Retailers took a big hit from COVID-19. Those unable to respond in real time and without a solid digital strategy were picked off by a virus that eliminated footfall in stores, closed high streets and shopping malls, and forced shoppers online.
The brand and customer experience became entirely dependent upon a digital store and logistics set up that was either not prepared for the surge in traffic or simply non-existent.
Despite retailers continuous innovation, there were many that were totally unprepared. Take a look at GAP’s recent UK store closure, for example - predicated on its failure to adapt or be distinctive enough in a saturated market.
Consumers wield ever greater power and brands must battle to find the right combination of experience versus convenience to not only keep customers happy, but stand out in an expanding crowd.
Loyalty and rewards programmes are key components of this balancing act, and I talk about what it takes to create one that customers really want in a previous article.
For the latest episode of Adyen’s Retail Reimagined podcast, I was asked by Colin Neil, Adyen’s SVP of Business Development about the importance of a cohesive digital strategy for retail brands today.
In the show, I argue that success is dependent upon the level of investment a brand makes in its digital setup, but of course that’s just the start of a much broader challenge.
Place digital at the heart of your retail business
The pandemic exposed the retail organisations that had left their digital footprint last.
Considered an afterthought, the lack of easy-to-use, navigate, and ultimately purchase-through ecommerce environments meant customers simply went elsewhere.
The key question we ask all our clients - but particularly retail brands - is always around the level of investment in digital and where it sits in terms of the future vision of the organisation.
Many strategies around ecommerce are still a case of bolting it on to the side of an existing business. Traditional retailers are so conditioned to physical spaces they still see ecommerce as something they do in addition to the shop floor as opposed to it being a central pillar of a digital strategy.
I recognise great experiences aren’t necessarily rooted in the ecommerce environment, but as a primary touchpoint with your brand, it is a powerful indicator to your customers of what to expect.
The brands delivering great experiences - online and offline - have grasped that digital is not a nice to have or an accessory, it is their business, their product, and are orienting themselves around this approach.
Harness your customer data
One of the biggest challenges faced by nearly every business has been managing increasing volumes of data.
Digital transformation has subsequently been both a blessing and a curse for organisations as they battle through vast datasets to find the signal in the noise, act on insight not instinct, and deliver ‘stuff’ customers really want.
Retailers in particular are swimming in seas of data. The problem is it’s all being generated in disparate tools, channels and platforms that aren’t connected properly.
And by the time it’s all been massaged to be interrogated it's too late to take action. Data should not only be timely and actionable, it should actually drive and automate the customer experience. Do you trust your data to do that?
Adopting a digital product approach and placing digital at the heart of your strategy can help tackle this challenge. Creating an integrated core of interconnected tools, leveraging APIs and pooling customer data into a single source of truth is critical to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
With an intelligently engineered central foundation, leveraging up-to-date customer data, you can start to power some incredible experiences for customers.
Understand your customer journeys properly
As a final point around standing out and delivering exceptional customer experiences, invest the time in analysing your customer journeys.
Recognising each and every touchpoint that a typical customer may engage with your brand and defining how those interactions may flow will provide a map and a list of opportunities to inject your brand.
Operating from a digital core, with accurate customer data and thorough analysis of how users engage with your digital channels you can then quickly identify priority areas to enhance the experience.
Nando’s recognised the experience its customers were receiving with its old rewards programme wasn’t up to scratch. The use of plastic cards relied too heavily on the customer to carry them with them and not lose them - not to mention that the production of plastic didn’t chime with its environmental goals.
To enhance the programme, it worked with us to make the rewards programme entirely digital, designing and building a digital-first, mobile wallet enabled experience that worked across all touchpoints.
It is a great example of a brand analysing its customer journey, reviewing each and every touchpoint and finding a way to improve it at every step. The experience is vastly improved and the results speak for themselves.