From global conflicts to the energy shock and the interruption of supply chains, the Retail sector is among many the most endangered by the current socio-economic and political arrangements. The sector is experiencing an accelerated transformation that demands to rethink and remodel Retail business models. To seize the opportunity to win the challenging global scenario, the Retail Industry is expected to invest in Sustainability, Digital Transformation, Innovation, and Online sales channels.
According to Research conducted by the B2C eCommerce Monitoring Center in October 2022, online sales in Italy reached a value of 48.1 billion euros, 20% higher than the previous year. Online channels have effectively played a key role in the innovation process of Retail, defining a “New Normal” that has been transforming the meaning of physical stores turning them into experiential spaces.
The retailers' big challenge is to seamlessly merge physical and virtual channels to provide a fluid shopping journey along the two purchase ecosystems.
60% of purchase experiences take place on digital channels, especially when it comes to choosing the items to buy. This value is expected to triple in relation to the percentage of in-store shopping. However, it should not be forgotten that 40% of purchase experiences take place in physical stores, in fact, 9 out of 10 top eCommerce platforms are run by resellers in charge of brick-and-mortar shops. According to these data, it is evident that the store will remain part of the consumer’s Purchase Experience. Indeed, what changes in the “New Normal” is not only the relationship between buyers and stores but rather the intrinsic meaning of Retail and Shopping Experience.
With weak global economies and political assets, the financial return on the Fashion Industry is under pressure. The sector needs innovative business opportunities for keeping up with competitors in the long run and for ensuring exigent consumers with an integrated shopping experience both online and offline. Research conducted by McKinsey in 2020 shows that over 80% of buyers behave differently during the purchase process and try new channels or services like “click & collect” o “buy online return in store”. Operational implications are unpredictable: the consumers’ shopping performance is equally held online and offline and they expect to have full visibility and availability of products no matter the sales channel.
Shopping Experience, Store operations, and innovation are three focal points part of the so-called “Buyer's Emotional Commitment”. For this reason, closing the gap between supply chain, warehouse, store, and eCommerce becomes fundamental in order to guarantee immersive purchase journeys and enhance Customer Loyalty.
From back-end operations to front-end activities, all the store functionalities have the same goal: creating customized and fluid shopping experiences and breaking the digitalization gap. With sales channels increasingly melting in a single ecosystem, it is essential to standardize and align management processes along the physical and digital world: warehouse movements, stock management, assortment composition, and employers’ management are some of the operations that Retailers should consider the core of the buyers’ shopping decisions.
Merging digital and in-store sales requires an extension of the supply chain and logistic networks. Technology steps in to support fashion retailers and provide innovative solutions to collect and query stock data or order data in real-time. For this reason, Fashion brands should invest in highly qualified tools that could provide vertical solutions for specific market needs. In addition to Stealth® Retail, the vertical modules Stealth® Orchestrator and Stealth® OMS give the Retailers a chance to face this challenge. With the first module, it is possible to map the lifecycle of orders, catalogs, and marketplace items, simplifying logistics operations from warehouse to store. On the other hand, with the second module omnichannel scenarios can be applied thanks to a capillary control over online orders and the management of processes like Click and Collect, Book online-Buy in store or Buy online-Return in store.
The shift in consumer behavior is systemically redefining retailers’ priorities and attention for the future of Retail. Technology steps in to provide the industry players solutions to consolidate omnichannel purchase scenarios and to create interconnected systems, an innovative concept much mentioned during the 2023 edition of NRF Retail’s Big Show in New York. The integration of sales channels demanded by this model requires innovative thinking and specific skills focused on individual online and offline process exigences.
Last summer McKinsey conducted a survey on over 6000 consumers in Europe; the results say that 70% of them claim higher service quality in store. To deal with the complexity of the new in-store Retail paradigms, the optimization of process management should start with the Sales Assistants and Store Managers. Rethinking the traditional business models could provide the right tools to simplify store operations and guarantee an immersive Shopping Experience in the long term. The store crew should be involved in the study of the brand’s perception in the market: as experts of specific geographic micro areas, they should actively collect and interpret data on the consumers’ behavior useful to plan concrete actions aimed at strengthening the Brand Loyalty. Stock quantities, order status, shipping, and inventory are some of the information that the Store Assistant should access and check daily. If technology is applied to strengthen data collection systems and optimize the management of store operations, the employees can provide the customers with real-time data, improving the brand’s value on the market.
Focusing on the most frequent Retail Store operations, we developed a suite of Retail Mobile App designed for Sales Assistants and Store Managers to make daily activities more efficient: Stealth® Stock Finder to query the stock quantities in the warehouse, Stealth® Movement to check Warehouse transactions, Stealth® Receive to manage store deliveries, Stealth® Inventory to fill in inventories and Stealth® OmniOrder to manage orders deriving from different sales channels.
When drawing up the roadmap to the digital transformation of point of sales, Fashion brands should include the creation of well-established Retail flows that guarantee seamless omnichannel Customer Experiences and a customer-oriented technology ecosystem.
Information Systems Project Manager