The retail industry is undergoing digital transformation: consumers are increasingly using online channels as a convenient way of researching products, comparing, buying and reviewing them. If physical stores are to avoid being left behind, they must play to their strengths – with the support of digital solutions.
Retail is undergoing radical change: mobile and online sales continue to soar, while physical outlets are feeling the heat. In many cities, specialist stores are putting up the shutters. In certain product categories, sales growth is only possible via the Internet or new countries. For the vast majority of retailers, it is not a question of when and whether they should incorporate the online world into their business model, but how to do it best. To survive and thrive in this new environment, they need to embrace an integrated, distinct product and service offering – in conjunction with intelligent omnichannel sales promotion. This is the basis for a positive shopping experience that draws customers in and brings them back – and it is the basis for successful digital retail.
The disruptive power of customer centricity
Digitization is bringing upheaval to the entire retail industry. As with other sectors such as manufacturing, services, and infrastructure, it is enabling enhanced and entirely new business models. Anywhere, anytime connectivity is shifting the emphasis away from the product and toward the consumer. In the "Age of the Customer", the focus is firmly on the individual’s wants and needs. Even industries such as retail that have traditionally been customer-driven have felt the disruptive power of this development. Today’s customers have new and different expectations. They’re better informed, can compare prices and products in real time, and are accustomed to personalized Internet advertising geared to their preferences. Retail must respond to these new attitudes if it is to keep pace with the major e-commerce players.
Creating a positive shopping experience
At the same time, traditional merchants have unique strengths. As a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates, physical stores remain the most important consumer touchpoint. More than four out of ten respondents go shopping in a local store at least once a week; almost 60 percent would switch to another shop operated by their favored retail brand if their closest outlet were to shut. No single e-tailer was able to draw as many weekly shoppers. Nevertheless, the physical store cannot stay the way it is. Shoppers expect low prices and high convenience – for example in the shape of cashless payments – and they also want a positive experience. This calls for the digitization of bricks-and-mortar retail within an integrated omnichannel business model – where the physical store is a lifestyle destination, a showroom or a collection point for online purchases.
Connectivity as the basis for digital retail
In other words, consumers want a smart store environment with a fully connected shopping experience. The advantages of the physical retail encounter – products that can be seen close-up and tried out, face-to-face advice and personal communications – need to be combined and incorporated into a digital experience. This can be achieved by harnessing the power of integration, connectivity and data analytics. T-Systems can provide the ideal digital infrastructure – one that enables offerings to be tailored to individual preferences, and effective, efficient customer communications and retention.
A customer journey that is digitized from end to end
The typical shopping process (the customer journey) whether online, mobile or physical, can be divided into five phases: awareness, choice, transaction, delivery and after-sales. Traditional retail must find ways of actively supporting the consumer throughout their personal pathway – no matter what channel they use to make first contact, and even if they switch channels along the way. T-Systems enables retail industry players to create a customer journey that is digitized from end to end – providing expert advice and digital solutions for all phases of the shopping process, and managing all components. The result is a one-stop digital retail solution.