Discerning consumers expect more from their online shopping experiences, especially during the busy holiday season when timely delivery, readily available products, and seamless checkout and return policies are more important than ever. In fact, the holiday season is often a “make or break” time for most retailers, particularly smaller ones eager to make a big impact on sales and customer loyalty. Furthermore, holiday 2023 will be even more challenging as price-conscious consumers seek better deals and more personalized offers to ensure they get their money’s worth.
This holiday season, retailers must uplevel their customer experience by automating manual business processes, integrating customer communications, and leveraging analytics. Forward-thinking retailers have already embraced an “automation-first” mindset that will dramatically boost their holiday sales as well as long-term customer loyalty. Fortunately, it's not too late for other retailers to implement automation and integration projects that can have a major impact by fall. In the waning days of summer, they can adopt best-of-breed cloud solutions and implement a strategic automation road map that will reduce operational costs and redirect precious IT resources from manual processes to customer experience initiatives.
Right now, there are three key things retailers can do to ensure a more successful holiday 2023:
- Create an automation-first road map to automate business processes and get quick wins now.
- Integrate communications with external and internal audiences.
- Use analytics and artificial intelligence to capture critical data, including insights into shopper behavior and preferences.
The Automation Road Map
An automation road map provides guidance on an order of operations and maturity maps for storefronts and marketplaces. From there, retailers can easily automate order-to-cash processes, fulfillment and returns. Then, they can move on to more advanced automation initiatives that include data warehousing, analytics and social selling.
An automation road map will also help retailers navigate the cultural shift that occurs when organizations adopt an automation-first mindset. The automation road map acts as a guide in a top-down, company-wide initiative to outline and plan future automation. It can also be leveraged in a different way at a departmental level or even smaller to support a more grassroots automation approach. A small team or individual can build an automation road map for their domain within the business regardless of size.
Furthermore, the automation road map for a grassroots initiative will help guide the automation effort while acting as a tool to share the automation-first mentality with other parts of the organization. By starting small and building momentum, retail teams focused on automation can move from reactive “busy work” and manual processes to more proactive customer experience initiatives.
Communications integration is a quick win that retailers can easily implement. First, they must integrate their existing collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Slack with key systems of record within the business like the OMS, ERP, or 3PL/Warehouse. Passing critical information from those systems out to the correct employees will improve alignment and allow for proper prioritization either during the normal course of business or when problems arise. This will help ensure that all employees and teams are aligned and in lockstep during the hectic holiday season. From there, retailers should take the next step to integrate their transactional data and create alerts and notifications around it to ensure that their external communications with shoppers are as timely, accurate and consistent as possible.
Analytics and AI
Retailers often find it challenging to harness the right data that will give them accurate insights into current and future shopper behavior. Using substantive AI can help implement a predictive analytics strategy that will help them better gauge which products and shopping trends consumers will embrace over time. Before investing in AI, however, retailers need to have solid processes in place because AI won’t be effective without the accurate data that comes from them. Savvy retailers are investing in iPaaS platforms to automate business processes and access the most accurate, relevant data.
The proverbial “dog days of summer” are a good time for retailers to make these impactful improvements that will ensure a more successful holiday 2023. These initiatives will not only guarantee a stronger season, but they'll have a long-lasting positive impact on sales, loyalty and customer satisfaction while lowering costs and improving employee performance.
Automation is never completely done; it will always be an ongoing journey for retailers. Fortunately, an automation road map serves as a trusted compass to help retailers navigate new technologies like AI and realize incremental success without getting lost in the wilderness.
Mark Simon is the vice president of strategy at Celigo, an integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS).
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Mark Simon is the Vice President of Strategy at Celigo. With over two decades of experience in the tech industry, Mark has spent his time leading teams at a number of different companies, such as Explore Consulting and Evo, where he served as Chief Technology Officer.