The way the world buys and sells is constantly changing. Where owning the high street was once the goal for shop brands, the rise of web-connected devices has completely reconfigured the retail landscape.

With legacy bricks and mortar retail businesses going into administration and digital giant Amazon now the world’s most valuable company, there is a clear message of adapt-or-die for companies regarding digital transformation in retail.

With that in mind, we thought it was time to look at the technological transformation in the retail sector and investigate what businesses need to do to make that shift successfully.

Four Ways Technology is Changing the Retail Sector

The rise of digital technology has seen a blurring of the boundaries between retail and supplier. Where brands once relied on physical stores to get products into the hands of consumers, many now sell effectively through their own digital channels.

The knock-on effect is that retailers of all kinds now offer more carefully-picked product ranges, alongside a more experience-led customer proposition – all backed up by deep and rich customer insights.

These are some key examples of how technological transformation in the retail sector has impacted the customer experience.

M-Commerce is On The Rise

In 2019 one third of the UK’s online shopping happened on a mobile device. Mobile commerce forecasts predict revenue of £105.28 billion in 2024 – more than doubling over the five years from 2019. With the release of dedicated apps by retailers (along with banks, telecoms, media and almost every other industry you can think of!) now standard in iOS and Google app stores, and adaptive web design commonplace, this is sure to become the dominant way to buy in the not-so-distant future.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software is Being More Tightly Integrated

Comprehensive, professional product pages containing reviews, detailed descriptions and delivery information are a central part of earning customer trust. In fact, 81% of people feel concerned about buying from an unfamiliar website. Therefore, an ERP is the backbone of a company’s IT system. The more retailers set up their different functions – including customer databases, ordering and shipping – to work with their e-commerce platform, the more they are positioning themselves to win that trust.

Automation is Now Commonplace

Automation is another of major way technology is changing the retail sector, from the customer portal to warehouse and delivery.

Automated assistants can create an instantaneous customer experience that bridge the gap between a customer’s query and a retailer’s customer service team. Machine Learning-powered warehouse robots can pick, pack and sort packages in a fraction of the time, reducing company outlay on manual labour significantly while also removing the risk of human error. Drone delivery meanwhile can do the same for delivery costs, letting retailers save money from fleet management and re-invest it back into their customer offering.

Retail Is Going Omnichannel

In the mid-late 00s, ‘multichannel retail’ was the watchword in retail circles, encompassing the ability to buy online and pick up items in-store. In 2021, that concept has morphed via modern technology into the omnichannel experience.

With omnichannel, modern retailers offer a unified experience through their website, social channels, mobile apps and physical stores. Each channel offers its own sales opportunities and options for customers to talk to real-life customer service representatives in a myriad of ways.

What Will the Future of Retail Look Like?

Digital transformation in the retail sector is happening whether retailers like it or not – and the most forward-thinking ones will adapt their operations accordingly.

Change and insights specialists McKinsey & Company cites four archetypes of retail business it sees surviving and thriving in a digital world:

  1. Low-cost retailers that run lean operations both online and offline.
  2. Convenience location physical stores that succeed based on their proximity to customers and ability to supply essential goods.
  3. Convenience pre-selection businesses that can tailor their stock selections to the local environment by developing a strong decision management system to gain a precise understanding of consumer behaviours.
  4. Platform operators based on choice and service – retailers with broad scope to offer products, services and experiences. McKinsey uses Amazon as the outstanding example.

One interesting avenue for retailers of the future is highlighted by Amazon’s foray into physical stores. London’s Amazon Fresh in Ealing offers a bite-sized supermarket where shoppers scan a smartphone QR code to open the store’s gates, with purchases tallied by ceiling cameras and shelf weight sensors.

This heavily automated store offers an extreme example of the technological advancement in the retail sector. However, it also suggests that, while the current trend is for commerce to move away from the high street and into cyberspace, the biggest breakout online retailers might just find themselves going the other way in the not-too-distant future.

How Can Technology Help Your Retail Offering?

Whatever type of retail business function you offer, at One Beyond, we can help you build:

Contact us to see how we can help transform your retail enterprise.