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Retail convergence: the key to the future of shopping

Understandably, the press has devoted many pages to the future of retail – experts from all parts of the industry have shared their opinions and proposed their solutions. What they all agree on is that, now more than ever, online and physical stores need to come together if retailers want to be in a solid position to deliver for their customers.

It’s all about convergence – harmonising not only technical but people-based processes to offer seamless shopping on the customer’s terms, using a platform that is robust enough to withstand any of the storms which will undoubtedly come its way in the future.

That means following the lead of those retailers who have already challenged their own operational conventions to build something better:  

  • Dismantle traditional business silos. It’s all one operation with one aim – to sell customers what they want, when they want it – whether you’re in Sales, Logistics, HR or Facilities Management 
  • Converge all channels and remove the boundaries between them, from catalogue to online  and in-store. It’s the only way to deliver a seamless shopping experience with the customer at its heart 
  • Give your store associates the same kind of high-quality, connected technical facilities as your customers – they’re your greatest asset, and they can’t hope to provide a first-class service with second-class tools.

Technology from the top down 

Convergence relies on having the right technological infrastructure, with joined-up systems which ‘talk’ to each other and allow for efficient operations management through every part of the business. Customers should be central to this – they should be able to access products, get expert advice, find and share information and make purchases when and where they want to, without having to give a second thought to what ‘channel’ they are using, or having to jump through operational hoops to get what they want. The challenge is to make their journey from ‘browse’ to ‘buy’ as seamless as possible, using a combination of online, device-led and in-store services to get them there.   

Transforming the customer experience

All the evidence suggests that, having had to adapt to a new way of shopping, customers are looking for a rich, personalised experience where they can buy their desired item at the right price, in the right place, on their own terms. Whether that’s in-store or via a virtual consultation is up to them – retailers should be in a position to offer both.

The quality of this kind of customer experience depends on the strength of the frontline team – the store associates. The more equipped they are to deal with customer needs and the more willing they are to lead the individual on their journey to purchase, the better the outcome for both customer and retailer. The technology is there to enable them to have all the information they need at their fingertips – from product details to stock availability to the purchase profile of the customers themselves – and to share this with the customer to give them unprecedented levels of service.  

For example, the seamless transition between discovering a new product, connecting with a store associate for expert advice and recommendations for matching items, getting an instant discount or promotional offer then paying for their items either in-store or as part of a virtual consultation is enabled by technology but relies on human interaction to deliver an outstanding experience and, ultimately, the sale.  

The view from the bottom line 

When it comes to the bottom line, what matters is connecting with the customer, whether they choose to meet you online, in-store or through a virtual consultation. Retailers need to recognise this for a profitable future – and that means realigning their business to converge all channels so that they work together and complement each other. 

Take the first step and contact us for a demo today. 

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Red Ant, 9th September 2020
Retail convergence and Retail OS are key to the future of shopping

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