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Review: Digital Transformation Strategy Part Three

Retailers must deal with an increasing number of channels while carefully managing product ranges across these touchpoints, which adds complexity, but thankfully they have access to… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Review: Digital Transformation Strategy Part Three

Retailers must deal with an increasing number of channels while carefully managing product ranges across these touchpoints, which adds complexity, but thankfully they have access to technology solutions able to handle these challenges.

Speaking at the third part of The Retail Bulletin Digital Transformation Strategy 2021 webinar Chris Griffin, CEO of Secret Sales, suggested: “Brands were previously great product makers but that’s not the only thing that’s important any more. They now need to look at every single touchpoint. And the whole thing that a brand is about is much bigger than the actual product.”

Protecting brand equity

This involves managing the lifecycle of the product, incorporating sustainability, which invariably encompasses dealing with non-full-price inventory. The management of this is increasingly important in maintaining brand values and Griffin cites Secret Sales as providing the online channel through which brand owners can manage the sale of their excess inventory without damaging margins and ensuring they protect brand equity.

“We’re a digital marketplace that brands can treat almost as their own channel. We’ve designed it to present their products well and they can control things. We’ve given them a tech lever to make choices so they could put an item on sale mid-season at say a 30/40% discount. It’s an exciting proposition for brand owners as it solves all elements of clearance. Clearly most brands would rather sell all items at full-price but it just doesn’t happen,” says Griffin.

Callum Campbell, chief executive of Linnworks, recognises the growth in the online channel and the many touchpoints now available to retailers and brand owners, which includes marketplaces like Secret Sales. “The challenge for retailers is to focus on what they are going after. To invest in the areas where the customers are, where they are discovering products. It’s about investing in the reach but also the back-end technology as retailers don’t want to be running out of stock. It’s about managing the full lifecycle of products,” he says.

Technology much more affordable

Thankfully, according to Griffin, the technology is today available for retailers to tap into the opportunities: “Because of SaaS [Software as a Service] retailers can now do things that 10 years ago they could not have afforded. It’s so much easier today.”

What such solutions also enable is fast implementation and potentially easy integration too, which Deepak Anand, senior director at BigCommerce, says is vitally important today because as sales shift online retailers have to move quickly: “In the current environment we don’t have time. We need to ensure integrations can be done in a few clicks so retailers can scale globally, fast. With the retailers we work with – including Ted Baker and Bensons for Beds – it’s all about time-to-market. They don’t want three-year product developments.”

With these big changes taking place in the retail market Paul Casey, head of ecommerce account management at Space48, says many retailers have found their technology infrastructure unsuitable and considered moving from on-premise to Saas solutions but this might not necessarily be the best move: “Sometimes the issue can be the eco-system around the platform not being right. Maybe this just needs reconfiguring, not a re-platforming. Maybe the retailer is only using 20% of a platform so they need to relook at the technology.”

Analysing shopping journeys

Although David Kohn, customer and ecommerce director at Heal’s, has undertaken a re-platforming he says a great deal of focus at Heal’s has been on the product pages as part of the company’s broad investigation into the way customers shop.

“A massive thing for Heal’s is how things look. We need to have some stickiness – through lifestyle photography – and by helping customers see what products would look like in different fabrics. We’re therefore investing in rendering technology. We’re also working on 3D tours of the store that will be ‘shoppable’,” he explains.

For Louise Cruttenden, marketing director at Huel, A/B testing has been massively valuable to improving the shopping journey: “Often brands put great effort into big launches and sit back. Iterations work best for us. Don’t worry about things being beautiful. Sometimes static images can smash video production. It’s about listening to your customers.”

Look beyond tech-focused teams

Michael Jervis, head of digital at Mattress Online, agrees about the value of A/B testing and also highlights the point that retailers should be aware of the fact their ecommerce teams will be tech-focused but the customer’s will not be that way inclined.

What has particularly helped the customer shopping journey at Heal’s is the implementation of a solution to connect online customers to store specialists. The conversion rates for people who have engaged with this live chat facility is 10-times greater than for customers who have not.

Kohn says the value of people should not be overlooked: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) can do simple queries but when it comes to getting customers to complete the checkout process then it’s not there yet. Social interaction is incredibly important. To bring real people into the online experience is a fantastic development.”

For Janis Thomas, ecommerce & marketing director at Look Fabulous Forever, an important initiative has been the introduction of a colour quiz solution. “It’s increasingly important to be able to tell if a product suits the customer. The colour quiz helps determine the palette of colours for a customer. It’s been fantastically successful. We thought it would be bottom-of-funnel, the final hurdle before a transaction, but we’ve found it is top-of-funnel, first engagement for many customers,” she says.

Leveraging the data 

Such initiatives help accrue data on customers that help retailers deliver an improved experience. For Harpreet Cheema, head of workplace services at Sodexo, the challenge has been to deal with a lot of incoming data.

“Until recently we didn’t know how to use the data and we had a lot of it. Lots of organisations syphon off data from their customers but where is it then going? Previously ours went to three different platforms but now we’re working with Microsoft and we’ve got a simple, single point where we can see the key KPIs [derived from this data]. We’re making it easy for the people who have to implement the data to access it, which is vital,” he explains.

Cheema recommends retailers “keep it simple and just pick the key data points and KPIs, and then keep iterating and you’ll see the results come through quickly”.

With this data Anouk Brown, head of marketing & digital at AAMP Global, says companies need to be creative and she cites Starbucks that has cleverly used “old school tactics” in order to get people into its outlets when they reopened up after the various lockdowns. Almost half of store transactions in Q3 were undertaken by customers using the scheme and taking advantage of the rewards on offer.

By Glynn Davis

For more detail see HERE for the recordings

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