The Age of Amazon. The Retail Apocalypse. There are many names being used to classify the disruptive shift of consumer expectations, behavior, and preferences that has rocked the Retail industry over the past 10 years. 4,810 US-based store closures have already been announced in 2019, and Retailers everywhere are re-evaluating how to engage their customers and compete for wallet share in an increasingly digital world. Research has shown that Retail is seeing the most disruption of any industry today, prompting the question:
What is the future of Retail?
The most valuable buying experiences are now characterized by shopping ease, convenience, and personalization, driving retailers to invent new and creative ways to engage customers—from web to store. The future of Retail belongs to the innovators who use their data to design omnichannel experiences that exceed and evolve expectations, while creating more intelligent, agile merchandising cycles and supply chains that support the seamless delivery of those experiences.
Merchandisers, Marketers, and eCommerce Managers work at the forefront of customer experience and engagement, and hold the keys to customer understanding. They design the experiences that make or break a business, and based on customer behavior, dictate how the business must flex or pivot to address demand. The alignment of these teams—and the data and systems that inform their daily work—is essential for not only surviving, but defeating the retail apocalypse, while maximizing the value of every customer relationship.
The modern merchandiser does so much more than ensuring product is stocked on store shelves. Retail and eCommerce merchandisers are tasked with providing the customer the right product, in the right place, and at the right price—and ensuring the business is prepped to deliver on demand.
From understanding how consumers engage on digital storefronts, including the optimization of product search assortments, bundling, and recommendations, to in-store engagement modeling to determine new and innovative ways to keep in-store customers coming back for more, the modern merchandiser is a true customer engagement analyst and strategist. They must also have deep insight into competitors’ strategies and engagement tactics, and be a champion of creativity and innovation to continually stay one step ahead.
Merchandisers, Marketers, and eCommerce professionals work closely together to ensure the design and delivery of seamless customer journeys. A marketer may bring a customer to a store or website, but can’t always make the customer buy. The experience that the site and digital merchandising provides must fulfill expectations set by the marketer, and engage the customer toward a purchase. Merchandisers work closely with eCommerce site managers and developers to optimize digital storefronts for engagement and conversion. eCommerce teams can provide digital merchandisers with much needed insight into buyer journeys, how, what, and where customers click, and ultimately buy, and where customers may drop off or encounter issues in the process.
The Retail Marketer
Marketers aren’t just tasked with driving awareness—they must help to nurture customers along their journey to purchase with targeted messaging and engagement that spans every phase in the customer lifecycle. Marketers work closely with digital merchandisers and eCommerce teams across the entire campaign lifecycle to ensure that campaigns and promotions are relevant, targeted, designed for success, and deliver on customer expectations.
Similarly, as Commerce continues to be activated across new and diverse channels, Marketers and eCommerce teams must work side-by-side to ensure that all customers can buy what they want, exactly where and when they want to. Instagram recently announced that users can buy items directly from the app, without ever navigating to a vendor website. They will charge sellers a small fee, opening up new revenue streams for the social media giant while also delivering the convenient experiences their users demand. This perfect marriage of Marketing and omnichannel Commerce is increasingly expected by consumers today, and can generate substantial ROI for retail innovators who effectively use social media to engage customers.
The eCommerce Professional
eCommerce and IT teams are tasked with ensuring that desired customer experiences are feasible and that all digital platforms support them as expected.
eCommerce teams work closely with their Digital Marketing counterparts to make decisions for the company website, apps, social media channels, advertising, and all other digital assets that support engagement and commerce. They must be completely in sync with their Marketing team to execute the marketing plans and campaigns that come to life on a site. Working with digital merchandisers to understand merchandising strategy, including product and purchase paths each visitor should take, they determine how the site can adapt to meet goals. Similarly, marketers and merchandisers can provide critical insight into buyer expectations and engagement, and should be the Commerce team’s allies when designing a digital roadmap.
Allies for Innovation
When Merchandisers, Marketers, and Commerce teams are aligned, Retail organizations are more equipped to meet shifting consumer demands with creativity, insight, and agility. These teams own the voice of the brand and of the customer, and are therefore fully equipped to lead the future of the industry. To do so, they must be allies in all efforts, which begins most importantly by fostering customer understanding and insight. With a complete 360° understanding of the customer, these teams can determine how they must iterate as a cohesive unit to create lasting value and help the brand become essential to every customer.
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