We’re facing a peculiar time for retailers. As institutions like Macy’s and Ralph Lauren are continuing to close their brick-and-mortar stores, many have pegged this as the “Retail Apocalypse” and point to Amazon and e-commerce as the culprits. However, it can’t be the end of retail, considering discount retailers like TJ Maxx and fast-fashion stores like Zara are on the rise with new store openings.
Retail is going through a period of disruption and change akin to a renaissance not an apocalypse. Retailers are reawakening to the ideals of personalized yet highly scalable retailing by leveraging digital technology and unparalleled consumer insights. The speed at which brands need to respond to demand has drastically accelerated, and retailers are working tirelessly to get a foothold in today’s fast-evolving retail landscape. From offering a multitude of options for delivery and pickup, to transforming in-store experiences, retailers are innovating to meet growing expectations.
While there are several elements playing a role in retail success, the most important is the ability to be responsive to customer demand. It is essential to leverage data to understand consumer buying habits and ensure expectations are being met. Brands now have more data about shoppers than ever before. They need to put that data to work to address tailored consumer wants and needs.
Overall, there’s a massive shift in retail and we should expect the landscape to adapt in the coming years. Those that embrace this will lead the charge through the renaissance.
What are retailers doing to succeed?
Personalization Through Technology
Consistently delivering a personalized, cross-channel experience is something retailers need to do well in order to thrive, and 31 percent of companies have caught on to this. To understand customers in real-time, retailers must establish a universal customer master database.
Brooks Brothers is a company that is using personalization to maintain and grow their business. By moving to a cloud delivery model, Brooks Brothers staff has immediate access to the customer information they need worldwide. Because on-site implementation is not required when a cloud delivery model is used, the employees are empowered instantaneously.
In addition, brands like Maui Jim are using analytics to elevate their customer experiences. Through its use of technology, the sunglasses retailer puts the control back in the hands of the consumer. Maui Jim developed a website that allows shoppers from across the globe to browse its extensive online catalog and create their own versions of Maui Jim sunglasses. Using e-commerce to expand its sales, the retailer is able to offer personalized services while still providing products that are consistent with the company brand. Through its use of technology, Maui Jim has experienced an increase in orders, revenue and overall social awareness.
Brooks Brothers and Maui Jim are just two examples of brands leveraging personalization and technology to ensure success.
Data and Analytics in the Supply Chain
In a recent interview, ALDO Group’s COO Bryan Eshelman stated the following: “Consumers don’t want to walk into a store in August and see fall goods. They’re in the summer mindset. They have an event this weekend and they want to find a cute sandal to go with their dress, not long, heavy boots for winter.”
Fast fashion is taking hold in the retail industry, and ALDO is in tune with trends. While it used to take over a year to get a product through the design stage and into stores, such as shoes for the summer season, that process is being transformed by consumer demands. Shoppers expect to see something, buy it and wear it almost instantly–and retailers need to be able to keep up with this to thrive during the renaissance.
Retailers with a digital core like ALDO can collect data to track inventory and the location of products in real time, as well as gather information on customers and markets. This approach enables them to provide each store with specific items of interest at the right time. ALDO’s digital transformation and ability to apply data analytics to the supply chain process gives it the speed and agility needed to win new customers.
Retailers need to meet the customers where they are, which includes a variety of sales channels. Retailers must ensure consistency and connectivity across all channels, while at the same time tailoring for personalization. To do this, there needs to be a digital core in place that holds a single profile of the customer.
A great example of leveraging data insights across multiple channels is Under Armour. Through dynamic software, Under Armour collects and analyzes data in real time to understand consumer workout habits. The retailer leverages information gathered from wearable technology and previous shopping histories to anticipate the needs of their customers and develop highly sought after products. In addition, based on built-in sensors that can detect wear-and-tear, customers receive notifications when it’s time to order new shoes. Under Armour plans to use its advanced insight to cut its 18-month supply chain by up to 40 percent–further heightening its customer experience.
Leveraging the data available to retailers is crucial to success and Under Armour is doing this in an impressive way. They are innovating at a time when consumers are not only asking for it, but demanding it.
Embrace the Renaissance
This is not the end of retail, nor of brick-and-mortar stores. The industry is simply going through a period of transformation as innovations in technology and consumer demands are changing the landscape. There are retailers who are redefining the industry as we know it and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Like the artists of the Renaissance, get creative and embrace this period of change!