For the Retail sector, 2020 was a truly turbulent year. As a consequence of the global health crisis, which led to restrictions on mobility, consumers’ purchasing habits changed radically.

In Europe, household spending fell by almost 8%, forcing many retailers to limit their operations or even to close temporarily. Over the past two decades, consumers have increasingly turned to online channels to search for products, obtain information, and complete their purchases. The pandemic accelerated this trend, reaching a 30% increase in e-commerce sales, which was the equivalent of 10 years of growth in just three months.

This context has caused consumers to continue to demand meaningful and personalized online shopping experiences, so retailers must rethink their business processes and strategies to remain relevant, competitive and profitable. Reimagining the world of Retail and transforming the business is primarily aimed at meeting the changing needs and desires of consumers in a hyper-connected world.

As we already know, today customers make use of technology in every step of the purchase process, so to redefine digital experiences and those of the physical store it will be necessary to invest in the development of a fully integrated ecosystem that connects customer and product insights, supply chain demand and forecasting, store engagement, and developing marketing strategies to engage customers in an omnichannel world.

Smart and omnichannel retail
In the early 2000s, the concept of omnichannel sales emerged in the Retail arena that describes a customer-centric approach where all sales channels are aligned, offering a consistent experience across each channel.

Today, this concept has evolved into what we call ‘Smart Retail’. The main difference is that not only are the sales channels aligned, but the entire organization of a retailer is positioned to offer much more personalized experiences than has been possible until now.

Smart Retail relies on the collection of data to transform it into insights and thus drive machine learning and predictive analytics systems that optimize and personalize shopping experiences on a previously unattainable scale. By gaining a smarter and more detailed understanding of the Customer Journey, retailers can lay the foundation to deliver fully personalized brand experiences across all channels.

Of course, no customer experience is complete without high-quality service. Managing multiple customer questions and managing them productively has always been a challenge for Customer Service departments. However, using omnichannel customer service systems powered by Artificial Intelligence with advanced chatbots, it is possible to manage customer inquiries in an effective and fluid way, thus generating greater engagement.

Technology that improves Retail operations
Technology has fully impacted the way today’s consumers shop, both online and in store. Between the immediacy and fast delivery of e-commerce and 24/7 availability, consumers expect to easily find product information and buy what they want, when they want, and through whatever channel they want. In addition, they demand that their experience be seamless and integrated across all channels and media.

In this sense, retailers can only begin to reimagine their operations once they can obtain accurate information. A holistic understanding of how customers connect with your brand at all levels will allow them to make better business decisions, develop best practices across all stores, and deliver consistent customer experiences that strengthen their relationship and increase their perceived value.

This requires a fully integrated platform that can deliver comprehensive business intelligence across all areas of the company, providing a deeper understanding of resource deployment, inefficiencies, information bottlenecks, store performance, etc. In addition, a BI platform will help retailers gain greater visibility into what is happening in real time in the store itself, with the customer, the employee, or the product, and discover key trends.

Plus, with emerging IT trends driving warehouse dynamics, it’s possible to predict effectiveness and provide visibility into inventory, shipping, and receiving. With an effective warehouse management system, retailers can avoid running out of or overstocking by using machine learning enhanced guidance for effective inventory management.

AI-powered demand forecasting is the most practical approach to aligning warehouse operations with current customer needs. Customer demands and expectations are changing as fast as the sales channels they use. Keeping customers engaged and the supply chain optimized for proper product delivery is a great challenge for retailers. There is a wealth of data and disruptive tools available to bring intelligence and automation to operations.

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