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Retail's Winners of 2022: Meeting Evolving Customer Expectations in a Digital Era – Total Retail

In 2022, the blueprint to retail success is evolving before our eyes. The ripple effects of a two-year global pandemic coupled with rapid accelerations in digital transformation have shifted the paradigm for consumer expectations. Now more than ever, customers desire seamless and personalized experiences at every touchpoint of their buyer’s journey. Whether it’s in-store, on a computer, or from a smartphone, customer experiences directly influence brand loyalty. Failing to align with that reality can directly impact a retailer’s bottom line, as nearly 75 percent of shoppers will abandon a brand after just three poor experiences. Furthermore, global businesses lose a combined $75 billion each year due to poor customer experiences.
Amid an evolving era of retail, the winners of 2022 will be the organizations that are quick to embrace digital transformation as a tool for enhancing customer experiences and brand loyalty. From artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to advanced analytics and interconnected cloud commerce, the power of advanced technology in retail can serve as the ultimate competitive edge for enterprises to leverage. Meeting customer expectations in a digital era requires a proactive approach built on innovation.
Keep the following four focus areas in mind as you shape your digital transformation strategy.
With the right digital transformation solutions in place, retailers can automate the analysis of e-commerce data from multiple cloud platforms — in turn generating actionable insights on the purchasing behaviors and habits of repeat customers:
Retailers can then utilize these customer predictability insights to make informed decisions that enhance personalization within their digital channels. Take the Quebec-based fashion retailer Laura Canada for example. As the company’s omnichannel footprint continued to expand, it leveraged unified commerce data to deliver rich, personalized online customer experiences. By integrating its Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and CRM platform into one centralized hub, Laura Canada gained real-time visibility into all customer behaviors across systems ranging from purchase histories to website browsing. Through this 360-degree view, Laura Canada knew how to engage customers in a more meaningful way, optimize digital shopping experiences, and improve operational efficiency for a sustainable and scalable business model. The result was a 400 percent growth in online sales over three years.
Burton Snowboards is another prime example. After the U.S. snowboarding retailer transitioned from an exclusively wholesale operating model to a mix of wholesale and direct to consumer (D-to-C), it leveraged unified commerce to create a more consumer-centric online brand experience. By adopting an integrated multicloud approach, Burton generated a holistic view of its brand experience across all platforms — gaining a deeper understanding of how to appeal to current customers and attract new ones in a digital environment.
At the beginning of the pandemic, retailers were quick to adopt innovative omnichannel offerings like buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, and D-to-C delivery. It was a move necessitated out of desperation to remain profitable amid store closures and capacity restrictions. Still, as consumers have grown increasingly accustomed to the heightened levels of convenience, it’s clear that these are more than merely quick fixes — instead representing new, long-term foundational components of the modern retail environment that will drive sales for years to come.
From quick and simplified pickup processes to less populated brick-and-mortar stores, omnichannel services have helped shape a new version of the retail experience while also preserving the safety of customers and employees. The emergence of BOPIS, curbside pickup, and D-to-C has also raised the need for retailers to optimize inventory management through AI-driven solutions that offer real-time visibility into stock levels and supply chains to ensure fulfillment needs are met.
Optimizing inventory management improves customer satisfaction by providing real-time updates on product availability and helping avoid out-of-stocks. In addition, the solutions automate forecasting to measure swings in demand and the probability of future outcomes — e.g., product depletion — so retailers can align their replenishment orders with fulfillment needs and minimize out-of-stocks.
The complexities associated with online shopping are among the top drivers of lost e-commerce sales. On average, 70 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned, mainly due to hidden costs (e.g., service charges, shipping fees, taxes), elongated checkout processes, slow delivery times, and website errors. These variables often create friction within the buyer’s journey, which translates to poor experiences that incline consumers to leave a brand for its competitor.
Alleviating areas of friction can be accomplished by simplifying omnichannel platform navigation with quick checkout processes optimized for higher conversion rates. Creating transparent product messaging with informative descriptions, visual components, clear price structures, and accurate availability is also essential. By minimizing friction, retailers can reduce the rate of abandoned carts, build brand loyalty, and attract new customers to their website and/or physical stores. 
In an era when TikTok trends and Instagram Stories have become fixtures of our everyday lives, the direct correlation between profit growth and a best-in-class brand ambassador program shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The stats speak for themselves. On average, brands earn nearly $6 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. Consumer consumption of social media content from brand ambassadors has skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic — with integrated marketing survey data showing livestream engagement more than doubling in 2020 alone. As opposed to traditional marketing content, 61 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to trust brand, product and service recommendations from a friend, family member or influencer on social platforms. Furthermore, more than 80 percent either purchased, researched or considered purchasing a product because of that trusted recommendation.
Leveraging brand ambassadors as vocal advocates who drive messaging between the retailer and its customers is an effective way to convert social media into a consistent revenue stream. It also provides visibility into what trends resonate best with new and current customers, which can in turn be applied to amplify future marketing efforts. Actionable insights from retail loyalty program data provide a clear indication of which “super customers” would best serve as brand advocates. The more interactions they have with the brand, the more passionate they are about its products and services.
Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It requires an ongoing commitment to adopting digital-centric practices that provide the agility and foresight needed to meet evolving customer expectations. With the right unified commerce framework in place, retailers can take proactive steps toward fostering new pathways to profitability.
Gerry Szatvanyi is the CEO of OSF Digital, a top digital transformation and leading global commerce solutions company to some of the world’s most well-known brands.
Related story: Report: Majority of Retailers Fall Short in Meeting Customers’ Omnichannel Expectations
Gerry Szatvanyi is the CEO of OSF Digital, a top digital transformation and leading global commerce solutions company to some of the world’s most well-known brands.
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