Brave New World: Meeting Today’s Retail Challenges Head-On

Mitel’s Head of Sales for UK and Ireland discusses how to navigate the new era of retail.

As headlines about plummeting profits and the demise of high street favourites such as Toys R Us and Maplin fill our news feeds, many stores continue to seek ways to reinvent, reinvigorate, and refresh their way into consumers’ shopping lists as the retail landscape continues to shift and twist.

The retail sector has changed dramatically over the past few years, placing new demands on stores of all shapes and sizes. Competing successfully is no longer simply a matter of offering a range of products at the lowest price.

Customer confidence is at an all-time low and disposable income is in an ever-decreasing cycle which all points to an inevitable slowdown in consumer spending. More than ever, retailers need to prioritise their actions and recognise the fundamental shift in consumer shopping desires and patterns.

Technology, data, security, price wars and market share are all causing retailers to continually rethink their business forecast and business models. But the biggest challenges facing today’s retailers can be overcome by planning now.

Challenge 1: Digital disruption

Customer behaviour is changing rapidly and while the age-old mantra of the “customer is always right” is still universally acknowledged within the retail sector, it’s the amount of power said customers now have that requires a shift in focus.

Consumers are no longer limited to a couple of options when looking to purchase goods and because of the choices now available to them – thanks in large part to a myriad of platforms and applications – are now switching between retailers and online/bricks and mortar channels from purchase to purchase, depending on which best serves their needs at the time.

E-commerce has certainly had an effect on bricks-and-mortar stores, but there is evidence enough to show that customers still prefer purchasing most products in-store. However, customers are using the internet to do reconnaissance work (known as “show-rooming”)—that is, search online for product information, best prices, and comparable and/or complementary products before visiting physical stores to close the sale.

Challenge 2: In-store experiences

This means that customer loyalty is now much harder for brands to secure, presenting a new and unique set of challenges for today’s retailers as they try to find new and more innovative ways to appeal to buyers – both existing and potential.

Shoppers want remarkable experiences when they enter into a store. They want to interact with products, enjoy experiences that are tailored to them and engage their senses with creative sights, smells, tastes and touch. Virtual reality, show-rooming, and other experiential retail strategies can position retailers at the top of their category when experiential retail is done well.

Challenge 3: Logistics

Technology continues to transform payment processing and customer demand seems to be fuelling the on-demand, or prepaid (online) options of completing in-store purchases. Digital wallets are replacing slow legacy payment systems and without the right technology in place, retailers won’t be able to offer these payment methods, risking a potential loss of custom.

Order fulfillment from online purchases and in-store pickup options represent another logistics challenge. Stores need to deliver a better experience when online shoppers enter the physical stores, provide clear signs for online shoppers picking up their online orders, and create an overall user-friendly experience developed by walking in the shoes of the customer.

The solution

In order to successfully respond to these challenges, retailers must invest in store-level communications technologies to assure a more complete flow of information and improve customer engagement.

Yet many are currently limited by existing infrastructures that often consist of older, disparate systems, resulting in limited access to information and a heavy reliance on manual processes, making stores less flexible and resilient.

Retailers are turning to unified communications to resolve these problems. Daisy’s Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) solutions, powered by Mitel, help fulfil both the needs and visions of retailers. Its portfolio spanning the cloud, supply chain services and contact centres empowers staff to anticipate market shifts, simplify operations and deliver inspired omni-channel customer experiences. From building a 360-degree view of your customers which enables you to tailor their in-store and offline experiences, through to using cloud environments to exploit new opportunities, Daisy’s solutions are as diverse as you.

The information age is a door which swings both ways – there’s more data available to customers, but this means there more available about them, too. With the right know-how and tools, retailers can come up with new and innovative ways to keep shoppers coming back for more.

About the Author:
Nick Riggott is a retail visionary at Mitel. In his role as Head of Sales, UK & Ireland, he is responsible for Mitel’s Private and Public Sector Sales team driving transformative change for customers and partners alike.

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