SPOTLIGHT: James Lovell, retail commerce solutions executive, IBM (IRM56)
How do you think consumer behaviour is transforming retail?
One substantial feature of the ‘Black Friday’ peak trading period was that mobile became the dominant channel throughout the buyer journey. Notably, on Black aFriday itself 47% of online sales in the UK came from a mobile device. This suggests that mobile could become the dominant revenue transaction channel this year, too. It is also now common that buyers use more than one device to make their purchase and it seems that today, we are an online-promotion led market. All of which behaviour confirms that mobile is fundamental in an overall omni-channel strategy: retailers who embrace that are far more likely to provide customers with a seamless experience across devices and digital channels and increase the conversion of baskets into purchases.What was the biggest learning point for retailers over peak trading periods?
The key here is fulfilment. Obviously the digital shop window – the ecommerce platform – is essential, but what happens in the background is just as fundamental. Having made a promise to consumers, retailers must have the supply chain technology, infrastructure and processes in place to actually deliver against that promise, or risk damaging brand reputation.
Consumers now expect increasingly flexible options like click & collect and on that basis having the right data to be able to flexibly locate, collate, deliver and return stock at the speed of expectation is key, especially at peak periods. Likewise, intelligently managing the returns process to ensure that it’s as painless as possible is so important, and from the retailer’s perspective there is a need to regain that product swiftly, too, whether with the intention to replace it for the consumer or to identify any quality issues pertaining to the relevant supplier.How is price transparency and social media affecting retail strategy?
We live in an age of information where prices are transparent and consumers hold a wealth of data and means of collaboration at their fingertips. To respond, retailers need a retail pricing strategy which allows them to do more than just monitor prices – they need to be able to react quickly and, more importantly, intelligently. This is where a cloud-based model is proving key in addressing an increasingly competitive marketplace. Via the cloud, retailers can now access recommendations on responses to changes in performance data and market conditions, as well as the latest competitive pricing information, in real time.
Importantly though, retailers need to be able to determine which changes they should respond to based on the potential impact on the business. This could involve evaluations based on product availability, price sensitivity and customer demand. Ultimately though, the path to online basket conversion is a precarious one involving an increasingly discerning consumer base; where brand reputation is significantly influenced by social media and customer reviews, retailers need an agile model of response to marketplace changes.How is data changing retail and personalisation?
2016 looks set to be the year of cognitive commerce. Although personalisation is a common theme, the step change is the ability to hyper-personalise the customer experience and actually learn from individual interactions. Cognitive systems learn and develop expertise as they consume data. They can help retailers to analyse all the available data about the customer and the market – structured and unstructured – to find hidden relationships and connections in the data and provide recommendations that can help retailers to deepen customer engagement in real time.
This year, leading retailers have already announced that personalisation will form the basis of their marketing strategies, and they will be using data to do it. It’s a widely used term and touches many technologies in a retailer’s ecosystem, but they key is to have these often isolated elements working together and talking to each other. The cloud is a great enabler for smaller retailers in giving them access to the same integrated capabilities for cognitive commerce as their larger rivals.
In today’s world, retailers need to embrace the chief digital consumer on a really personal level and the exciting news looking forward is that is now becoming increasingly possible through integrated cloud based, global and cognitive ecommerce technology. If you’d like to know more about IBM’s [IRDX VIBM] Commerce on Cloud Solutions, please visit us at ibm.biz/b2cecommerce, or contact me, James Lovell via LinkedInThis is a promotional interview. For more information on how to take part in this feature, visit the Internet Retailing advertising page.