Retail Technology Builds Customer Engagement From the Inside Out
Retailers that want to deliver seamless and satisfying shopper experiences across channels need to first build a robust digital culture internally, according to Drea Alphonso, a program manager for Google.
What Are Ways Retailers Can Use Digital Technology?
Alphonso, who hosted the recent online event Atmosphere Digital: Evolving Retail, said retail technology such as G Suite and other cloud-based IT solutions help retailers sync their work with digitally driven customer expectations for personalized attention and rapid response. “The digital workplace is the best way to build out a digital brand, and customers want a strong digital brand,” Alphonso said. “Strong digital cultures let retailers connect to customers on any device, anyplace and anytime.”
Alphonso presented examples of retailers using digital technology to accelerate product pipelines, simplify management of complex global supply chains and make it easier for customers to find them and interact with their people, places and products. “It’s all about delivering the right information and products to customers at the right time,” she said, “and that requires a digital infrastructure.”
She gave an example of a store associate using a BYOD phone enabled with retail solutions and apps to respond immediately to a shopper’s question about a product. Since the shopper typically uses a smartphone or smartwatch to find answers every day, the expectation is that the store associate can as well.
“A digital workplace is necessary for omnichannel fulfillment, but it’s also about efficiency,” Alphonso said. “Retail solutions and apps make the workplace much more efficient, so resources are freed up to deliver more value to customers.”
For example, as Design Within Reach began growing beyond paper catalogs and landline phones from their 1999 origins, company leaders realized their processes needed to change in response to marketplace shifts. Today, Design Within Reach still sells sophisticated designer furniture, but channels include 44 North American stores, its website and a monthly print catalog.
What Role Can G Suite Play in Successful Retail?
They decided to streamline by moving all processes onto G Suite. With all process flows and data stored securely in the cloud — accessible and actionable by anyone with permission — work and communication is always “live”. The efficiency gains have enabled Design Within Reach to start offering in-home consultations with clients, a service that captures more sales.
Alphonso explained that a digital culture also helps retailers stay relevant because it enables them to have a solid presence in the ever-expanding digital marketplace in which shoppers expect an enormous variety, quick access to information and goods and speedy service. This requires management of multiple complex processes simultaneously.
The Iconic, Australia’s largest and fastest-growing web-based retailer launches more than 200 new products daily representing a huge amount of volume moving through its supply chain. Fulfillment is fast: same-day delivery in Sydney — and within 24 hours for other major cities in Australia. Each function touches every product, from selection and marketing to launch and fulfillment.
Managers say it wouldn’t be possible without the ability to collaborate live from anywhere at anytime with
G Suite. For example, The Iconic uses Google Docs to log key data about photo shoots, collaborate on promotional ideas and share large image files. “The scalability and speed the technology provided were essential to the company as it moved from non-existent to a market leader in nine months,” said Adam Jacobs, Managing Director and Co-Founder.
Retail solutions and apps also help with another business-critical quest, profitability. In an industry with traditionally thin margins, digital technology can contribute to significant productivity gains, resulting in slashed operational costs.
Marco Grieco, Business Innovation and Change Director for Italian brand OVI, sums up the productivity gains of the OVI extended enterprise by saying “We have reduced emails back and forth with our offshore team by 60%. That’s productivity.”
OVI invested in G Suite to create a digital culture after making inroads using digital outreach to customers. Grieco said efficiency improvement and positive impact on culture have been huge because the organization is huge. OVI has more than 1,000 stores as well as online sales and a 700-person multi-national supply chain team. They also have offshore production in China, India and Bangladesh.
“We have 40,000 models (different items),” he said “That’s a lot. Before Google we were scanning documents and emailing them out.”
Their first implementation with Google, using an interactive order sheet, leverages Google Drive and Google Sheets. It’s returning even greater benefits as product managers find new ways to refine how they share information with suppliers, such as attaching pictures of window displays and outfits on mannequins. “Connecting the whole team is really making things happen,” Grieco said.
Commerce has gone digital and global; having a frictionless enterprise that can scale and flex to meet current customer needs and expectations is a must-have to stay relevant. Implementing key retail technology brings efficiency and speed to mission-critical processes and communication, building and enhancing the digital retail culture.