I recently had the opportunity to attend my first face-to-face industry event since the pandemic. The two-day event, Retail Days, was held in Deauville, France and brought together French retailers and providers of retail-specific software, which in our case is CGI Retail Suite. There were over 80 attendees and, for me, it was wonderful to engage with both current and new industry counterparts. More so because this event revealed that despite the seamless way in which the world has adapted to virtual meetings, face-to-face networking events are irreplaceable. The spontaneity of interactions and idea exchanges, and the opportunity to access a wealth of knowledge, expertise and resources in the same place is challenging to replicate in a virtual setting.
An opportunity to build and nurture your digital ecosystem
According to the CGI 2021 Voice of Our Clients, digital leaders demonstrate several attributes that help explain their success compared to those organizations not yet seeing results. One attribute is that digital leaders are more collaborative. In fact, digital leaders in retail are 56% more likely to collaborate more efficiently. They also view their business as part of a larger ecosystem, leveraging partners effectively to create competitive advantage.
In reality, few organizations own and manage all aspects of their value chain. Instead, they build an ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders, including technology partners, with shared values that bring complementary capabilities to the table to help them achieve their business objectives.
As industry lines blur, I believe that such industry networking events are crucial to building and nurturing digital ecosystems that extend beyond the boundaries of retail. They provide organizations with concrete business opportunities while helping identify future areas for growth. They are also integral to building synergistic partnerships to deliver true innovation and greater value to clients and, ultimately, their retail customers.
Events like these are critical to learning what’s “out there” and hearing first-hand from industry leaders on the changes underway.
Trend-spotting: The future of retail is the “experience.”
In the last two years, the retail industry has focused on fulfillment and rightly so. Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have needed to find innovative ways to deliver goods (click and collect, ship from store, drop shipping, etc.) while keeping customers and employees safe. Now the focus will be on the quality of engagement with customers. Drawing upon insights from the CGI Voice of Our Clients, I share three recommendations for delivering unified customer experiences.
Provide customers with the right digital tools to support a unified customer experience
Retailers still struggle with “connecting” physical and digital experiences. A most common instance is when customers see a different price for a product in-store and a different one online, often leading to disappointment and frustration.
Efficient order management systems have become table stakes. In the next couple of years, retailers must invest in digital tools for customers that enhance the customer journey. For instance, developing a mobile app for customers with dedicated in-store features such as QR functionality to scan and learn more about a product, including raw materials, manufacturing, packaging and distribution. This feature is particularly relevant today as customers grow more conscious about health and sustainability.
Enable a single, optimal and predictive inventory position
Inventory optimization has become critical for retailers to deliver on their brand promise while containing costs. Moreover, investors are now scrutinizing retailers’ inventory levels, given their impact on sales and earnings forecasts. Furthermore, inventory accuracy is the bedrock of an agile supply chain and a core element of a holistic digital transformation strategy.
Ensuring a single, optimal and predictive inventory position starts with improving data completeness and quality. In addition, the application of advanced technologies methods and decision science will help calculate the optimal inventory position and make it more predictive.
Optimize in-store performance
Lack of real-time visibility of store operations continues to plague retailers. In addition, there is a growing workforce shortage that has prompted some stores to cut back on their operating hours. Significant salary hikes to attract and retain employees are expected, which will impact retailers’ bottom lines and make optimizing in-store performance even more critical.
Assessing the quality of store performance begins with acquiring a clear and accurate picture of the current situation. This includes performing customer sentiment analysis using social listening tools and technologies like natural language processing (NLP). The next step is to perform an audit and then make improvements. An audit management and KPI monitoring solution such as CGI’s Seebrite provides customized KPIs and dashboards, combined with drill-down and filtering features mapped to each employee’s specific needs. It allows store employees to measure customer visits, manage and support campaigns, benchmark results and share best practices.
The retail industry’s digital leaders have proven that being lean, agile and flexible is key to delivering expected results from digitization strategies. They have demonstrated that to win in the digital era requires a mindset that is both employee- and customer-focused. This not only supports greater productivity, it also helps to reimagine the customer experience to be more human and personalized.