The term acceleration has been the topic of discussion for retailers or companies providing digital retail solutions since roughly March of 2020. As one industry expert commented recently on the impact of the pandemic on retail: “we are now witnessing 10 years of accelerated e-commerce growth overnight”. Why is it that this term seems to so perfectly describe the sudden transformation of our industry?
I think it is important to note that it is the type of acceleration that makes this so apropos. There are 3 types of acceleration; a change in velocity, a change in direction, or both.
Anyone who was paying attention to customer behaviors knew that this massive shift was just a change in velocity because the direction had shifted over 2 decades ago when Amazon changed its logotype to include a curved arrow leading from the letter A to Z.
Furthermore, the object that changed direction is not the companies, brands, or retailers. It is the customer.
In 2020, most of us were anticipating we had about 3 years until the ultimate shake-up, but the pandemic changed all of that quite literally overnight. Until then we had the warm insulation of an untrusting public to keep the cold truth out that retailers had to one day completely rethink how they retail if they were going to survive, let alone be successful.
The doubters, the untrusting, unconverted, and the pure brick and mortar’s few dedicated customers were forced to finally adopt online ordering. BOPIS, e-commerce, pick-up, and delivery became mandatory as a result of the pandemic.
So, what happened next? They loved it. All customers now realized all the time they now saved they could fill with things they love doing in a time where they were trying to squeeze as many happy moments as possible from this unpredictable world around them. Life has become more centered around the home and the complexity of shopping has been removed. The reality is many of these customers will return to shopping at retail, but 20 to 30 percent of them will not.
Successful retailers will implement digital experiences and solutions that will guide the full purchase journey from wherever their customer feels the most comfortable. This is not only what their customers want, but also what they expect. Whether that is 100% from their phone, in-store or both, success will be found by allowing a customer to forge a relationship with their local product expert on their terms, from their POV.
Now cue in the OMNI-Sayers. This is the time when many agency executives may say, “what you need is for us to build you an omni-channel strategy”. If you follow these recommendations, do so at your own peril. Omni-channel is increasingly becoming a broad catch-all term that elicits different definitions based on the individual dropping it as they hard sell their strategy or expertise. More often or not the term is used in a way that does not actually take a customer-centric view as originally intended, but rather operates as an ineffective buzzword. It is an outdated term from a bygone era when e-commerce, brand, and in-store marketing were all on separate teams vying for control of how shoppers, consumers, and customers were being marketed to. The hard truth is that most companies do not have the time or resources to tear down and re-build their digital experiences from the ground up. So, even the most well thought out omni-channel strategy will be near impossible to implement in its entirety once the development team is finally brought to the table. You do not need your experiences to use all channels, you just need to work with your Creative, Experience, and Development teams to ensure the channels you are using are being used effectively. The way they are supposed to be used. They way your customers expect to use them. That’s the path to success.
We are having a lot of these discussions with our clients. Many of them are companies who are pulling us in early to help them win the race to the new future of retail. One such client wanted to update the product customizer on their digital retail kiosks. Normally a digital retail company would concentrate on the task at hand and build the best customizer they can for that digital retail kiosk. Our approach was to future proof the solution so it could live on the web too, despite this not being a requirement. We knew that to be successful, they would eventually want this experience to live online too, so we left the door open for them.
We chose to build the customizer with a 3D engine so they could build seemingly endless options that could be visualized and provide the possibility to create an AR version of the experience in the future. This reality ended up coming to life shortly after launching the new kiosk to help continue selling their products during and after the retail acceleration. Now that same high-end product customizer is accessible in the best possible way for the customers not only wherever they choose to engage with it, but how they expect to engage with it based on the device. Customers can also decide if they want to make their purchase online or continue their purchase journey with their local retailer.
This is just one example of many different solutions, but one thing is constant. As a company developing digital solutions, it is our job to look broader than the immediate ask in order to ensure our clients are successful. That their solutions are flexible and scalable even if it challenges the clients original thinking when they originally built their brief. Here at Reality this is how we lead the acceleration along with our clients and their customers, not follow in its draft.
Design Driven. Customer Focused. Human Connected.
We are Reality.