By Michael Cabra, Cybera
In recent decades, digital transformation has changed the way we shop, revolutionizing how we find and purchase all types of goods and services. As a result, today’s consumers now expect frictionless experiences whenever and wherever they shop. And today, providing the ability for customers to shop whenever and from wherever they want and need to, is more critical than ever.
Unfortunately, all the hype surrounding digital transformation can be off-putting for many smaller retailers and convenience stores (C-store). Most naturally have concerns about security, cost, or a lack of skilled IT staff—which can lead to the feeling that digital transformation is too daunting to undertake. The real dilemma, however, is that doing nothing ultimately poses an even larger risk of getting left behind and disrupted by competitors that embrace technology.
So, what can a small retailer do? The good news is that recent technology advancements have made digital transformation much easier and faster to achieve. So much so, that retailers of any size can now selectively introduce technologies that quickly make their business more competitive as they pave the way for the next wave of digitization efforts.
If you have a small retail business or C-store, how do you kick-start your digital transformation journey? Here are five steps you can take to streamline your journey.
Step 1: Start With A Solid Plan And Clearly Defined Objectives
First, decide what digital transformation means for your business and what challenges you hope to address. This might include gaining deeper customer insights so you can increase online traffic, or to introduce innovative ways to service in-store customers. Alternatively, your top focus might be automating your business processes to reduce sales friction and grow new or incremental revenue streams.
Having a clear vision and plan will make it much easier to identify which technologies address your needs and ensure that you achieve your objectives efficiently and cost-effectively.
The aim of the game is to commit to the right priorities for your business, defining a strategy that can evolve as your transformation journey progresses.
Step 2: Create A Mobile-Friendly Digital Presence
Developing a customer-centric website is just the start. Today’s omnichannel consumers have become equally comfortable shopping online and in-store (certainly, online is winning the race now), and they value the convenience of click-and-collect services. They are also increasingly likely to browse and make purchases using a mobile device.
Make sure your retail website is optimized for mobile. Why? According to analytics captured by Adobe, 58 percent of retail web traffic generated during the 2019 holiday season was produced by mobile devices. What is more, research shows that 50 percent of local mobile searches ultimately lead to in-store visits (again, maybe not today, but certainly in the future, this paradigm will resume).
Step 3: Integrate Social Media
Along with accessing valuable data that makes it easy to identify the likes and preferences of individual customers, integrating social media into your digital footprint also grants you access to their social media feeds. That gives you a platform to encourage interactive customer engagement with your brand—and even send ads directly to highly qualified prospects.
Tapping into customer reviews is another way to validate or improve services and product selections. According to SalesCycle.com, 70 percent of customers consult reviews or ratings before making a purchase, while over 60 percent say they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product reviews and ratings.
Step 4: Deploy Mobile Apps
Once you have established a solid digital presence, it is time to deploy technologies that drive customer loyalty and purchasing behaviors. That might include using mobile marketing platforms to deliver targeted and context-relevant messages (such as personalized recommendations based on purchasing history) directly to a customer’s mobile device to stimulate add-on sales.
Using data leveraged from a mobile app, you also can share coupons for products they might be interested in. Or you can offer rewards in recognition of recent purchases and social media interactions.
If you want to take things to the next level, integrating your apps with in-store Wi-Fi and beaconing technologies makes it possible to build heat maps and identify in-store traffic flows. Along with boosting how you monetize floor space and optimize product placement, this level of integration enables real-time location-based interactions within your stores. That, in turn, helps transform the shopping experience for your customers—in a positive way!
Step 5: Boost Customer Engagement
Understanding which communication channels and messaging modes appeal to which customers can help you engage with them more effectively. With the right digital platforms in place, you can easily determine which tools appeal to which audiences and selectively target communications via email, texts, online chats, or app-based alerts.
For example, when your customer is standing next to a bicycle display, you can automatically send a coupon for a cycle helmet or clothing accessories to encourage related purchases that drive up their basket value.
It Is OK To Start Slowly, But You Need To Start Now
The key to any successful digital transformation journey is to stop delaying and get off the starting blocks, beginning with a strategy that keeps you focused on your top priorities. Rather than a one-time event that happens overnight, digital transformation should be a phased process with incremental changes that deliver clear, measurable value.
To maximize your outcomes, make sure you leverage purpose-built tools to get the most out of your data. Finally, be prepared for how this newfound business intelligence might challenge your previous assumptions about customer behavior. Be open to new possibilities, and you will quickly discover the vast business opportunities that digital transformation can offer.
About The Author
Michael Cabra, Senior Product Manager, Global and Emerging Markets, Cybera (www.cybera.com), brings over two decades of business strategy, product management, and technology development in both publicly-traded, large enterprises and emerging start-ups. Cabra has helped to develop and bring to market cutting-edge technologies that have redefined industries, such as communications, networking, and video/TV. He has held leadership roles at some of the world’s most well-known and highly respected organizations, including Sprint, Cingular Wireless, and CSpire.