To say that the last three years have been weird would be an understatement. Yet while every industry was impacted by the pandemic and all that followed, retail was hit harder than most.
So much has changed (probably permanently) in the retail space — from how customers shop, to what they buy, to the customer experience they expect.
Yet some things never change — like how retailers must continue to adapt to new customer behavior and an ever-shifting technology landscape.
In the Bazaarvoice survey that drove their 2022 Shopper Experience Index, 64% of consumers reported that they hybrid-shopped in the last six months, doing research online before entering a physical store. But it’s not just that more people are researching or shopping online now, it’s that they’re combining online and offline shopping in brand new ways.
Omnichannel commerce is more than a growing trend, it’s an evolution in retail experience. The retailers that are agile enough to adapt quickly are better positioned for whatever the future brings.
And right along with retail customer experience, retail operations are evolving, too. In fact, they’re intricately connected.
Years ago, we did a profile on The Warehouse, one of New Zealand’s largest retail chains. We’re surfacing that story today because not only is it one of our favorite success stories, but after all that’s changed since 2020, the lessons inside are more important than ever.
Consider the difference between a customer who knows exactly what they’re looking for when they enter a store, and one who comes in merely to browse. How a retailer merchandises products in-store will make a big impact on what these hyper-focused customers will experience (and purchase) when they enter the store.
As Bazaarvoice shares in the report, “with endless products available at their digital fingertips, consumers are more willing than ever to try out new brands when they face shortages, stockouts — or just a lack of inspiration from brands they were once loyal to."
The Warehouse used Showcase Workshop to make short work of merchandising changes in-store. Instead of regional managers and store managers being locked away in the back office reviewing and printing schematics, they receive and share schematics through Showcase. It’s a much faster process for everyone, which means retailers can be well-equipped to adapt their merchandising quickly.
It’s important for every retailer — not just large chains like The Warehouse — to be able to make merchandising changes to stores quickly, because in-store buying habits continue to change in new and interesting ways.
Agility Means Finding a New Normal Faster
Of course, speed and agility are two different things.
Retailers have seen buyer behavior and preferences react nearly instantaneously to external factors since 2020, and not return to the previous normal since. How, when, and where customers want to shop continue to change, and technology is playing a crucial role in how retailers adapt.
What happened with Macy’s in 2021 is a good example of how important it is to pay attention to technology and its influence on customer behavior. When the American department store giant realized its e-commerce sales were higher in markets where it had brick-and-mortar locations, the company paused several planned store closings.
With the right technology in place, retailers can stay agile, and make the right changes in the right places at the right time. Years ago, when The Warehouse adopted Showcase Workshop to solve their in-store merchandising challenges, they knew that merchandising made a huge difference in a customer’s experience and their likelihood of buying. With that technology in play, the corporate office can send out new schematics to store managers and floor personnel straightaway when new insights emerge. This gives stores the direction they need to flex with their customers’ needs.
It’s clear that technology is enabling agility around how retail workers get their jobs across the board. Morning Brew recently cited a survey from Square and Wakefield Research that found 72% of retail business owners are using (or plan to use) automation in 2022 to decrease their team’s time spent doing hands-on work.
From E-Commerce to Internal Communications — Retail Tech Matters More Than Ever
While it’s true that some retailers were better prepared than others for the series of monkey-wrenches that was the last two and a half years, it’s not too late to make small digital and tech improvements that result in big impacts.
Take a gander at this success story from The Warehouse for inspiration. Then head on over to website to see how using Showcase Workshop for your strategic communications platform can make a huge difference in your retail operations today and for the long run.