How retailers can transform into shopper-first organisations

05 January 2022 6 min. read
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With most of life shifted online, retailers in Asia Pacific and around the world have to fast-track their digital transformation efforts. Tyler Munoz, a partner at Publicis Sapient, outlines how retailers can transform into shopper-first organisations.

Persistent intermittent lockdowns and movement restrictions have exacerbated the challenge in visiting brick-and-mortar stores, undoubtedly resulting in an e-commerce boom. Recent research from Publicis Sapient (‘Digital Life Index 2021’) revealed that over two in five shoppers in Singapore and Thailand currently shop online on a weekly basis.

Meanwhile, a recent report by Bain & Company and Facebook also found that an estimated 70 million more people shopped online in Southeast Asia since the pandemic began, with the number of digital consumers in the region projected to surpass 350 million by the end of this year.

How retailers can transform into shopper-first organisations

With shifting consumer priorities and habits, it’s never been more important for retailers to consider how they can incorporate new customer needs and expectations into their current business models. As the new year beckons, retailers who want to transform their businesses into shopper-first organisations should reimagine their businesses for the new age of retail. There are five ways that businesses can do so:

Evolve as platforms to create one-stop shopping for customers

Retailers today are expanding into community, content and a broader product selection. With consumers expecting shopping to be convenient, effortless and enjoyable from start to end, retailers should look into building a connected ecosystem of related services that customers can engage with through one seamless experience.

Additionally, retailers should create value-enhancing, differentiated ecosystems to provide a range of items specific to their category, which can become a convenient ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers. This means that instead of bouncing from website to website, consumers will have the ability to manage multiple needs in one place, as retailers become their go-to destination for owned products, content consumption and ancillary services – all driving loyalty, increased basket sizes and repeat purchasing.

Signalling a market for one-stop shopping platforms, the ‘Digital Life Index 2021’ report also revealed that 85% of shoppers from Singapore and 71% from Thailand make their purchases on online marketplaces (e.g., Etsy, eBay, Alibaba, Shopee) that are typically equipped with retail, content, and community-building capabilities.

Reimagine store experiences

The surge in e-commerce has changed consumer expectations and the role of physical stores. Although the shift to online shopping shows no signs of slowing, there is still room to grow when it comes to returns and trying out items, as only 38% of shoppers globally stated they are satisfied with the ability to try on and try out items online.

What this means is that physical brick-and-mortar stores are, and will still be relevant, and will play an important role in the retail landscape by allowing consumers to experience a brand in person. Retailers can no longer view physical brick-and-mortar stores and digital retail as separate entities and instead, part of one continuous and collective customer journey. As such, having a seamless integration of online and offline will be critical to retailers’ success in 2022 and beyond.

In addition, retailers can also look into having store experiences that are digital and data driven. By seamlessly integrating data across web, mobile, storefront and inventory channels, retailers can digitally expand their physical footprint while providing the connected, personalised experiences shoppers want.

Monetise data to increase brand engagement

With an already saturated retail market, retailers should develop approaches that are unique and tailored to individual consumers. As there currently exists an array of methods a consumer can use to engage with a brand, retailers can look into how each avenue can provide an opportunity to deliver personalised communications. When executed well, such personalised experiences enable brands to not only differentiate themselves but gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

Indeed, research from Publicis Sapient showed that 37% of shoppers globally who buy online would like personalised offers based on spending preferences, while 31% want personalised content or advice to help them shop.

To do so successfully, retailers must break down data silos within their organisations to gain a clearer view and better understanding of their customers' preferences. The use of connected data from point-of-sale transactions, website traffic, email engagement and media impressions will enable retailers to create targeted campaigns, personalised offers and customer-centric products and services, which will ultimately result in increased brand engagement and sales.

Further reading: The case for data and artificial intelligence in retail.

Transform into financial companies

To increase utility, retailers can offer financial services or connect customers with financial services providers as a natural extension of their retail function of buying and selling consumer goods. By doing so, brands can create a new ecosystem that serves a larger demographic than they are already catering to in retail.

Additionally, by leveraging technology and the vast amount of customer data available, retailers can unlock a larger customer base that is either under-banked or has no current banking relationships but still needs financial services like loans, advice or payments.

From digital wallets to banking, customers will have their own personal CFO in their back pocket – a one-stop shop for all their financial needs while still being connected to retailers' larger business suite.

Optimise returns by delivering better customer experiences

A rise in online shopping will undeniably result in an increase in returns. To counter this, retailers will need to leverage data to understand their customers to improve customer experiences and operational efficiency.

For example, data can be gathered on products and how customers are buying and returning, as these will ultimately translate into insights that can be fed into the customer experience. Retailers can also look into providing detailed information on products to allow consumers to make better purchase decisions.

Moving forward, it is expected that the global e-commerce market will only continue to balloon. Therefore, to remain resilient in the years ahead, retailers must continue to prioritise customer experience, as any setback along the customer journey can and will derail the experience in an instant.