#HOPE lies in sustainable business growth this year

By Zuko Mdwaba, Salesforce SA VP & Country Leader. Trends come and go, but retailers which expect to be around beyond 2023 understand the need for operational excellence and tech efficiency at every touchpoint.

By Zuko Mdwaba, Salesforce SA VP & Country Leader. It’s very, well, trendy to talk about trends and tempting to simply list a number of pie-in-the-sky ideas around what one imagines will be important in an industry in the coming months. Similarly, it is almost inevitable to reference global movements when talking about trends as if the world is a homogenous whole. However, what is far more useful is to consider the actions that are most likely to ensure sustainable business growth in 2023.

Optimise for tech and operational efficiency 
Zuko Mdwaba

Rising inflation, supply chain bottlenecks and political disruption are among some of the key challenges facing not just retail, but business in general at the moment. As such, companies need to move away from high-risk strategies and instead optimise tech for peak efficiency, address customers’ increasing demands, and maximising rep productivity to drive success now. Operational efficiency is of growing importance, as a means to manage and mitigate uncertainty in the market. The retailers that manage to achieve peak operational efficiency are likely to be the ones that also offer the most relevant and personal customer experience.

Among the trends uncovered in Mulesoft’s Top 7 Digital Transformation Trends report, are two observations that are of particular importance to retailers. The first is that increasingly, organisations will invest in total experience (TX) strategies to drive greater customer and employee loyalty and advocacy. Secondly, organisations will increasingly realise that data-driven insights and improved integration across supply chains help deliver business value through more efficient and sustainable ways of working, which support the global effort to reduce carbon emissions. We know that customers increasingly demand that businesses demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability. Retailers need to prioritise sustainability as a key business value – and while it may be “trendy” to do so, it is underpinned by a very real need.

In fact, according to Salesforce research, 78% of customers say environmental practices influence their decision to buy from a company. When it comes to brand loyalty, having good products is no longer enough, as 71% of consumers have switched brands at least once in the last year.

Attraction and retention always important 

A question at the centre of a profitable growth strategy for retailers is how to attract new shoppers and retain existing ones. The answer is multilayered and considers the value of developing data acquisition strategies, bridging the physical-digital divide and building stronger business partnerships with suppliers and relevant stakeholders.

Equally important in 2023 and beyond is the retailer’s investment in the post-purchase experience. The transaction doesn’t end with the exchange of funds for product, and retailers need to be geared for relationship building on a continuous basis.

Experience excellence 

Customer needs and expectations are constantly evolving and while a resilient retail strategy is underpinned by strategic and operational efficiency first and foremost, the preferences of the customer cannot be ignored. Features like social selling, omnichannel shopping and same-day delivery remain among some of the most important ways to attract and retain customers, but the retailers that will emerge as the true winners are those that anticipate their customers’ needs by personalising to the next level while ensuring a consistent experience across channels.

This is where the application of data and AI will prove increasingly important as it helps to improve the customer experience. Here, retailers are faced with a balancing act to ensure they collect only the personal information of customers that is truly needed to improve the customer experience and to drive transparency around data protection.

Success beyond the trends

The nugget for retailers to take into 2023 is that success now relies on finding the right balance between data and personalisation, loyalty and the customer experience. Trends, interesting though they are to take note of, come and go, but retailers which expect to be around beyond 2023 understand the need for operational excellence and tech efficiency at every touchpoint.


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