How are retailers using AI to drive seamless omnichannel experiences?
The dramatic shift to online during the pandemic has left customers used to a highly digitised shopping experience. Now that stores have reopened, British shoppers are seeking the ease of digital platforms on their trips to the High Street.
Over the past eighteen months, retailers have needed to transform quickly in order to meet new customer demand. Whilst navigating a new retail landscape, where bridging the gap between in-store and online is key, companies are grappling with a multitude of other challenges.
Meanwhile, some retailers have used this time of unparalleled disruption to begin their digital transformation journeys, with many looking to conversational and analytical AI to deliver a more personalised and flawless omnichannel experience.
To explore some of the best practices and challenges happening in retail, Alexandra Leonards, senior reporter at Retail Systems, was joined by Seb Reeve, strategy director at Nuance.
Customer engagement in the omnichannel era
Almost everyone in the developed world has been spending more time online during the pandemic, and almost all channels have been flooded with increased traffic over the past 18 months.
This was fine for the largest retailers, but many companies struggled to fill all the necessary channels with the sheer volume – and quality - of content necessary to engage discerning modern consumers.
Many consumers had more time to research products online, and the best adapted retailers responded to this by offering personalised boutique-style experiences that can help to engage this generation of consumers.
Meanwhile, Generation Z consumers are keener to try new brands than the generations before them, preferring to discover them through new channels while taking an experience-focused view of online retail.
To explore these challenges and opportunities, Retail Systems was joined by Sung Cho, Product Marketing Director, Commerce at Sitecore, a digital experience platform and content hub.
Weird Fish: Boosting sales without physical retail
If you had to pick out the words that defined retail in 2020, it is likely "survival" would come up quickly.
When the pandemic hit, the attentions of many brands with a significant brick-and-mortar presence shifted to keeping their balance sheets out of the red, and keeping existing employees on payroll, rather than expansion.
With a sizeable portion of the UK public out of fulltime work, expanding a fashion brand that relies on consumers with disposable income might seem like a tall order.
However, amid the chaotic series of events that was 2020 some brands managed to ride the e-commerce wave to increase their overall sales.
To discuss the challenges of creating growth in a challenging environment, Will McCurdy, content editor of Retail Systems, was joined by Ben Mercier, customer director at Weird Fish.
WatchPilot: Launching a successful e-commerce business in a pandemic.
If you went back in time to 2018 and told people there was going to be a pandemic that would shut stores, lock people inside, and crash economies everywhere, there is a big chance no one would have believed you.
And if you told people this post-apocalyptic sounding period would also be a good time to start a business selling high-end watches, they would likely not believe that either.
However, while many traditional High Street retailers faltered, laying off staff and racking up debts, some new businesses thrived – capitalising on the pandemic’s once in a lifetime impact on consumer tastes and buying habits to launch successful new ventures.
To delve into how to launch a profitable niche business in a pandemic, Will McCurdy, content editor of Retail Systems, was joined by Tim Harrison, founder and director at WatchPilot.
Going global: How are retailers using technology to launch in different markets?
The differences between the 44 countries of Europe go far beyond how their citizens talk, sound, or act. Not only are these consumers interested in different goods from their retailers, the way in which they want to interact with them also differs markedly.
Payment methods which are mainstream in some countries are almost unknown in others, while VAT regulation and tax protocols also differ heavily between countries, creating more barriers for retailers who wish to tap into the €3.25 trillion European market. And if the pandemic hadn’t amplified the challenges of going global enough, new regulations are soon set to emerge governing payments.
To explore these challenges, Retail Systems was joined by Gary Hammond, Head of Product at Kooomo, an e-commerce platform which helps retailers trading internationally optimise their operations.
This episode delves further into how retailers are taking their brands global post pandemic, the right IT infrastructure for breaking new markets and tackling the challenges of European expansion for retailers.
The role of real-time information in retail risk management
From changing consumer habits and preferences, to the accelerated shift towards e-commerce – the continued and unforeseen impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the risk landscape for retailers.
During months of store closures, and stop-start lockdowns, retailers have had to build operational resilience and flexibility into their store estate and workforce, whilst ensuring the highest levels of health and safety in-store to keep both customers and employees safe.
Meanwhile, the booming e-commerce market has forced retailers to address the constantly evolving cyber and fraud risk, while events around the globe continue to disrupt supply chains. As a result, those who lack 24/7 visibility can put operational continuity at risk and produce disjointed customer experience, with all of the reputational and financial risk that brings.
To tackle this, many retailers are turning to on-the-ground information via real-time information platforms, which use AI and machine learning to process billions of data units from thousands of public information sources across the globe to alert them to emerging and sudden threats as they occur.
To delve further into these challenges for retailers and possible solutions Retail Systems was joined by Helen Sutton, Senior Vice President of EMEA and APAC sales at Dataminr.
What a difference delivery makes to retail in 2021
The last 12 months have seen unprecedented turbulence for the retail industry, with the boom in e-commerce and changing customer expectations upending business models and forcing retailers to adapt their supply chains and delivery processes in order to survive.
And as consumers look set to continue shopping online in the new retail landscape, the role of a positive post-purchase, delivery and returns experience has become critical to ensuring customer loyalty and a retailer’s reputation.
The next six months will also be a test for the changing role of the store, with the omnichannel model placing experiential retail at the heart of a retailer’s physical and brand strategy. As a result, retailers are under more pressure than ever to reshape their supply chains and business models to ensure operational resilience and provide excellent customer experience.
To explore these challenges, Retail Systems was joined by Duncan Licence, vice president of global product at Metapack, an e-commerce delivery management software provider. This episode delves further into how shopping preferences have changed in the last year, the changing role of bricks and mortar stores and takes a look at the future of e-commerce and what this is likely to mean for post-purchase and delivery.
The price of fast fashion
While the clothes we buy are affordable – the cost of rising demand, endless choice, and a constant turnover of new styles – is high.
The environmental impact of our shopping habits is alarming – in the UK, roughly nine and a half thousand garments are dumped every five minutes. The social consequences of limitless access to cheap garments, are just as concerning.
Alexandra Leonards spoke to Dana Thomas, fashion journalist and bestselling author, about her latest book – Fashionopolis. The book takes a detailed and comprehensive look at the fashion industry, exploring how we got to a place where more than 100 billion tonnes worth of garments are made every year.
Ethical fashion: how big retailers can learn from independent brands
Not only do retailers have a moral responsibility, but with consumers becoming increasingly concerned about where their products come from, there is also a clear economic argument for sustainability, transparency, and ethical sourcing across retail supply chains.
With a growing scrutiny of fast fashion, high-profile exposures of poor working conditions within retailer supply chains, and ongoing reports of forced labour in Northern China, the call for ethical fashion has never been louder.
Alexandra Leonards explored how retail chains can learn from smaller, sustainable brands with Kalkidan Legesse, the co-founder and managing director of independent ethical clothing and lifestyle store Sancho’s, in the first episode of Retail in Focus.
Find out how HULFT can help you manage data, integration, supply chain automation and digital transformation across your retail enterprise.
Talking shop: retail technology solutions from Brother
Retail Systems editor Peter Walker sits down with Brother’s senior commercial client manager Jessica Stansfield to talk through the company’s solutions for retailers and hospitality businesses, what’s new in labelling technology, and the benefits of outsourcing printing.