Last week the World Retail Congress (WRC) opened its doors in Amsterdam to over 180 speakers and 1300 industry leaders from around the globe.
Big names discussed how they are building unified commerce strategies to capture consumers’ attention and build loyalty. Sportswear brand adidas, audio specialist Bose, fashion retailers Levi’s, Missguided, Skechers, and furniture retailer Made.com were just a few of the companies that shared their ideas for the future.
On its website, WRC says: “Since the Congress launched in 2007, the industry has embraced the digital world, seized international growth opportunities and above all, risen to embrace and conquer a series of unprecedented challenges.”
And the theme this year was: High Velocity Retail.
"It’s a heady mix and brands that recognise this as the way to go share a willingness to put technology at the heart of what they are trying to roll out."
Speakers at the event said that to win in today’s supersonic digital environment, retailers must be “zealously customer-centric, able to passionately embrace change and risk, have a simple, agile business model and vision, be blind to borders, and ruthlessly evolve”. Those not practising this high velocity retail model risk dropping out of the market altogether, they warned.
Big names reimagining retail
Last week’s congress in Amsterdam was an opportunity for some of the leading brands, both established and emerging, to hold the stage. But outside the conference, all retailers and technology providers are working hard to achieve the wow factor that will help them keep highly-demanding connected consumers happy and engaged.
Everyone is asking: what does a great unified commerce experience look like and how can it be brought to life? How do we scale experience in large retail spaces, while still maintaining the personal touch? How can we connect the experiences across multiple customer touchpoints? How can we manage business-critical data in secure ways?
"Getting the fundamental IT infrastructure in place is essential."
The drivers and need for High Velocity Retail
It’s no secret that shoppers have an endless amount of options, so retailers must invest in creating a customer experience that's positive, seamless, and secure. Continued improvements in mobile commerce, social commerce, click and collect (or BOPIS as it is now known), ship from store, and targeted communication are keys to success from now on.
Shoppers want in-store access to Wi-Fi, they expect personalised promotions, and increasingly look for the chance to deal with a tech-enabled staff member who can access their online account and shopping history.
It’s a heady mix, and brands that recognise this as the way to go share a willingness to put technology at the heart of what they are trying to roll out.
However, before any of this can be achieved retailers must consider what their current technology is capable of. Getting the fundamental IT infrastructure in place is essential to provide a robust foundation on which sales growth, profitability, and all aspects of high velocity retail can be built. And that means retailers understanding what they have already got before they can plan where they want to be.
Hybrid cloud, network connectivity, and security combined
For this reason, many retailers are starting to abandon their legacy data centres in place of hybrid cloud infrastructures - considered to be the gateway to digital transformation by many in the industry. Get it right and the benefits can be productivity gains through greater agility, cost reduction, and security improvements.
Right-sized connectivity across a retail organisation is also seen as a vital component for delivering fast, secure communications, payment processing and data flow. Wi-Fi in-store is another asset for smooth operations and customer service. This also allows for better tracking of customer behaviour, and wider use of business intelligence.
And retailers need systems and infrastructure that are totally compliant and secure to the latest standards. Credit card data collected must be protected from cyberattacks and malware, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has introduced a wide-range of GDPR measures demanding “robust breach detection, investigation, and internal reporting procedures”.
"Rome wasn’t built in a day and, for many, the change will still need to be incremental."
The surge towards unified commerce
Some might say that Boston Retail Partner’s claim that by 2020, 81% of all retailers will deploy unified commerce platforms to include supporting commerce across the enterprise’s stores, mobile users, and the web is ambitious. If they are right, throughout 2019 we should expect to see investments from retailers to meet that timeline, and this was certainly high on the agenda at last week’s World Retail Congress.
Let’s take stock: 2020 is only a year away. Whatever the timeline, it’s still clear that retailers will need the right technological advice if they are to reshape their businesses for better agility in the face of volatility. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, for many, the change will still need to be incremental.
Progress, of course, can still be scalable, introduced in cost effective ways that suit the needs of individual retail companies, with payback on investment constantly front of mind.
Whatever the pace of change, let’s still pursue the best ideas going global, and to securing an exciting, profitable, long-term future.