The entire business world is changing as things becomes automated, data is obtained en masse and processes occur at the speed of light. The retail industry does not escape this harsh reality and in fact might even be leading the way in some respects. So what factors mark the future of the retail industry as we know it?
Brick-and-mortar vs online marketplaces
It is becoming an ever-increasing occurrence that businesses are taking to the online arena to show their wares and sell their products. But this, surprisingly, does not spell the end of the traditional brick-and- mortar store as we know it. In fact, it is predicted that the rate of sales occurring inside a physical store in the US will still persist at 80% in 2020. However, the traditional brick-and- mortar store must still adapt to encompass the digital era in their everyday operations to ensure a better customer experience. In reality, what this means is that an amalgamation of digital and physical is required where customers still obtain a fantastic, humanised experience in-store, where they feel valued and as if they connect, while being able to access the inventory and store reviews online to complement their experience.
Act fast before its gone!
The way sales are conducted have and will continue to change with this new era of digital data and intelligence. Historically, a sale involved a significant amount of extra work to set up, ensuring every item has a new sale sticker on it and that billboards and promotional material are completed and hanging, ready for the stampede through the door. Due to a large amount of work to set up, sales would only be conducted a few times a year and would last for a longer time period to maximise the work put into it.
However, this is all changing with digital price tags and barcodes. It is now possible to update an entire store’s inventory to sale prices by simply updating the software at the backend. Not only is the time involved significantly less, but also the accuracy of sale-priced items is increased dramatically. Of course, sales can also be conducted far more often and last for a shorter amount of time. The effect of this on customers is the need to act fast before the sale price is inflated back to regular retail prices, which in effect, generates more sales and increased profitability.
An endless aisle
Amazon is an amazing example of this phenomenon where there is a broad range of products customers can choose from via a digital interface thereby creating the appearance of an ‘endless aisle’ shopping experience. However, this does not need to be a phenomenon exclusive to the online retail space but can also be incorporated into a brick-and-mortar store.
While it is still important to have physical items to touch and try on, a digital interface can be set up that can then give customers options of multiple different colour ways or pattern alternatives. In doing so, the product range is extended dramatically without having to store each option in the shop. Through augmented reality technology, a customer could also virtually ‘try on’ their potential purchase choice and even upload it to social media for friend feedback. This is an example of optimising your ‘bricks and clicks’ where customers can still enjoy a lovely shopping experience in-store, while having the choice and convenience that is afforded by online retail. Of course, once a sale is made, it is then vital to ensure the product is shipped hastily.
Optimise the supply chain with the help of inventory management
Increased efficiency is becoming paramount in the retail world. This equates to either being able to visit a brick-and-mortar store with a product always in stock, or having the assurance that one will be delivered in the shortest amount of time to your doorstep at a reasonable cost.
In order to achieve this, a company must have a well-oiled supply chain that is dependable and efficient. There must be back-up solutions should the chain fail, as well as safety stock to ensure obligations can perpetually be met. Of course, it helps to have a system in place that provides a birds-eye view of the supply chain and facilitates inventory management from the ground up. This is where dedicated inventory management software systems come into play.