The omni-channel experience is no longer a nice-to-have but a need-to-have. More than half of retailers offer mobile shopping app technology to facilitate their shoppers’ buying journeys, though smaller chains are further behind than larger ones when it comes to offering an integrated omni-channel shopping experience. However, the path to reach shoppers with a well-orchestrated experience does not need to be complex. But it does have to be well planned and consistently executed. How well are your retail technology tools meeting the needs of your business as well as your customer?
To build a scalable retail business that’s able to grow even amidst the ups and downs of our industry, it’s important to keep sight of all of the moving parts that make stores successful, including your business goals, the key players involved in driving your brand forward, and the processes you enlist to make it happen.
Ask your team these questions in six key areas to ensure you’re on the right path to grocery e-commerce success:
1. Vision, goals and strategies (now and in the future)
What are we trying to accomplish with our business and what technological tools do we need to invest in to help us stay competitive now and in the next five to 10 years? Any consideration of digital transformation must necessarily begin with a clear-eyed vision of what the business is trying to accomplish, both now and in the coming years. Start by asking such questions as: What are our revenue targets now and in the next five to 10 years? What’s not working with our business right now that we think we can change using new or emerging technological tools or systems? What technology makes sense for our current business and for the business we plan to build in the future? Only once you’ve created a clear vision for the future and articulated a formal case for change will you be able to develop a scalable digital transformation plan that can reliably deliver value against your new technology investment.
2. Key players
Who needs to be involved in various stages of the process? Consider the full workback schedule to determine which key stakeholders and leaders will need to provide input and/or sign off at important stages of the process. Steps will likely include, but are by no means limited to:
- vetting different partners, solutions, tech specs and requirements, SLAs and more;
- the final decision-making process and sign-off;
- any technological development work required to tie new platforms or solutions to current or legacy systems;
- user interface (UI), user experience (UX) and reliability testing; and
- training of any and all staff who may come in contact with the new technology, from back-office IT personnel through to front-line staff and customer service representatives.
3. Communicating change
How will we keep internal and external stakeholders informed of our business change(s)? While you’re compiling your list of key stakeholders, be sure to include your marketing and sales team members—the people who work tirelessly to communicate your brand message day in and day out. Why? Because clear and consistent communication is crucial to maintaining loyalty and buy-in of consumers, employees and even suppliers and industry partners. And in the absence of factual communications, people will tend to create their own stories, and rumors can quickly derail the communication process.
Working well in advance of the system launch, you’ll want to socialize benefits of the new technology among shoppers and customer prospects as well as internally, from board members and C-suite executives through to every frontline employee, sharing information as plainly and completely as possible while avoiding getting bogged down in too much technical detail.
Once the new technology is up and running, use both online as well as non-digital tools (think: email and text notifications; inserts in shipped purchases; in-store signage) to communicate the benefits your customers can expect to receive over time.
Then, as consumers begin to recognize the real value of your new technology (e.g., they’re able to collect loyalty points more quickly or perhaps they can take advantage of discounts more easily using a new mobile app), capitalize on that momentum using social media channels to shine a spotlight on shoppers who are particularly invested in your brand.
Whose budget is this coming out of? Depending on your funding models, your company’s grocery e-commerce investment could come out of marketing or IT budgets, or possibly even sales or operations coffers. So, it’s best to investigate which departments will be footing the bill for the new technology well before you sign on the dotted line.
Keep in mind, too: Depending on factors like the type of system or technology you’re looking to introduce and your vendor partner’s service model, you’ll likely need to plan for the initial procurement plus ongoing management fees, updates and so on.
Are our business processes, team capacities and operating models ready for the business changes that are likely to develop as a result of bringing on new e-commerce technology? From procurement, warehousing and shipping capabilities to back-end office functioning, to frontline engagement with shoppers and handling of customer service issues and beyond, no area of a grocery business is left untouched by new technology development and integration.
Pay careful attention to the areas of your business that are most likely to be affected by the introduction of new e-commerce technology, including IT, procurement, operations, logistics and other departments, as they’re more likely to feel overburdened and undersupported during times of extreme change. And if you’re concerned that those teams could be particularly hard-hit, consider enlisting third-party consultants or outsourced help to see them through ramp-up and rollout phases, until they’re able to settle back into some form of “business as usual.” From procurement, warehousing and shipping capabilities, to back-end office functioning, frontline engagement with shoppers, handling of customer service issues and beyond, no area of a grocery business is left untouched by new technology development and integration.
6. Security and privacy
How secure are our IT systems and what do we need to do to manage our security protocols over time? Consumers are willing to share personal information with retailers, especially if it leads to a more personalized and relevant buyer journey. But all that data-sharing can come at a cost—the risk of hacking is ever-present, and could become an even bigger risk as cyber attackers become more sophisticated and more consumer data is collected and stored. You’ll want to ensure that any business-critical data (including retail sales information and customer account details and identifiers like credit card numbers and access codes) is safeguarded from potential cyberattacks; that your entire staff are trained on your company’s data security and privacy protocols; and that these protocols are regularly reviewed and updated so they provide a rock-solid defense for any potential threats that may arise in the future.
While you’re at it: If you’re accepting credit card payments, you’ll need to verify that any mechanisms you use to store, process and transmit cardholder data are protected and that the data is securely managed and processed by a PCI-compliant hosting provider.
Did you know not all technology solutions are fully PCI-DSS v3.1 compliant? To understand its implications and learn about how it can affect your e-commerce program contact Mercatus.
In a competitive market, grocers need to be able to take advantage of every opportunity to differentiate themselves from their closest retail competitor. It’s part of taking back ownership of their digital and commerce tools. Digital innovations can be valuable differentiators that enable better customer experiences and win shopper loyalty over time.
The next time you’re considering bringing in new retail technology for your grocery business, remember that old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By planning ahead and making sure that you’ve got all of your internal systems and teams aligned, engaged and working toward a common goal, you’ll increase your chances of success and be much better prepared to weather the ups and downs of the retail industry.