Digital Transformation Trends in Retail and eCommerce

Digital Transformation Trends
Human Vectors by Vecteezy

Digital Transformation Trends

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic shook the world, and the sector of retail is no exception to this. Faced with heavy restrictions on when and how they could operate, limits to customers in stores at any one time. Above all the simple fact that the population was discouraged from leaving their homes whenever possible. Businesses had to either adapt and change their ways or close doors to adapt to digital transformation trends. 

It’s no surprise that the sector of e-commerce saw a huge boom during those uncertain days, with plenty of brands seeing success. Of course, there were those that failed to provide a good online customer experience, with the reasons ranging from unfamiliarity with the platforms they used, to incorrect marketing choices. Those who succeeded embraced a key aspect of e-commerce that is essential in the post-COVID world: digital transformation.

You may be wondering, what is digital transformation? Well, in short, it’s the process of rethinking how your business uses technology. There was a focus on driving commerce online in order to replace falling sales in physical locations during 2020, however, even beyond that, it remains relevant. Consumers have been introduced to the online way of doing things and they’re not eager to go back to conventional means of purchase when such a convenient means of doing so exists.

Digital transformation trends in eCommerce: COVID driven

  • Social Media: Plenty of businesses needed to shift platforms in the wake of the pandemic, with smaller businesses that relied on footfall and word of mouth referrals especially suffering. Social media advertising and selling is something that existed before 2020, but exploded during the initial stages of lockdown as small businesses shifted to pre-existing platforms as they were both easier to use and well-established. Facebook pages already existed TikTok introduced a feature that allowed links to products and many more platforms altering their stance on advertisement to allow for businesses to use their software.
  • Virtual Events: Plenty of events were cancelled worldwide in 2020, with large gatherings and international travel forbidden during most of the year. With this, the potential for marketing and product display at these events was cut short (oh no!). Fortunately, plenty of events had time to prepare in advance for virtual events to replace the planned physical ones. Since the techniques for hosting these virtual conferences and shows were refined out of necessity during 2020. Plenty of organisations are allowing for a hybrid of virtual and physical events in the future – a greater reach means more customers and more revenue, after all.
  • Cloud Computing: Cloud computing may not seem to be the most obvious thing to do in a pandemic, however it has more than shown its worth during recent years. With the advent of social distancing and lockdowns, many retailers struggled to keep exact logs of their assets and products. When you don’t have the option of simply walking into a storeroom and asking someone where a certain item is kept, it can be tricky to locate products that are needed to be shipped out or certain pieces of equipment that you need. Cloud computing worked in the background to make lives easier in this case. With cloud-based software and databases allowing for real-time tracking of assets over a wide range of locations, all without leaving your desk. It was a must-have for any business that hoped to succeed when their teams worked remotely, and is still relevant in the post-lockdown age.
  • Virtual Product Displays: To add even more to the audience that the virtual events provided many retailers have gone above and beyond on their website-based product displays, allowing users to see the products in use in real-time with videos, photographs and testimonies from product users. While before the pandemic websites were brief in their displays, the rising trend of consumers only buying things online has shifted their focus to providing full descriptions and demonstrations. Perhaps in the future with VR technology becoming ever more prevalent we could see the advent of VR product displays and simulated usage.
  • Real-Time Data Analysis: Of course, not everything in retail is about the end of the customer journey. There are plenty of steps that take place before the consumer clicks on the product they want, including advertising. Adverts in physical locations have to be vague, have to be catered to a wide audience with the product that will sell to the most consumers in mind – online, there is no such restriction. Advertisements can be personalised to a single customer, using data on preferences and habits to give the most relevant ads. Of course, doing this for every single user of your page is impossible for a human to do in any reasonable amount of time, that’s where the digital side of things comes in. Using AI, you’re able to parse through data that’s been collected on the individual in question and show them advertisements related to products or services that your algorithms predict they may enjoy. This will be based on demographics, search history, previous purchases and more, so you’ll have a pretty good picture of this person ready for your AI to use assuming you have previous data. 

Of course, no AI will be 100% successful here, and there is also the factor of knowing too much to consider. Consumers are turned off by advertisements that seem to know too much about them as many consider it a breach of privacy for a business to know their habits so well. There’s a fine line to be drawn between showing you know enough and coming off as a stalker, so be sure to keep your categories just broad enough to allow for some irrelevant advertisements to slip through.

Wrapping Up

Digital transformation trends are hardly a new experience in retail. While it was a slow process for many years owing to the cost of digitizing, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the need to the forefront of everyone’s minds and has allowed for some truly innovative digital transformation trends to develop. E-commerce is no exception to this rule, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the field develops as customers demand more and more of the convenience online purchasing has granted them since 2020.

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