The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

Making Recommendations In A World Gone Mad

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If you read our reports, you know that we (since day one) have closed each benchmark by making BOOTStrap Recommendations: our version of baseline suggestions that all retailers can follow based on what we learned from what retailers were willing to share.

This became particularly challenging in our most recent report, Retail eCommerce in Context: The Next Iteration, because – as Paula points out in her article this week – no one really knows what to expect from shoppers in the weeks and months to come, let alone in the coming year. Here is what we were able to agree upon:

Address The Convenience Factor

Our respondents are clear: the biggest pressure they face from online consumers is the need to make the digital shopping experience more convenient. If a brand is unable to provide widespread ease of use – whether during the research, decision-making, checkout or delivery phases of the shopping process – a consumer will take their business elsewhere, and in the blink of an eye. Gone are the days of brand fealty, and as a result, so too should be the belief that a brand can achieve its goals of maintaining relevance to increasingly-demanding consumers with aged technologies.

Recognize That Modernizing Legacy Technologies Is Difficult

Our data shows that old systems simply cannot handle these modern-day tasks, particularly as shoppers become less patient and more technologically savvy. That doesn’t mean any of the recommendations we make to upgrade should be misconstrued as easy fixes. The entire retail industry has been through the wringer in the past year and a half, and investment plans (and plans, in general) from March 2020 have been, in most cases, outright abandoned in favor of those tactics that address the here-and-now. Budgets have been blown. Jobs have been lost and doors have been shuttered. We do not pretend that any of what we are asking of retailers to consider in the name of modernizing their digital shopping experience is easy. However, retailers self-identify – on multiple occasions throughout this report – that pressure from customers is growing. Inaction is not an option.

Do It Anyway

Throughout this research, whenever we have queried retailers about their attitude toward emerging technologies, three distinct camps have emerged: those who wish to stick with what they have, those who wish to build onto their current systems, and those who wish to rip out what they have and replace it with next gen eCommerce solutions. While there is never “one right answer”, after all we have seen in the past 18 months, we can safely predict that those in the first camp are tempting fate. Legacy eCommerce engines cannot be left as they are. It may have taken a global pandemic may to force even the most diehard store shoppers online, but now that they are there, many of their new digital shopping behaviors will remain – even as the COVID-19 {fluctuates} worldwide. Shoppers have moved online in droves – both the type of shopper as well as the type of products being purchased. They aren’t going to become more understanding of inconvenient online shopping journeys as time evolves. Like it or not, eCommerce tools need to be updated – now.

Keep The Momentum Going

Lastly, the events of 2020 and early 2021, while daunting, have also forced retailers to become incredibly adaptive. Many brands’ ability to alter their shopping experiences to meet changing customer demands in the face of life-or-death adversity has been nothing short of amazing, and most do not receive the praise they deserve for doing so. Features and functions that would have been “nice to have” just 18 months ago – curbside pickup, home delivery, online “concierge” tours of physical stores, creative checkout processes that make critical shopping as painless as possible – have been implemented years ahead of plan. And while many were thrown together quickly so retailers (and their customers) could navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic as best as possible, refinement to make these processes as efficient – and profitable – as possible are now underway.

We urge all retailers to maintain the spirit of creativity born during these uncertain times. Survival mode forced myriad internal silos to break down, creating for environments where professionals from different backgrounds, departments, and experience levels put aside their typical workflows in order to give the brand the absolute best chance possible of keeping their business alive. Resurrecting those silos {if} more stable times return would be shortsighted, as the coming years will no doubt hold their share of unforeseen challenges. As a result, retailers would be wise to maintain this focus on flexibility, and the momentum they’ve got going. It may well be the very thing that enables them to conquer future challenges as they inevitably arrive.

Newsletter Articles August 17, 2021
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