London,

Top 5 takeaways from the Retail Expert roundtable

Could 2021 be the year of retail transformation? 
This was the question posed to a group of retail experts in a webinar roundtable discussion we held in partnership with Quinyx, Concrete, and RetailNext.

Mark Cardinal, North Face, Director of Store Operations, Peter Joelsson, Head of Global E-Commerce Execution & Projects, GANT, and Jordan Simpson, Retail Operations Manager, Penhaligon’s were the experts on the panel. They shared their insight into what they’ve learnt from 2020’s challenges and what they’re doing to prepare for 2021.

Without doubt, the top priority across the industry is to accelerate the process towards delivering unified commerce in a simple and cost effective way.

Here’s why unified commerce is a the top of every retailers wishlist:

1. Bridging the gap between online and offline

With retailers around the globe forced to shut up shop in the wake of the pandemic, many had to quickly adapt the way they operate to serve their customers.

“What our team and our customers showed us is we need a quick evolution – some would say revolution – to omnichannel,” said Mark Cardinal. “We learned quickly that time was of the essence. Our customer, more than likely, now enters our doors where they’ve already started their transaction online in some form or another.

“They’ve been on our website, they’ve Googled reviews, they’ve looked on other sites for comparison, and now they’ve come into our stores. They’ve come into our stores, in most cases now, with a definite purpose.

“Regardless of why the customer has come into the store – whether it’s an ecom return, picking up a BOPIS order, or to try on items they’ve found online – they still want and desire an in person representation of the brand.”

This illustrates the importance of combining the physical and the digital – and ensuring the two channels are integrated seamlessly.

Peter Joelsson added: “We have to bridge the gap between online and offline by integrating all our systems so our associates and customers can access the right information, at the right time, from anywhere.”

2. Meeting new ways of shopping

“Ten months ago we wouldn’t have been able to anticipate how important something like curbside pick-up would be for our stores,” added Mark Cardinal. “It’s been difficult to anticipate the changing behaviours of our customers but, by innovating, we’ve been able to do so.”

This innovation to meet new shopping behaviours was also championed by Penahaligon’s who used the first lockdown in spring as an opportunity to learn and develop ways to deal with an unknown and uncertain future.

“It’s been a year that has just been unlike any other,” said Jordan Simpson. “And we really had to pivot our mentality to still be able to offer our services in a way so customers can still interact with our products on the same level.

“It’s why we’ve implemented things like video conferencing directly from our website where our customers can request a video chat with our in-store fragrance experts to help bring the digital experience to life. Putting long term processes like these in place will absolutely have a positive impact and define what makes a resilient business.”

3. Tools for better CX

From endless aisle to enhanced product information, all three of the experts highlighted the need to deliver a better experience to knowledgeable in-store customers.

As Jordan Simpson said: “Consumers today are much more informed because of working with ecommerce sites. The intent of the customer visiting our retail stores is often now experiential rather than being sales driven.

“They’re coming in for an experience, they’re coming in to test, they’re coming in with a notion of what they already want to do, and looking for the person or brand ambassadors in store to be that guiding light, rather than being a salesperson.”

This level of service can only happen with unified commerce when all sales channels are connected in real-time and systems like the POS and CRM are integrated.

4. Real time inventory management

GANT and The North Face in particular stressed the importance of real-time inventory management – especially when it comes to fulfilment.

With a single real-time view of all in-store, online and ‘elsewhere’ inventory and built-in inventory management tools, which retailers have when they use a unified commerce platform, it’s easy to improve accuracy, maximize inventory availability and minimize excess inventory.

Or, as Peter Joelsson put it: “We need to be able to sell and deliver from anywhere.”

5. Time and cost saving

Predictions for what comes next have long since been abandoned. The simple answer is, at this point, no one can second guess what’s around the corner. However, the ‘battle plans’ retailers are putting in place aren’t just about delivering better CX.

The same unified commerce technology that enhances CX also helps save time and reduce costs. When it’s hard to forecast the future, retailers need tools in place that empower them to act quickly, make better decisions driven by data, while keeping overheads under control and maximizing the use of their resources.

Whether it’s a unified commerce platform, a workforce management solution, or a communication platform, it’s tech that enables them to do this.

If you’d like to discover more you can watch the webinar in full through the button below.

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