While many businesses could see it coming, the 23rd March 2020 still sent shockwaves across the country. As the nation went into lockdown and people retreated indoors, the UK economy experienced a seismic shift, especially within Digital Transformation.
And retailers felt it just as hard as anyone.
With lockdown measures implemented, shops closing their doors and the high street becoming desolate, the future was extremely uncertain. And for many retailers it still is. Yes, the beginning of 2020 saw many predicted trends for commerce whether the use of chat bots, subscription models, voice search and AI, but with the unpredictable occurring it became about ensuring the lives of many businesses.
Some however, saw their opportunity to flourish.
The impact of lockdown on retail
Brick and mortar stores clearly felt the impact as sales plummeted in April, with the likes of Primark – with no eCommerce offering – said to have lost around £650 million a month as stores closed and staff were furloughed.
Online became the prominent channel for retailers, with online shopping as a proportion of retail reaching a record high of 30.7% in April according to the ONS. Globally, retail websites generated 14.34 billion visits in March 2020, which was up from 12.81 billion in January. These numbers are only growing.
This brought with it its own challenges. Could existing platforms cope with the increased demand? How could warehouse fulfilment continue while ensuring staff remain safe? These were fundamental questions to be answered to keep businesses open and running efficiently.
2020’s biggest trends in sharp focus
With the need to provide the best possible customer experience online being more important than ever before, we saw the requirement for rapid digital transformation. Many of 2020’s predicted trends came quickly into focus.
Direct to Consumer (DTC)
Numerous businesses began to pivot their offering and sell direct to consumers online, as opposed to traditional retailer channels for suppliers.
The need to provide up to date information quickly and at scale became essential for retailers.
With online traffic growing and consumer demand increasing, it was critical for businesses to stand out and provide a unique experience, craved by their users.
Headless and APIs
Creating a flexible connection between the customer-facing front end and the technical backend became even more important. Going headless provided the essential agility to respond to ongoing challenges.
Short-term challenges were magnified. A quick response was needed. Digital transformation at pace occurred at an unprecedented level. But what about the long term?
Responding to the new normal
Opening back-up with reduced capacity and cautious consumers with mixed levels of confidence regarding the economy is the new challenge.
It’s simply impossible to predict the future, but what is clear is the need to be able to react to similarly unstable situations. Digital transformation is the essential means to achieve this objective, whether enhancing your B2C offering, B2B offering or pivoting to a DTC model.
Identifying your key digital challenges
It’s likely you will face the following challenges:
How does your website respond to increased levels of traffic and demand from users?
Yes most retailers will need to ensure their website has the speed and scalability to respond to key online events including Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well as traditional peaks, but what about the unexpected and unpredictable fluctuations? How do you respond then?
And it’s not just about your eCommerce website’s ability to cope. Fulfilment simply must keep up with the increase in sales. Consider the fact that supermarkets really couldn’t scale their home delivery service quickly enough in the face of unprecedented demand.
There’s no doubt, AI can have a huge impact on eCommerce operations, from virtual assistants, enhanced personalisation, smart search, automation, and retargeting to name just a few.
But deploying AI for your business in the correct way is a challenge in itself.
There’s a ladder to getting AI to work and it starts with your data and its quality. Put simply, there is no magic wand.
Reacting faster to market trends and challenges
Agility and flexibility is fundamental. The market can change in an instant, new disruptors can challenge the status quo, and pandemics can quickly flip ways of working and legacy operations.
It is therefore essential for businesses to be agile and utilise DEVOPS processes to facilitate this change, moving from months for planned changes to days and weeks.
Providing a seamless end-to-end customer experience has never been more critical. Your users demand it and they’ll have no issue with switching to a competitor who trumps your onsite experience.
Consider what makes you unique. How can you stand out online across your website and the full channel mix?
But this isn’t the end. It’s vital to manage expectations and deliver on the promises you make online through inventory management and order management.
Making digital transformation a success and succeeding online
So, what does a good end-to-end customer experience look like? And how do you make it a reality for your business?
You can find out, learn more about digital transformation for retailers and discover how you can equip your business for the future in a recent webinar with Linnworks.
At DeeperThanBlue we have years of high profile success delivering both bespoke and large-scale eCommerce solutions to brands with complex and demanding infrastructures. To learn more about our approach and client successes get in touch with us today.
by Craig Melville – check out my LinkedIn page here and say hello 👋
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