The retail industry’s ability to respond to the constant evolution in its economic and technological arenas, has been the new economic focus.
That’s at least what experts are asserting.
This view was well articulated at the 23rd Annual Congress of the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) which took place from 16-18 October in Cape Town.
And that is thanks to hearing from some of the best speakers in the global retail industry.
All this included 480 minutes of thought provoking and relevant insights. And with more than 1400 delegates from over 500 companies on day one, proves that the retail industry is certainly a serious economic player.
Experts mostly agree, the realisation that the retail sector is rapidly changing and to survive and ensure sustainability, businesses need to evolve.
“It is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a necessity,” they say.
Research shows that consumers are largely responsible for the industry transformation that is currently underway.
“They have the buying power, and they’re getting more defiant.”
Michael Hinshaw, President of McorpCX says smart customers are quickly changing the game for the businesses that serve them. That by embracing the rapidly changing customer driven environment, business can better compete and make profits.
“Businesses need to make decisions through the eyes of their customers,” maintains Hinshaw.
However, closer insight into the dynamics of the industry quickly reveal that when considering the industry, 11% of business decisions are made without considering the customer and without customer inputs.
Moreover, a common thought running through many of the presentations at the SACSC Congress was the need to deliver to customers, highly relevant experiences, integrated across channels and interactions.
Further highlighted was that digital helps to engage the retailer’s community on an ongoing basis, connecting with them in relevant and creative ways.
The popular view is that the sweet spot for retailers is where digital transformation overlaps with customer experience.
More broadly, is the issue that, embracing digital transformation means meeting your customers where they are, with what they want.
Analysts attest, the fact is, your customers expect to interact with you across all channels, and on their terms, not yours.
Research also shows that 78% of customers use different channels, depending on where they are, what they’re doing and when they’re doing it.
Hinshaw maintains that retailers need to focus on being relentlessly relevant to their client.
The results it yields are astounding: 91% will be more likely to shop if you recognise and remember them; 79% believe that the retailer needs to actively show they care and understand them; 70% say understanding their individual needs drives their loyalty; and 80% are more likely to buy when they are offered personalised experiences.
And a look at closer to home, Broll’s research indicates that competition within the South African retail market is rife.
As such, new offerings within centres, new retailer products and unique experiences for customers are vital in order to attract market share.
Coupled with this is Artificial Intelligence which has a critical feature in the digitisation of
in-store retail, personalising the customer experience and creating more engaging retailer- consumer interaction. It creates new opportunities while bridging the narrowing gap between the virtual and physical sides.
Using AI technology, apparel brands can create virtual racks and trial rooms with gesture walls and touch-free monitors. This helps shoppers find the right style without having the shuffle through a pile of clothes. It enhances the shopping experience and helps customers
choose from the millions of options available. AI enables more in-depth insights into consumer behaviours, optimizing their product portfolio for a much better retail experience delivery.
With the help of virtual trial rooms equipped with digital mirrors, customers can try on clothes without having to physically change again and again.
AI enables the study of human behaviour so that retailers have a better understanding of engagement levels with current store layout and have the option to optimize operations for higher engagement and revenues.
It doesn’t end here, video analytics can improve in-store security, reducing the chances of theft. It is all done in real time so that store owners can take immediate action.
Without a doubt, the retail industry is evolving and will continue to evolve.
Retailers have over the past three days of the SACSC Congress learnt how to optimize the blend of the shopping centre experience and use technology to create a greater return on experience with the customer and thereby gain a competitive advantage.
They have been equipped with the knowledge to play an active role in the evolution of the South African retail industry.