To stay competitive in the post-pandemic market, retail businesses, regardless of their size, need to audit their digital transformation efforts and make sure they’re still relevant to their customers. Whether you have a formal digital transformation strategy in place or just considering one, the time to focus on your efforts is now. Businesses that fail to do so risk becoming antiquated — real fast.
Here are some areas of focus your business should assess as it moves forward with transformation:
1. The Age of Zero Click Search – Make Sure You’re Being Seen
As the retail space slowly returns to “normal” operations, consumers are looking to find out if your store is open for business and under what restrictions. How your customers find that information has significantly changed over the last several years. Standard web search results have been trumped by business listings, often provided by the search engine itself, which show up in the margins of the search results. These listings include vital information such as hours of operation, location map, and contact info.
These artificial intelligence (AI)-powered systems, such as Google Business Listings, give customers the information they’re looking for without requiring them to click through to your website. This is known as “Zero Click Search.” Make sure the information these search engines display for consumers is up-to-date and accurate. If not, you’ll soon feel the sting of a disappointed customer, who will probably move along to your competitor.
2. Capitalize on All the Customer Data You’ve Collected
Many brick-and-mortar retailers rely on Google Analytics (on average, 50 percent to 60 percent) to assess the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. However, Google Analytics provides only a limited view.
Retailers that rely on customer traffic need to know where phone calls are originating, what their customers are saying about them in online reviews, how their social media profiles size up against their competitors, and what market trends their customers are responding to.
While there are independent software and service providers that focus on one or more of these aspects, they often cost tens of thousands for a subscription. Alternatively, new SaaS marketing platforms provide a 360-degree marketing view for only about a $100/month, well within the reach of small and midsized retailers looking to automate the marketing process.
The union of AI and data has made effective marketing tools more accessible and more affordable to franchise and midsized business ventures. Look into these inexpensive options to do a lot of your digital “heavy lifting.”
3. Take Your Stock Room Virtual, Now!
Many retailers use their website and social media channels to market their business, but don’t always make a full catalog of their products available for viewing. Unfortunately, research shows today’s consumers are doing less window shopping (i.e., shelf browsing) than ever before.
The pandemic has shoppers making lists and visiting retailers with specific purchase goals in mind. They’re now accustomed to researching what they want online before they visit a retailer’s store. Is your full line of inventory online for your customers to peruse? Now more than ever, it’s important to let customers know about the items you have in stock and which items you’re currently promoting using your social media feeds and website (even if you don’t yet offer an e-commerce shopping experience).
4. Automate and Optimize Tasks
Expedient, data-driven, decision-making and automated workflows are the must-haves of any digital transformation process. Integration of all aspects of your business, both online and physical, builds an ecosystem that customers have come to expect from all their brand interactions. And throughout it all, you need to maintain operational consistency and accuracy.
To promote integration, start by implementing an ERP system. ERP systems breaks down the barriers between applications to provide a more holistic view of cross-channel operations, including inventory, customer transactions, purchases and returns, customer service, and more.
5. Expand Your Search Engine Friendliness
The nature of web search itself has changed; your digital transformation needs to account for those changes. Consumers increasingly rely on voice search tools, digital assistants, GPS systems, and social media to access information about products and services.
Are you making the information about your retail business listing, voice search, and social media friendly?
If not, you risk losing a large chunk of potential business because you’re not able to respond to customer inquiries originating from these new search channels.
While the successful digital transformation of your retail business may seem intimidating, time consuming, and expensive, the key for many small retailers is to identify new digital management platforms that can readily undertake many of these tasks, from business listing accuracy to reputation management and system automation. By employing one of these services, successful digital transformation is in reach for all, which is critical as the doors open for the post-pandemic marketplace.