No-one could have foreseen where 2020 would take the world of business and commerce, but with the end of the year (and therefore the holiday season) approaching, customers are looking to retailers to provide a level of predictability and comfort. We take a look at what retailers should do about it…
The last few months of the calendar year are traditionally a time of retail acceleration: Halloween, Fireworks’ Night, an adopted Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, post-holiday sales. The closing months of the year are when retailers shine and where footfalls throughout the year get made up. But 2020 is different.
Already it looks very unlikely that Halloween is going to happen in anything like the way we’ve become used to 2020 just isn’t the year to be going from one near-stranger’s door to another on busy suburban streets, and Fireworks’ celebrations will either be parked for a year or feel very different. What about Christmas?
Some might see it as something of a ‘last stand’. If you’re British, nothing gets in the way of your Christmas. Consumers right now are seeking continuity and comfort – they want at least one thing to be dependably, familiarly predictable. Which means this is somewhere where retailers can excel, and make a meaningful contribution to the public morale.
The last few months have accelerated change, and while it’s not completely possible to second-guess which changes in consumer behaviour will prove to be permanent, the message for retailers has been clear: omnichannel will be key to future success.
Are you ready for this?
A recent study by 'Sifted'– a new-media site for Europe’s innovators and entrepreneurs – found that when it comes to the speed of digital transformation, European retail is nearly 20% slower than the US and almost half the speed of China. European retailers were caught off guard when the world went fully online in late March and only a handful were able to quickly spin up new solutions and deliver for their customers on a comprehensive digital platform that met them where they currently were; namely, at home.
Grocers, of course, have had to adapt urgently. And some have done a terrific job and meeting their customers’ new shopping habits and needs. Aldi, for example, worked hard to launch a dedicated online service for customers to shop through and Ocado is now one of the most important grocers in the country.
For other high street retailers, the fashion and footwear stores, the homewares and lifestyle brands, there is just as much pressure to get online right for Christmas as there was for retailers to get it right toward the tail end of March.
What’s so critical about meeting customers where they are – and quickly adapting to their new shopping behaviours – is that because that’s where the money is? With unemployment steadily rising, the outlook for spending over the holidays is going to be significantly suppressed compared to previous holiday seasons. Customers too are less forgiving than they were at the start of the year. They’ve had half a year to get used to this new online dominated model and they expect that the time between ‘click’ and ‘it’s here’ is minimal. For retailers, this means a smooth working supply chain with excellent stock replenishment and order fulfilment is a must. This is, perhaps, where digital transformation comes into play the most. Retailers need to have full visibility of all the data flowing in, out and within their organisation and make sense of it in a way that is meaningful and impactful to the customer. Having real-time, live data that can help you address problems at the moment and see where future ones might pop up is how retailers keep customers satisfied through one of the toughest Christmases on record.
Having a frictionless online platform is a must-have for any retailer intending to get any share of wallet this festive season. This inevitably means the smart, creative leverage of cloud. Scalability and flexibility are critical to retailers’ future, which means those investing in the right platform can bake-in ‘future-proofing’ to ensure they have the agility, speed and, yes, scalability to flex whatever the future may have in store.
The festive season is approaching fast but the world is still contending with events that started in the first few months of the year. It’s different this year; which means retailers need to be ready for anything.
And then there’s the rest of 2021 to get on with. Regardless of how well you do during this Christmas season, there is still much work that needs to be done as a retailer to ensure your business resiliency is up to the task of handling whatever else the fates throw our way. The omnichannel future for ambitious retailers means smart, joined-up connections between, e-commerce, bricks and mortar, wholesale, third-party marketplaces, and more.
To find out more about how Hitachi Solutions is helping retailers, sign up for our LinkedIn Live event today. Taking place on Wednesday 4th November, it will feature guest speakers from Microsoft, Hitachi Solutions, and leading UK retail brand Dr Martens who will be sharing some secrets of their recent accelerated success.