The world’s major events – from the pandemic to geopolitical uncertainty – have had a significant impact on the retail industry, which is contending with everything from high inflation to high operating costs. Gartner recent report, Top Unified Retail Commerce Execution Trends for CIOs 2023, outlines how retailers should respond to this disruption by focusing on their physical store.
Gartner describes “Physical stores are the executional hub of unified commerce and are key to evolving immersive experiences that drive both associate and customer engagement.” Here are the key lessons learned from the Gartner report that we believe will prove significant as retailers respond to turbulent times.
From Immersive Experiences to Automation
With Gartner predicting that“ By 2023, e-commerce will cease to be a differentiator in the retail marketplace” , we believe technologies that can create powerful immersive experiences in-store are set to come to the fore.
“This will also include the use of technologies (such as, AR, VR and MR) as well as nontechnological physical experiences to drive highly engaging immersive experiences for associates and customers.”
These immersive experiences will play an increasingly important role in sales, with Gartner predicting “By 2027, immersive shopping technologies will expand to enable more than 7% of sales interactions in nonfood segments from less than 1% in 2022.”
Because of the importance of physical retail, the battle for talented retail staff also becomes more pressing.
That’s why, alongside the immersive experiences that create more engaging working environments, as per Gartner, “ leveraging AI, IoT and automation technologies that facilitate near-real or real-time data will enable store associates to reduce repetitive work and perform tasks more quickly and intelligently” .
Enhancing the Customer Experience through Technology
Providing a superior customer experience will always play a key role in retail success and Gartner has identified the new technology-driven approaches that are enabling retailers to achieve this.
As per Gartner, “Retailers Are Still Wedded to Product Hierarchical Planning, but Are Shifting Toward Presenting Customer-Centric Assortments”
This is being driven by consumer expectations – “Consumers now expect to be in control of the products and services they consume.”
As per Gartner, “Retailers who are too slow to implement critical AI-led merchandising processes to support the business’ transition to customer centricity will not survive.”
Equally importantly, Gartner underlines the importance of reforming the returns process, “Returns remain an age-old issue for fashion retailers, with current return rates as high as 30% to 40% of products bought online being returned to the seller.”
As mentioned in the report, fashion retail has begun to respond ”Through implementing best-fit technology and providing more personalized sizing information based on the consumer’s body shape and size, retailers can substantially reduce the rate of returns and further optimize customer loyalty and profitability.” Also, “it could be worthwhile to receive returns of bestsellers that can be quickly resold. These should be brought back and fast-tracked through returns processing.”
Iris Gologan, Product Manager for the Retail Industry at Stefanini EMEA, says: “We believe Gartner report very much echoes our experience at Stefanini – this is clearly a turbulent time for the retail industry, but there are also significant opportunities to effectively meet the needs of employees and consumers through investment in sophisticated technologies. Retailers that remain responsive to new trends and technologies remain well positioned to survive and thrive in the future – which includes maximizing the profitability of their physical stores.”