Retailers must transform and engage customers to avoid a digital disconnect

The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show that online retail sales in July rose for the eighth month in a row, posting an 11.2 per cent increase on June's figures. The results reinforce the growing influence of online shopping as more consumers become digitally savvy.

Despite retailers' awareness of the importance of digital transformation, one major challenge they face is modernising their back-end systems in order to implement the latest digital technology. In an effort to provide the best front-end apps, tools and gadgets to attract customers, many retailers are looking to engage technology partners to evaluate and modernise their existing systems without affecting day-to-day retail operations.

The retail industry needs to adapt to customers who demand an "any time, any place, any device" shopping experience. Furthermore, retailers must have systems that are able to collect, converge and comprehend customer information from a variety of different channels in order to drive sales and build their brand.

The most technologically advanced retailers are able to leverage data from store sales, online portals, mobile and social media to inform their own processes for merchandising, supply chain, and marketing. However, this type of integration requires an agile end-to-end technology foundation in order to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Nitin Rakesh, CEO and President of global IT solutions provider Syntel, comments: "Retailers need back-office processes in place that can seamlessly connect and automate business critical activities. However, just like in other sectors, many retailers are burdened with outdated legacy systems which can lead to inefficient operations."

"The right IT operations and a smart automation strategy can reduce IT costs by 35 per cent and increase online sales by 54 per cent, as our work with retailers in the past has proven. Ultimately, retailers need to find a solution to engage their customers, in order to avoid what we call a 'Digital Disconnect."

Mr. Rakesh also points out that as consumers become more brand agnostic, retailers who do not technologically modernise their systems are more likely to experience difficulty retaining customers because they are unable to offer the omni-channel experience that modern consumers demand.

"What is happening now is not just consumers seeking convenience when shopping, but a complete personalised experience that is catered to them," said Rakesh. "With the wealth of new data available, retailers have a chance to engage their shoppers by utilising a level of insight that has never before been possible."

"This is what experts are now calling 'Me-commerce', a deep understanding of the behaviour and motivations of shoppers," said Rakesh. "Retailers need to turn to partners like Syntel that can enable them to support both 'run the business' and 'change the business' activities and deliver the kind of seamless customer experience that leads to greater revenue."

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