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Retail Transformation – For the Customer and the Enterprise

XplorexIT– With the flurry of bankruptcies and store closure announcements in 2017 and continuing into 2018, the phrase “Retail Apocalypse” has become the topic of many conversations. The doom and gloom of an apocalypse is very far from reality. However, there is no argument that change, turmoil and disruption is reshaping the world of retail. This article was authored by Perry Kramer, Senior Vice President and Practice Lead at BRP.

There are a number of retailers who are thriving and many more who continue on a successful growth path. The common thread that weaves among these retailers is the leveraging of enterprise software, business practices and view of the customer to improve overall margin and customer service. The stability and elasticity of network technology, including SD-WAN, is allowing retailers to move many store-centric systems to the enterprise level (cloud) to increase effectiveness. For mature retailers, this has resulted in higher customer satisfaction, reduced application costs, and has become the cornerstone for real-time retail.

Real-time Retail
Successful retailers recognize the absolute need to keep the customer at the epicenter of the retail transaction. To achieve this, retailers are migrating to an environment that offers real-time access to enterprise-wide product information, customer preferences, and transaction history across all channels. To meet the new set of customer expectations, modern customer engagement, merchandising, order management, and inventory management systems must be integrated in real-time and seamlessly accessible by the sales associate. Top retailers are adopting and implementing a unified commerce platform based at the enterprise with real-time retail information available at the fingertips of their corporate users, call centers, sales associates and customers.

While retail is definitely going through challenging times, the transformation is exciting with new technologies and opportunities arising to enhance the customer journey and support the expanded use of AI and BI tools needed to optimize the profitability of each transaction. The increased maturity of networks and network tools will continue to bring further transformation and drive fundamental changes in retail. A foundational component of reducing costs, enabling speed-to-market, and meeting or exceeding customer expectations in real-time is the migration of distributed functions to the enterprise. For retailers who are not well into their transformation to offer a ubiquitous real-time retail customer journey, the key to survival is to redouble their efforts before the competition puts them out of business.

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The Future of Retail Requires Transformation

Retail Executive Magazine – “4 key trends are shaping future strategies and tactics to help retailers survive, adapt, and win,” said Brian Brunk, Principal at BRP. The traditional retail model has experienced significant disruption over the last decade. This cycle of disruption is being driven by ever-increasing customer expectations, competitive pressures from new entrants, and the proliferation of new technology like the smartphone. Customers’ journeys are varied and much more complicated than in the past.

Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in various channels, including social media, and frequently shop for a product across different retailers, online and in the store. The path to purchase also varies by consumer and by the type of product they are purchasing. Consumers expect their experiences to be seamless and to have their “shopping cart” follow them throughout their journey. They perceive one experience across the entire brand, not broken into individual channels or locations.

As retailers adapt, customer engagement models must transform. Traditional retail lines are rapidly evolving. There is a blurring between the physical and digital environments but also an evolution of retail formats to include virtual showrooms, retail “theatre,” pop-ups, stores within stores, and more. As retailers find it more difficult to compete with commodity products, we expect to see more private-label brands as a key differentiator. In some cases, wholesale will become the new retail.

“The real disruptor on the horizon is self-driving vehicles, which will disrupt traditional supply chain models, consumer expectations, and the retail world.”

IT’S JUST RETAIL

Is this disruption new to retail? No — retail has gone through many periods of disruption over the years. The introduction of catalogs, the move to suburban malls, the rise of Walmart, and the advent of e-commerce are all examples of retail disruption cycles. However, the current rate of disruption and the subsequent transformation are probably the greatest many of us have seen or will ever see.

With the flurry of retail bankruptcies and store closure announcements, “Retail Apocalypse” has been the pervasive topic of the last 12 months. Mentions of “apocalypse” might work well when trying to grab headlines; however, the reality is something much subtler and far more interesting — the ever-evolving nature of retail and consumers. Retail is simply transforming. Overall, retail is growing, with many retailers opening new locations, increasing sales, and investing in the future. Retail is changing and, as always, there will be winners and losers.

Focusing on the “Retail Apocalypse” is liking hitting the pause button and ignoring what is really happening. Call it the “Great Retail Transformation”; it doesn’t matter. It’s the future, and it’s just retail.

Read Full Article: The Future of Retail Requires Transformation