Technology’s Role in the New Retail Paradigm, Post-COVID-19

Retailers are at a crucial time. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, many retailers were already feeling the pressures of ecommerce‘s growth. After months of forced closures and stay-at-home orders, these stressors have only intensified. Recent data fromIBM’s U.S. Retail IndexCOVID-19, which has accelerated the transition from physical shops to digital shopping, moved the timeline up nearly five years.

It has been clear that consumers’ preferences have changed as physical stores reopen. Brick-and-mortar stores that want to thrive and survive in this changing landscape must develop a new strategy. This should include robust omnichannel strategies as well as incentives to draw customers into their physical stores. Brands that are proactive in updating their strategies will do better than those who try to resist it.

Machine Learning: How Machine Learning Can Help

Retailers need to have current, up-to-date data in order to make informed decisions before they can make any changes to their strategies. Although it was possible to use last year’s data as a guide, today’s consumer is very different from the one before COVID-19. Operators should reexamine their data collection methods, the technologies they use to analyze it, as well as how they align those insights with future location strategies.

Artificial intelligence and machine-learning provide retailers with greater insight into key data elements such as customer shopping habits, demographics, and traffic patterns. This allows managers to make better decisions about store locations, maximize sales, and increase profitability.

Machine learning allows you to sort through data and find the most appropriate combination of models to interpret your current environment. These techniques allow retailers to process large amounts of information and identify patterns that are beyond human analysis, especially when the underlying datasets change frequently.

These techniques can be tailored to address rapidly changing consumer patterns and closed competition. They also provide forward-looking forecasts for specific locations that are based on the current environment. Retailers have a wealth of data available to them about key locations and consumer buying patterns. This information is vital in understanding where the best locations are, what should be closed and which ones need to relocate.

As we have seen, a well-planned game plan can make all of the difference. We learned this from Target’s success. Target was a pioneer in developing omnichannel strategies, including a broad rollout of Buy Online Pick Up In-Store fulfillment centers (BOPIS), across many store locations. Anyone who has visited Target’s BOPIS fulfillment centres knows that they are efficient and allow for a smooth flow of customer traffic. BOPIS shoppers can pick up their goods from the fulfillment centers without having to interact with others. Or, if they prefer, they can go into the store to continue shopping. This kind of design is not a result of luck. It takes careful planning and great data. Target has announced that it will expand its BOPIS offerings to include groceries this year.

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Speed

This technology is well-suited for the new retail environment because of its comprehensive nature. It is not the speed with which information is processed or analyzed that is important. Accessing the information in real time is just as important as having the right information. It is crucial to be able to quickly pivot or address any problems in order to retain and grow customers in a competitive, disruptive environment.

The popular coffee brand Dunkin’ is a prime example of a retailer who used intelligent information to pivot quickly during March’s stay-at-home advisories. To ensure that customers can continue to buy products, the coffee giant set up curbside pickup plans and promoted it via popular apps like Grubhub, UberEats and DoorDash. Dunkin’ has launched a pilot program to allow customers to shop at checkout-free stores. This was in September.

Flexibility

Machine learning also offers the advantage of being able to quickly recalibrate. Manually altering and recalibrating models is difficult and costly. Retailers who rely on old models’ validity could find it difficult to make changes. Recent events in October have shown that volatility is not slowing down. Analysts must be able to modify models to reflect changing market realities or other unforeseen factors. Retailers need to ensure that their models are up-to-date, regardless of how the market changes. It is impossible to make a poor location decision.

While physical stores will remain a key component of retail strategies that succeed, operators must be able to influence consumer sentiment. The second round of the pandemic, and what could prove to be a difficult winter, will cause consumer confidence to fluctuate and change their buying habits. Retailers that are attentive to consumer needs and able to quickly address these dynamic issues efficiently will be the best placed to succeed in this environment.

How to reach customers in their Purchasing Journey

The journey of a customer to make a purchase decision today is different than it was six months ago, especially if they are purchasing a high-ticket item. Online research is becoming more important in some cases. This opens up the possibility for local retailers to create a robust presence across multiple digital touchpoints to reach customers wherever they may be.

A study byEpiserverMore than 92 percent consumers conduct research online before purchasing. Manufacturers with high-value products and large brands need to effectively communicate their message at the local level. This ensures that customers who are looking for items that take time and require research before they make a purchase, will find the right local retailer. The brand can bring a product to life online to meet the customer’s needs.

A Grasshopper, for example.(r)To get the best value, mower must be researched before purchase. Local retailers that carry Grasshopper products can be usedPowerChordThe average increase in website inquiry submissions to’s SaaS platform was 121 percent year-over-year. Dealers who took part in the program generated 500% more online leads than those who didn’t.

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Updating

While local retailers do many good things when it comes online experience, they often fail to provide current and relevant information for the brands they represent. These include seasonal promotions, updated pricing and the most recent competitive advantages.

Acquisition

It is possible for retailers to stand out online by making sure they are easily searched when customers search for their products or services. Paying search advertising is a critical element to the success of retailers. To capitalize on the highly qualified hand raises, most consumers begin their buying journey by searching online for information such as Google. Local paid search ads place a business’ name, address, and phone number in front of potential buyers who are actively searching for products.

Keep in touch

Although there is no set formula for brand-to-local advertising and customer experience, there are some best practices. These include a clear customer journey that is easy to navigate, advertising through multiple channels to reach customers at their moment of intent and quick access to the information they need online. According to estimates, a brand must reach customers seven times before they make a purchase decision.

Although it may seem like a lot of contacts, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. To be successful, a local advertiser or business owner must be flexible and be able to think through all the touchpoints in the customer journey, from awareness, research, and retail purchase consideration. You can find local digital marketing solutions such as local paid search advertising, local dealer and retargeting, local rich medium display, local social media lead ads, and local dealer retargeting. As part of scalable programs that enable retailers to bring brands alive in local ads.

Prioritizing Budget Initiatives

Local businesses might consider adopting the 70-20-10 rule for advertising investment. This means that 70 percent of the budget is allocated to “tried-and-true” initiatives. These are the key marketing activities that have been proven successful in driving new customers to a retail shop. 20% of the budget is allocated to “safe bets”, activities that are likely to succeed. The remaining 10% is used to test new opportunities and determine what works. This allows retailers to be flexible while ensuring that their business continues to grow in today’s digitally changing world.

Today’s online marketplace is fiercely competitive and retailers must do more to be noticed. By working with local dealers and retailers, brands can drive awareness, which will lead to higher-ticket items, to a cohesive message. Local businesses should not be afraid to adopt technology tools and scaleable advertising efforts to reach customers in today’s complicated online ecosystem. PowerChord is able to assist with turn-key digital marketing solutions and technology solutions that drive high-consideration sales through the entire consumer journey using functional data solutions.

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