While eCommerce has continued to grow in popularity in recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend, even in sectors where it was a relatively minor channel beforehand
One look at the UK online grocery market tells a large part of the story, where sales have hit a record £1.4bn in the early part of 2021, leading the major supermarkets to ramp up online capacity to meet demand. Looking ahead, the post-pandemic shopper will expect a seamless online and offline retail experience, and retailers will require flexible platforms to deliver compelling customer experiences across all channels.
Where legacy architecture remains a stumbling block, retailers need to prioritise the engagement and loyalty of modern shoppers via focussing on the areas of unified commerce, composable enterprise and business agility.
Providing a unified experience across numerous channels
Siloed channels are old news in the retail world. Post-pandemic 84% plan to purchase via retail apps, 80% by social media networks, 77% on company websites, and 78% will continue to head into stores to collect online orders, according to Accenture research. Retailers’ digital infrastructures need to reflect this multichannel shopping experience.
Connecting backend systems, unified commerce ensures delivery of a consistent front-end customer experience. This set-up supports seamless omnichannel journeys, and provides shoppers with a unified view of interactions, products and management systems. With consumers expecting a seamless buying journey from sales to fulfilment and delivery, retailers need to inject innovation into the delivery of unified commerce.
Sales: Moving beyond mobile and desktop and engaging across social networks, video streaming and IoT will be crucial to engage shoppers, especially for bricks-and-mortar sales.
Fulfilment: Adapting to distributed order management to access inventory from multiple channels, creating real-time overview of stock availability and fulfilment.
Delivery: Facilitating flexibility in delivery with options for shoppers across all channels. This could include doorstep deliveries and curb side pick-up, but also options like drive-through and secure lockers in third-party outlets.
Benefitting from composable enterprise
Deploying end-to-end solutions can be better replaced by embracing composable enterprise. Composable enterprise allows retailers to pick and choose the tools and business functions that best meet their needs, and ‘compose’ their IT architecture of these individual best-of-breed blocks.
Digitally-savvy retailers are already taking advantage of this approach. Looking ahead, responsiveness to changing consumer needs will be key to commercial success. Using composable enterprise, retailers will be able to scale digital programmes up and down in line with fluctuating demand, plus deploy new business functions using extensions or add-ons rather than overhauling complete systems.
Underpinning a move to composable architecture is the right underlying operational infrastructure to support it. That includes addressing any technical gaps in expertise in their workforce, creating new methodologies around management and decision-making to enable rapid change, and, where appropriate, have in place partnerships with external technical expertise to facilitate scaling up.
A unified commerce experience, powered by composable enterprise, can help facilitate agility in the business. In simple terms, an operating environment that allows a business to pivot, to change pace and to respond to the evolving demands and expectations of consumers.
This approach supports: Faster go-to-market for new propositions. Converting an idea into a commercial-ready product is burdened by obstacles, requiring analysis of consumer data, supply chain collaboration and lean systems for decision-making. With business agility prioritised, each of these steps becomes easier and quicker.
Improved consumer engagement. Consumers engage with businesses that meet their needs. Organisations that prioritise business agility are well-placed to create differentiated consumer engagement that nurtures these relationships, and quickly responds to changing expectations or needs.
Business team empowerment. Businesses can empower their talent by facilitating the means for team members to identify challenges or opportunities and execute the relevant solutions.
Bringing up the bottom line. Research shows that companies with organisational agility see improved financial performance of between 20-30%. It’s therefore an unsurprising find that those companies with a focus on business agility were also in a better position to respond and adapt to seismic market changes during the pandemic, according to a 2020 Accenture analysis.
Holistic change is important to prioritise when it comes to implementing a business agility framework. That means implementation across strategy, structure, process, people and technology. Changes at only a single level will see less impact.
Protecting the future of retail
With the events of the past year shifting consumer habits for the future, retailers need to prioritise investment in digital and physical infrastructures that allows seamless transitions between channels, helping to meet evolving customer expectations. While this may seem daunting for retailers with legacy architectures, creating unified commerce, powered by composable enterprise structure, provides the basis for retailers to traverse a post-pandemic world with certainty.
About the Author
Chris Griffiths is Managing Partner – Customer Experience and Enterprise Systems at REPL Group, Part of Accenture. Hundreds of businesses around the world rely on REPL to help them solve critical enterprise problems. We develop intimate partnerships with businesses in order to transform their people, supply chain, and customer experience to create and deliver long-lasting value.
Featured image: ©Goredenkoff