Strategic, contactless and surprising
by Jonathan Hurvitz. How the online shopping experience can mimic some elements for pleasurable shopping in a brick-and-mortar setup.Monday, 22 Feb 2021
by Jonathan Hurvitz. It’s been interesting to observe the etail market’s reaction to the impact of the coronavirus over the last year. One of the biggest surprises was the 40% growth in online retail sales alone during lockdown last year. Similarly, the Baby Boomer generation has emerged as one of the most active segments of online shoppers. This can certainly be attributed to social distancing and safety measures, convenience and, during hard lockdown, necessity.
Innovative and agile
Along with ‘pivot’ and ‘new normal’, ‘innovative’ and ‘agile’ were among last year’s most over-traded business buzzwords, but yet the need for retailers to be both innovative and agile is becoming more apparent. A 2020 study by Deloitte, titled, The New Retail Operating Model of the Future, showed that the goal for most e/retailers today is to become more consumer-centric and to operate more efficiently. The extent of the efficiency and customer-centricity will be different for individual e/retailers but has as its core the ability to rapidly react to shifts in the market. The study also highlights the importance of challenging “disconnected departmental thinking” as a key step towards a more customer-centric organisation, which translates into a consumer-first shopping experience.
One of the most important ways an e/retailer can do this is by becoming a data-driven enterprise that relies on analytics to inform planning, decision-making and more. They say the numbers don’t lie, and since e/retailers can’t afford to lose any numbers (be that customers, revenue or market share), the strategic incorporation of data and analytics into everyday operations is going to be more crucial going forward.
Strategic partnerships in the e/retail space are still somewhat under-utilised in the local market, but something we’re certain to see more of as e/retailers scramble to elevate their offering to outsmart their competitors. Strategic partnerships have the potential to bring e/retailers new customers, maintain customer interest and expand customer loyalty and increase revenue. If done smartly, it can be achieved without having to employ extensive financial or staff resources.
The key is to partner with brands that complement your products or services, and add additional value for your existing customers while drawing in new customers with the partnership. What’s more, a strategic partnership allows for drawing on the experience, expertise and skills set of another brand, as well as drawing on their data. Make sure there is a clear partnership roadmap in place. A successful partnership is about ensuring both parties feel they are getting value from it. Be sure to define what value means to each.
Consider the ease of transactions for online purchases. In fact, the online payment space has grown significantly with the spread of COVID-19 as people are anxious about being exposed to the virus via physical contact with things like card machines. Chris Walton, who writes about the evolution of retail for Forbes, talks about the contactless as the “must-have safe word for retail”, suggesting that e/retailers can’t afford to not have the option of contactless transactions in the form of ‘tap and go’ and mobile payments. Similarly, those who have still not incorporated an online element into their retail offering have serious catching up to do.
Beyond the generic template
A question on the minds of the world’s foremost e/retailers, and certainly one for everyone in the space to wonder about is how the online customer experience can be enhanced. Not in terms of technical capabilities on the platform or response time to online queries, but rather how the online shopping experience can mimic some of the tangible elements that make for pleasurable shopping in a brick-and-mortar setup. In a Harvard Business Review article, Kate Machtiger looks to the future of retail experience and suggests that physical spaces will need to offer an escape, the store should serve as a stage and digital experiences need to be viewed as collective memory. With the latter she suggests that digital experiences need to make people feel something. The challenge is clear, across the board, and those with the vision and wherewithal to embrace the challenge are sure to emerge as the winners in this never-ending race.
Jonathan Hurvitz is the Group CEO of online retailer Teljoy and a registered Chartered Accountant in South Africa.
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