The future is uncertain for the vast majority of activity sectors. Technology has changed habits and behaviours, as well as ways of working. The retail sector is no exception.
If we were already witnessing sustained growth in online businesses and the sector’s need and concern to provide an omnichannel experience to its customers, the pandemic accelerated this need. At the same time, it created new competitors. It broke some barriers that benefit the sector, such as the use of online by older people who, as a result of necessity, broke the fear of converting and shopping online.
Predicting the future, just with a crystal ball, but some trends leave no doubt that they will be the new normal.
Trends like customizing the user experience, whether in an online channel or a physical channel. When we enter an online store, we expect an impeccable experience, from the speed and fluidity of the online experience to the ability to “test products online” and view them using VR or AR, have personalized suggestions of products, and interact with chatbots or voice bots. This is what we expect, not a website that is impossible to browse or research products. It’s the good experiences that build loyalty and makes customers come back: good experiences create brand promoters – good and free marketing -, bad experiences create detractors – bad marketing and high costs for the organisation.
For this, another trend that has to do with greater and better use of data will be critical. Organizations need to collect customer data, something that most already do, be it buying and consumption habits and patterns, or crossing data with other entities external to the organization, to provide the personalized experience I mentioned.
Through the use of technology based on or supported by the Cloud, decisions can be made in milliseconds and suggest the right products at the right time to customers. In addition to faster decisions, the organization becomes more efficient and saves on the management and maintenance of legacy and obsolete systems that do not provide the necessary answers in the necessary time. Problems such as having many users accessing the site and it not responding or becoming inoperable are no longer a concern.
The message I leave to managers and decision-makers in the retail sector is not to waste time! Invest now in innovation and technology, as there is low-cost technology accessible to all companies, from micro-enterprises to large corporations, which brings new and more customers and, in turn, an increase in revenue. The future is now and it cannot wait, as for many companies in the sector there may be no future if they do not invest in technology now.