By Graham Long, director ecosystem development, Huawei UK Consumer Business Group
“Necessity is the mother of invention” so the saying goes and, whilst the last 12 months have certainly proved challenging, they have also paved the way for advances in retail app performance that are not only unprecedented, but also unexpected in an otherwise ‘normal’ state of affairs. When you consider how the retail and technology industries have collaborated with such innovation, agility and creativity it is reassuring to know that the feedback we have received from many of our own retail partners is that the future is bright. This is a testament to the commitment of retailers to developing their e-commerce solutions and app platforms over the past year – integral to maintaining that all important brand loyalty and ensuring that when retailers do open their doors, customers will be waiting. Certainly at Huawei, across our own app distribution platform, AppGallery, we have seen a marked increase in the number of retailers seeking to unlock the potential of online and app-based shopping experiences and we’re committed to supporting our partners to do this in the months ahead.
It is also worth recognising that for many customers, the online shopping habits they have developed over the past year are likely to remain. So whilst the hope is that there will be a marked return to in-store shopping, the efforts and investment in apps and ecommerce that retailers have made over the last 12 months look set to stand them in good stead, to get the balance between bricks and mortar and digital right for the future.
So as we start to look forward to (hopefully) the further lifting of restrictions, what will the impact of these advances be? Here are our predictions for the top four trends set to lead the evolution of retail e-commerce and app performance in the months ahead.
Big Data and personalisation
Certainly, these two trends have grown together in the last year and this looks set to continue apace. Big Data will have an even more important role to play as retailers and developers will take an even more forensic approach to understanding shopper habits, preferences and the use of analytics to track core sales data, conversion efficiency and sales progress. For the most part big data is employed to identify cost savings, build efficiency in the supply chain and crucially, throughout the pandemic, enhance the customer experience, working harder than ever to support developments in personalisation. Using analytics and insights, retailers are able to utilise deeper knowledge across their customer base to build relevant content and employ a much more strategic approach to their digital marketing and development of their app platforms.
This holistic customer view will be critical in the months ahead as retailers seek to understand what form new shopping habits will take in terms of online vs. in-store. From an app perspective, industry analysis of key sales data across a range of metrics including core sales data, sales processing data, efficiency of conversions and progress of particular sales will frame app marketing strategies that are set to be more targeted than ever before. As the capability of big data will no doubt build, so too will the opportunity for more sophisticated personalisation across digital marcomms and app platforms. Whether it be bespoke discounts, utilising the customer’s app profile in-store to support upsell, extending loyalty programmes or enabling customers to customise their own purchases, the possibilities for personalisation are endless.
Complementing the online and in-store experience
As both retailers and customers prepare to migrate back to stores when they do re-open, it is expected that there will be a significant period of transition as both work to find the right balance between online and in-store. Ensuring there is a consistent brand experience, level of service and access to the products on sale will all have a significant role to play in maintaining that all important brand loyalty.
QR codes are now firmly established as one of the most popular and effective tools to support marketing and sales in retail. Whether for customers scanning products in-store for delivery direct to their door, supporting customer service communications, or support offers and discounts in store, the possibilities have grown exponentially and shows no sign of abating in the future. They have a pivotal role in delivering a multi-channel experience as customers also use apps to then bookmark or like the products found in store to then save and purchase at a later date convenient to them – once again underpinning the value of a more personalised shopping experience.
Perhaps one of the biggest disrupters and most significant digital steps forward for retailers in the last 12 months was in augmented reality (AR). Hailed as an effective way for retailers to reduce the soaring cost of funding returns from customers, AR provides a very real and more importantly very effective way of bringing products to life and delivering a ‘try before you buy’ experience for customers. This in turn has improved the sale vs. return ratio for retailers via a more decisive customer base. AR offers retailers the opportunity to not only profile one item but upsell and feature a range of items from its catalogue to inspire and engage customers, but also importantly, to drive sales.
Smaller retailers turn attention to apps and e-commerce
Finally, whilst the last 12 months have seen innovation and advances in e-commerce that were considered more likely to come from the bigger retailers, it is encouraging to see that such advances have also been embraced by smaller retailers, thus opening up opportunities for sales and growth right across the sector. Sharpening the focus on social media channels, particularly to attract a younger customer base which is often most effectively marketed to via social media, and building platforms to support click and collect functions have been two important steps, but just as the last 12 months have been anything but predictable, smaller retailers will also accelerate adoption of e-commerce and online much faster than previously expected in the months to come.
(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)