Staying ahead of the curve: how retailers can gain a competitive edge through technology

How retailers can gain a competitive edge through technology?
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Britain’s retail landscape is one of continuous change and evolution. The ongoing shift towards online, combined with the growing importance of the customer experience economy, is leading brands to seek the next differentiator in an ever-changing market. Leanne Docherty of Paragon Customer Communications explores how retailers can continue to push the barriers in the pursuit of service excellence.

The popularity of Ecommerce has been continuous, rapidly picking up pace for many retailers over the last few years as brands have adapted to the world of online shopping by growing their digital infrastructure and capabilities.

Even before the pandemic, bricks-and-mortar retailers had been fighting a fierce battle against Amazon and other leading online players for the attention of consumers. The much documented decline of the UK high street[1], however, has increasingly blurred the line between the realms of offline and online shopping as more traditional outlets turn to digital avenues to drive sales.

The result is an increasingly competitive market landscape, where a broader spectrum of brands continue to vie for a share of consumer spending. So how can brands keep ahead of the curve and gain a competitive edge? And what are the barriers potentially preventing them from doing so?

While established, successful online retailers with a strong digital presence have remained in a very strong position – particularly as the sector experienced a momentous 66% spike in daily online sales year over year in May 2020[2] – the journey to true innovation and an enhanced customer experience (CX) has not been a straightforward one for many brands.

Even those with established digital channels have faced challenges when attempting to serve a growing number of customers with speed, efficiency and relevancy across a multitude of channels to provide a ‘seamless’ CX.

Companies that have been able to deliver true innovation under challenging circumstances – be that by developing new technologies, or finding inventive ways of using existing technologies to transform the CX and deliver value – have done so by continuously adapting, and transitioning at pace in order to become more flexible for customers.

Faced with the unprecedented speed of digitalisation in the retail sector, and shifts in consumer behaviour, brands are increasingly working in partnership with marketing communications experts to plan and implement strategies to improve the overall shopping experience ‘both digitally and remotely’ for their customers.

As a strategic partner, Paragon Customer Communications is working with organisations to understand their challenges and objectives, aligning solutions to support their goals.

And while “touchless retail” remains front and centre for many – as customers grow more accustomed to using different digital devices and channels to access information and communicate – organisations are increasingly appreciating the value of driving consumers to self-serve and place orders online, in turn seeking strategies that educate customers about how they can do things for themselves.

As an organisation at the forefront of the retail landscape, Paragon Customer Communications is seeing shifting trends in the way that customers are engaging with brands – with many consumers not immersing themselves in email marketing to the same levels they traditionally would.

For many retailers, therefore, the focus has been on identifying different channels to better engage with customers and contribute to a seamless customer journey/experience.

While many retailers have always been ‘digital-first’ organisations and are well aware of the value of the data they hold – the lifeblood of many a leading retail business, driving all aspects of operations, particularly customer engagement and customer journeys – there remains a desire to challenge traditional barriers, to innovate, in order to remain at the forefront of the latest technological advancements.

Excitingly, some of the UK’s largest retail brands are effectively defining customer journeys and maintaining continuous communication with a broad spectrum of consumers, which are pivotal to delivering a positive CX, in turn driving sales growth.

The result is a digital transformation that is reshaping not only shopping, but also online experiences, and even customer expectations of physical stores – with several exciting new trends emerging.

Be that virtual and augmented reality offering retailers unbounded ways to enhance the online shopping experience – delivering immersive in-store experiences with tools like virtual fitting rooms – or two-way SMS and interactive communication via apps such as WhatsApp. While the exploration of voice activated marketing with devices like Alexa, Google Home/Nest and Siri continues to gather pace, presenting exciting possibilities for the sector.

An experienced and knowledgeable partner with an ecosystem of innovative technologies at their disposal, Paragon Customer Communications have been helping retail brands remain ahead of the curve with leading edge strategies for many years. 

Leanne Docherty

Author:

Leanne Docherty 
Account Director

 

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