From Idea to Doorstep: The Building Blocks to Survive and Thrive in Today’s Retail Environment
The retail market and customer expectations are changing so fast that retailers, large and small, struggle to keep up. Between 2010 and 2014, e-commerce grew by an average of $30 billion annually, and over the past three years, average annual growth has increased to $40 billion. Online and other nonstore sales are expected to grow 8 percent to 12 percent this year, and digital’s influence on in-store sales continues to grow.
Although it seems like every day we hear about yet another retailer closing its doors or decreasing its footprint, brick-and-mortar retail is certainly not dead. There is, however, more pressure than ever to reinvent traditional retail by assigning greater focus on digital channels and delivering a complete and unified shopping experience. As we look ahead, we expect to see further consolidation of the retail market, improved use of data, and a greater need to connect and blend in-store and digital experiences.
So what does it take to run a successful digital commerce business in an evolving market that's dominated by technology moving at the speed of light and constantly changing consumer demands? From “Idea to Doorstep,” there are many different moving parts to manage, including merchandising, user experience, selling, fulfillment — and everything in between.
While most retailers and brands agree that a seamless and consistent shopping experience across all channels is critical, their approaches vary greatly. Approaching the shopping experience in a strategic, holistic manner is the only way to satisfy shopper’s high expectations. From developing the right strategy and building a high-performing team, to building a solid foundation and selecting the right technologies, there are many complex, interdependent and moving parts that retailers and brands need to master. It's no wonder that thriving, yet alone surviving, can be overwhelming — even for the most seasoned retail executives.
People Are Your Greatest Asset
An organizational structure of cross-functional teams with the right skills as well as shared values and goals that work collaboratively and in alignment to plan, manage and execute all functions is essential. Too often retailers and brands employ people to manage each distinct business area, resulting in functional silos. This frequently leads to communication breakdowns, inefficiencies and missed opportunities. By breaking down the barriers, retailers are better positioned to deliver the standout shopping experiences necessary to compete.
The right people are the most valuable asset for your organization. Ensure that you give them the tools to keep developing their skills and the technology to empower them to collaborate and best serve your customers.
The way that retailers develop, staff, incent and evaluate their organizations can mean all the difference between failure and success. It's critical to ensure that employee performance measurements, incentives and rewards are structured to foster alignment in achieving strategic company objectives vs. tactical goals.
66% of Digital Commerce Selections End in Divorce
The right technology foundation is imperative to success — it must support and empower teams to achieve operational efficiencies and deliver the optimal customer experience. Finding the best e-commerce and retail technology solutions isn't easy. It starts with a clear understanding of desired achievements, current system capabilities and future goals. A detailed requirements analysis is critical, and this exercise often leads to the identification of gaps and opportunities that may not have been readily apparent.
Choosing the right platform or solution to meet identified requirements is a time-consuming and resource-intensive — but necessary — project. Investing in and implementing the wrong solution can have a detrimental impact on your overall business.
It's easy to get distracted by shiny new technologies, but it's often the less “flashy” solutions that help optimize and improve the overall efficiency of a business. It's worth evaluating how and what can be improved “behind the scenes” before determining what technologies are needed.
Separate the Wheat From the Chaff
Retail and technology are evolving at lightning speed, and keeping up with the latest and greatest takes time and resources — both of which are scarce for most retail organizations. It's imperative to constantly understand customer shopping behaviors and expectations, as well as monitor what competitors are doing. Furthermore, look beyond specific industry characteristics to get inspiration and gain a sneak peek into what might be next.
Most retailers are inundated with promises from technology providers to take their businesses to the next level, but it's almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. Retailers and brands need an organized approach to staying on top of innovations while navigating which emerging technologies will truly help the bottom line. Few retailers have the capacity to dedicate resources to innovation. Those that don't should consider teaming up with a partner that understands their business and can apply market knowledge and insights on innovative tools and technologies best suited to grow their business.
With a solid foundation in place, the right people, proper technology and an eye towards the future, retailers and brands are ready to tackle each step along the Idea to Doorstep process. To learn more about each step, strategic and tactical recommendations, and an overview of supporting technologies, download the FitForCommerce 2017 Annual Report.
Yanna Sigenlaub is the vice president of marketing for FitForCommerce, a boutique e-commerce consultancy.