The prolific use of electronic devices has created a new generation of consumers. We have tech-savvy digital native millennials that have grown up with an inherent understanding of technology and now expect to use it to make the purchasing journey quicker and more convenient. Alongside these sit the influential Digital Divas that flit across devices when making purchases and expect seamless interactions across all channels.
This new generation of consumer is reshaping the traditional purchasing journey. Traditional point of sale, call centres and mobile technologies are being replaced by a variety of new digital commerce capabilities as the primary mode for interacting with brands. With seemingly unlimited knowledge, power and expectations, digital consumers are dictating engagement with brands and starting to challenge the existing capabilities of retailers, changing the future shape of retail.
Today’s retail landscape is driven by the need to respond quickly to consumers’ demands across all channels. Increasingly, being able to develop agile operations that can meet consumers expectations for immediacy relies on having a strong digital backbone. It must deliver an omnichannel view of all data and functionality related to consumers – everything from behaviour, to profile and preferences throughout each stage of the shopping journey. Using this information, it is possible to create relevant, personalised experiences that boost brand advocacy.
Developing a unified digital backbone is also crucial to help retailers navigate through increasingly complex supply chains. Traditionally, managing visibility, orders, fulfillments and returns has been a manual and cumbersome process. However, as consumers increasingly expect a ‘buy from anywhere, fulfill from anywhere’ experience, retailers need to streamline processes so that merchandise can be shared across channels and locations. Introducing a single, unified, digital platform to integrate supply chain data and information on product lines, inventory and orders will create operational efficiencies that allow retailers to introduce new fulfillment models for digital consumers.
As retailers look to extend their digital engagement with their consumers on the high street, the future of the store is changing too. Replacing immature in-store operations and integrating them into a unified digital infrastructure will be critical to deliver a consistent brand experience instore and online. For example, there is growing need for store associates to be able to deliver a personalised experience on the shop floor. This can only be achieved if they have information to hand about the consumers previous interactions with the brand. Increasingly, the digital backbone of commerce operations will start to fuel more and more in-store interactions to drive innovation and efficiency.
A unified digital commerce strategy
To date, retailers have struggled to keep up with consumer demand for seamless engagements and transactions throughout the shopping journey. Loosely coupled legacy systems, originally implemented to solve specific problems for specific channels, are not equipped to adequately serve omni-channel consumers.
The limitations of complex environments increase the risk of dissatisfied consumers, increased costs and lost revenue. To succeed in an ultra-competitive industry with low margins, it’s becoming even more important for retailers to redefine their architectural approach to effectively and seamlessly engage consumers across channels.
By putting a unified digital backbone at the heart of the retail journey, brands will be able to map out new business processes that meet the needs of today’s digital consumers. A unified commerce platform will deliver the agility to execute merchandising, marketing, promotional, and loyalty initiatives that increase average order values, boost conversion rates and deliver the seamless brand experience expected by this new digitally savvy consumer generation.
Andrew Gilboy is VP of EMEA at Demandware