By Wayne Munday, Non-Executive Director, Rokk Media.
The Retail climate is proving increasingly challenging for bricks-and-mortar stores of all sizes, with many major brands and familiar high-street names announcing profit warnings, job cuts and even store closures.
As the industry swells with new ecommerce businesses creating more competition for customers, it is more important than ever that traditional retailers look at bolstering their offering, enabling further services that add value for their customers through the use of digital technology in order to stand out.
Consumer behaviour and expectations are also evolving rapidly in the digital age. Omnichannel consumers now expect to be able to shop online and offline, and with smartphones and tablets now accounting for 55% of online retail transactions in the UK, retailers can ill-afford to miss the opportunity to engage with mobile shoppers. With many similar retail products and competitive prices, the main differentiator for many retail businesses is via their customer service and where they can add value.
Despite the clear need for digital transformation in the retail sector, a significant number of UK commerce businesses still have no digital presence. eBay recently announced plans to support Wolverhampton retailers with its ‘Retail Revival’ programme, after the online marketplace found that 25% of SME retailers still do not have any online sales channels and just over 70% said they have no plans for online development.
Smaller retailers in particular might lack the in-house expertise to expand online. Creating a successful ecommerce site or mobile app requires not only specialist skills but continual maintenance and support to ensure applications are constantly up-to-date, secure and delivering the best experience for customers. Hiring an internal application development team might be too costly for SME retailers, and as a result smaller brands miss out on the digitally-savvy market.
Equally those retailers who do have an online offering often struggle to create a seamless experience between the two modes, with issues in optimisation or a poor user-interface resulting in cart abandonment and lost sales. Building and managing a digital application further takes considerable time for internal technical teams who might not have the precise knowledge and tools to develop applications which appeal to consumers.
Retailers should therefore look at outsourcing to agile, SME application developers who have the expertise to create state-of-the-art online applications and also help businesses develop their overall digital strategy. Outsourcing digital solutions is a flexible and cost-effective option for retailers whilst providing a dedicated team for handling your website and mobile offering.
An ecommerce site has become indispensable for retailers to support their in-store offering, enhance sales and boost customer retention. The majority of shoppers go online to compare prices and search for out-of-stock items, and a lack of website presence or poorly designed site could result in customers choosing competitor sites over your own. Outsourcing to an application developer with both the technical capability and specific ecommerce insight is therefore vital.
Online retail sites have their own hurdles and an experienced developer will understand the key factors to consider for making a superior user-friendly website. From effective site navigation and loading speed to intuitive product categorisation and a simple checkout process, optimising both the design and functionality will ensure a seamless customer journey and maximum sales conversions.
Retailers can further capitalise on the surge in mobile commerce with an intuitive mobile application. Omnichannel consumers enjoy the flexibility of smartphone shopping but also they value personalisation. By offering a mobile app brands can further connect with shoppers, sharing personalised offers and exclusive app-only deals. This engagement is crucial in a competitive market and will help your business to deliver a memorable shopping experience.
Digital customers are constantly switching between ecommerce sites and mobile shopping, even from within the physical store itself. As a result, retailers must source agile developers who are skilled in multi-platform development and who can deliver a frictionless, high-quality experience in each application.
Your website or mobile application should evolve with the changing consumer trends and be scalable according to business growth and demand. An outsourced approach gives retailers’ the flexibility to achieve this, with access to advanced technical tools and expert advice on the retail landscape helping to meet your business objectives.
Whether it is website or mobile development, retailers must first look at their customer identity and understand how they prefer to shop. A thorough User Analysis will form the basis of your online offering and help in creating an application which is fast, easy-to-use and ultimately tailored to the customer’s requirements. An exciting and innovative website or mobile application will further drive traffic to your physical store, boosting engagement and sales across all channels.
Outsourcing further means that retailers can benefit from a wide-range of expertise and skills across ecommerce and mcommerce which can be adapted to create a bespoke application. Your internal IT team might be able to manage your website but struggle to optimise the experience for mobile users or ensure integration with back-office systems. This is where a developer with skills across desktop and mobile application can ensure your website is compatible on any device and assist with a customer-centric digital strategy.
Smaller, more agile SMEs have the ability to move more quickly in terms of innovation and adaptation to the likes of global giants such as Amazon. In order to differentiate themselves in the market, SMEs need to look at developing a bespoke mobile app solution that drills down into a specific vertical and targets a definitive audience rather than taking a more generalist approach. This type of bespoke targeting can be especially effective in a world of ubiquitous retail.
While shifts in the retail industry may seem daunting, it also presents great opportunities for retailers to strengthen their customer base and appeal to new markets of digitally-savvy shoppers. Utilising the latest website and mobile applications enables retailers to elevate their shopping experience, merging the bricks-and-mortar experience with the convenience and flexibility of online. Outsourcing a specialist in application development is a cost-effective way for retailers of any size to create a successful digital offering, utilising their expert knowledge and skills to create applications which customers will return to time and time again.
Wayne Munday is Non-Executive Director at Rokk Media, who specialise in web development, mobile application and software solutions for businesses. Wayne has extensive experience in international sales, marketing and strategy through positions at NavTeq, MapQuest.com and AOL Inc. Having also served as the UK Managing Director for erento, CRO and Co-Founder of OTPmedia and COO at Ticket Zone, Wayne brings his digital media and business development insight to Rokk. Rokk Media assists all organisations from SMEs to large-scale corporations with their digital transformation, utilising almost 20 years’ industry knowledge and the latest technology to facilitate the strategy, design, production and support of digital projects.