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Digital as the fulcrum point

Digital has allowed the consumer to take control in retail terms, meaning they now act as the fulcrum point with the capacity to tip the balance of success, for or against retailers.

Then again this has always been the case even before digital. We hear about the stories of the consumer changing the face of the high street, but if we look back it has happened before. The consumer moving from the independent to adopt supermarkets and the growth of out-of-town shopping; consumers also choosing mail order versus the physical shop and now into the digital age online/mobile versus in store; these are all fulcrum points of change.

All of this is down to choice and convenience, driven by the continued evolution of the digital revolution with things such as mobility devices and the adoption of other digitally-enabled technologies as part of the retail experience both online and offline and every interaction in between.

What has digital delivered?

Digital has driven this choice and convenience – from everything such as personalisation all the way to just-in-time manufacturing – but we have to ask the question: have business models changed and what might they change into? For those that have changed, has it worked and are they digitally enabled or has it created silos? You hear others say if things are working OK, why break it, after all we are still turning a profit so is a digital strategy really required?

Digital has empowered anyone anywhere to consider the motto “I can do that”; it has paved the way for a generation of self starters and entrepreneurs all capable of new retail business ideas, concepts and has prompted the existing generations to go “we can now do this differently, or why are we not doing that”, thus reducing the complexities of IT to a more common ground – if not across all areas of technology that support a business.

Digital has brought about the innovation of many things such as pure online players starting with no legacy and creating a who new shopping experience in the cloud (to run with latest terminology). In the process this has rewritten the rules around choice, convenience and engagement, which is interlinked with other pure online social platforms that offer seamless retail experiences that are the expected normal standard, raising the customers’ expectations of what they should expect just for doing business with you.

Digital is more than an app, an online portal, a kiosk, an interactive smart TV or a games console, though; it is personal media redefined and how we consume it. It is how we encompass the whole retail choice, convenience and engagement model.

If you use the analogy of watching a film, how many different options are there? Cinema, online, DVD or video (yes I said video)? The technology adoption curve is long and full of fulcrum points, but at which point will consumers tip to adopt?

Do I watch at home, in cinema, on my phone, at my mate’s house or at a social event? Could it be possible to map the customer journey and moment of truths to ensure a seamless experience and continue brand adoption, advocacy and future growth? It’s not easy but digital is making it easier to deliver engagement, provide choice and deliver convenience.

“Digital strategy” is the new buzzword, but remember we have been in this so-called digital revolution since the 1980s – it’s just the speed of change and adoption that is now faster than ever before and continues to grow at speed. In essence, we need to think digital, defining successful digital strategies as part of business.

Once there used to be a time when we planned five or ten years in advance, but the speed and adoption of technologies has caused more tactical versus strategic confliction and 2014 will look very different than today, let alone 2020.

Admittedly there are many companies and countries that straddle the technology adoption curve and are doing well where digital is still in its infancy, but digital is changing the landscape and the innovations taking place in pockets globally all have the power to disrupt and create new choice, convenience and engagement models. In places, experiences are even being redefined by leaping traditional thinking, all because of the power of digital enablement.

Some retailers – Staples and American Apparel, for example – are exploring and investing in new areas that can balance convenience, choice and engagement in the new world of digital where we, as digital consumers, are the fulcrum points in your digital strategy.