We are living in the ‘want now’ generation, from instant streaming of the latest movies and TV shows, to music, books and podcasts. We value the ability to buy quickly, easily and are getting less and less patient when it comes to waiting for orders to be delivered and new goods to show up in stores.
Large online retailers such as Amazon are disrupting the economics of retail. Customer service expectations have been changed forever. Same and next day delivery is the norm and customers have come to expect instant gratification; for example eight in 10 consumers would now switch from a retailer if it didn’t offer their preferred delivery method.
Modern customers expect greater personalisation, to be remembered every time they interact with you and to receive tailored offers and recommendations. In fact 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history.
Competing in this new environment is not easy with 15 stores closing each day in the UK.
Part of the reason many retailers are failing to live up to new standards of service is misplaced priorities. The vast majority are looking to place spend on consumer facing activity, for example increasing basket size, PPC, or new ecommerce capabilities; essentially anything that they believe will help them to grow their business.
On the face of it, it seems like a good strategy, until you consider that for many merchants up to 80% of their costs can be tied up in the back office. This hugely limits the ability to invest in the front end.
In addition, retailers of all sizes still have disparate systems in place that do not support real-time ecommerce, tying their hands in meeting increasing customer demand for immediacy, especially from millennials, whose buying power and influence increases year-on-year. The millennial audience and its buying influence is really driving the need for instant gratification, with 46% willing to pay more for same day delivery.
Fundamentally there is one thing shaping the future of retail: the desire for convenience and within that the desire for immediacy in a multichannel world. In the age of Amazon and same-next day delivery, it’s simply not an option for brands to wait three days to deliver an item any longer.
How do we deliver the personalised experience and immediacy that today’s customers expect then? First we must recognise the challenge of meeting expectations for next day delivery, especially when operating across multiple channels, it’s extremely difficult to achieve.
There is a need for real-time, accurate information about product availability, shipping and inventory. The only way to achieve this is to embrace new technologies, such as the application of automation technology for back office functions like order fulfilment, carrier integrations, and integrated purchase ordering.
Siloed data, and the wealth of it is another barrier; many retailers either suffer from information overload, or struggle to properly mine or pool together data to connect the dots. Having the right technology in place, for example, a solution to sync information across your different platforms so that all areas of your business has access to a single record for any given shopper, allows you to gain deeper insights about your customers, such as their buying behaviour, preferences and history. Having this information is crucial; retailers can then use it to spot patterns to segment and engage with their customers on a more personal level.
Success in the instant gratification era is possible, but it requires retail brands to bring balance to the front end and the back office. It requires adoption of agile and holistic technology solutions that unify sales systems and provide a single, consolidated platform to capture, analyse and use clean data, to learn deep insights about customers, and form the bedrock of their personalisation strategies.
By adopting technology that supports real-time commerce retailers will put themselves in the best position to create back office efficiencies, freeing them to focus on growth and reacting to the challenges of ‘immediacy’ that today’s consumers present.
Ant Payne is the vice president of global Marketing, Brightpearl a cloud-based ERP that works with retailers and wholesalers to implement back-office automation. He is responsible for overall company strategy and delivering on Brightpearl’s mission to automate retail.