within seconds.
So it’s worth making the effort to invest in uniform and efficient IT systems. Get support by ensuring constant and constructive dialogue between commerce, tech companies, associations and politics. This latter is needed if it’s a question of providing fast and widespread WLAN or in relation to guidelines on the interoperability of software (standard APIs, standard formats, open source).