The key priorities for retail – adapting to a challenging holiday season
Just over a week ago, we conducted a survey on LinkedIn inviting professionals to share their views on the key solutions and priorities for retailers looking to meet customer needs and adapt to this year’s holiday season.
This showed that specific technologies were not considered key priorities, with chatbots and AI assistants named a priority by just 13% of our respondents. We shouldn’t be too surprised by this result. Firstly, chatbots are already fairly widespread, while those companies not using chatbots have often already decided they lack the resources to achieve their desired results through this technology. Any unwillingness among retailers to embrace chatbots might not be due to lack of effort. Instead, their business model might not fit with the chatbot approach or their reluctance might be the result of a failed attempt at using chatbots in the past. Even so, I’m confident the technology would have received a higher rating had our survey option been reworded as ‘Increase basket sizes with an AI solution’, placing greater emphasis on what could be achieved by AI assistants/chatbots.
Are we there yet?
‘Real-time tracking’ came second from last in our poll, being named a priority by just 18% of respondents. This is quite surprising given that, during the holiday period, we might expect that ensuring gifts turn up on time at the right address would be a particular priority. However, the fact that more people are working from home could mean that they are ordering gifts earlier and are less concerned about being out of the house when items arrive, which reduces the need for tracking.
In second place in our poll, ‘reduced delivery times’ was named a priority by 33% of our respondents. At this point, it’s important to note that we don’t know whether our respondents are retailers themselves, or consumers who use retail services. While this could shape their response, we’d expect both retailers and consumers to recognize the benefits of reduced delivery times and consider faster delivery a priority.
Give me options
‘Click & collect’ came top in our survey, receiving 36% of the vote. While not every retailer was expected to provide click and collect options before the pandemic, it’s now viewed as essential. We can anticipate that retailers will soon be expected to also offer automatic shopping and refills, competing with the likes of Amazon.
However, click and collect – just like real-time tracking and increasing basket sizes through AI – remains a pipedream for many retailers. One of the key issues we have heard is around the integration of new solutions and the challenges faced when attempting to seamlessly understand customers, serve them more quickly and deliver goods the way they want and when they want. This type of retail is not possible with separate products, old backend systems, and a lack of analysis based on every touchpoint. Instead, it relies on integrated solutions. With these in place, retailers will be able to better meet consumer needs – over the holiday period and beyond.