The dawn of a new year brings with it bold visions, bright hopes and new strategies for retailers seeking a more prosperous 2021. This year, re-establishing security and certainty in the ‘new normal’ is dependent on retailers turning smart and sustainable strategies into competitive advantages. Retail technology and rapid digital transformation were crucial lifelines for many businesses in 2020, but were implemented with short-term survival, not long-term success, in mind. Therefore, key for retailers and their visions, hopes and strategies this year is a focus on consolidation, streamlined over siloed and a strategic, long-term approach built around an integrated technology stack and omnichannel selling.

Integration, integration, integration

The rapid acceleration of digital transformation was a bridge over troubled waters in 2020, but to truly benefit from technology – not just this year, but for years to come – it’s important to embrace integration. While robot shopping assistants might sound cool, the most genuinely useful technology is that which boosts efficiency and creates savvier behind-the-scenes operations, so retailers can spend more time creating beautiful products and delighting their customers.

So while there are a plethora of platforms to empower retailers, relying on too many siloed tools can be counterproductive. Through siloed software, retailers have a greater deal to understand and master, and aren’t able to streamline the flow of information across their business. An integrated tech stack that seamlessly aligns every aspect of a retail operation, from inventory and online orders, to customer marketing and financial reports, helps retailers establish a holistic, real-time understanding of how their entire business is performing and how their customers interact with it. While many may think success this year is dependent on groundbreaking strategies, in reality, an integrated technology stack – and the operational benefits it provides – is worth its weight in gold.

Adopting omnichannel, and evolving concepts

With an integrated technology stack behind them, retailers can deploy the omnichannel strategies that will define savvy, sophisticated and sustainable business for years to come. Shopper habits are evolving faster perhaps than ever before, but through an integrated omnichannel strategy, retailers can provide exceptional experiences to appeal to their customers however they shop, in-store or online. Streamline and enhance the in-store shopping experience by listing in-store inventory online, implementing loyalty schemes, introducing click and collect and using targeted marketing to promote products, shipping options, updated returns policies and everything else customers need to know.

The omnichannel approach allows retailers to optimise popular new trends too, like ‘endless aisle’ and wishlists. Through endless aisle, customers can order items in-store, that retailers only carry online, directly from point of sale (POS). Research from 2018 found that retailers globally had lost out on nearly $1 trillion in sales exclusively as a result of out-of-stock situations. Endless aisle – a perfect example of omnichannel selling – alleviates this problem, but wouldn’t be possible without an integrated tech stack that links POS with inventory.

Wishlists, meanwhile, are growing in appeal too, and represent another crucial advantage retailers can utilise to maintain shoppers’ interest. A collection of desired products that customers save to their user account, wishlists are an effective way to reduce shopping cart abandonment and fulfill sales from those who showed intent but didn’t end up purchasing. While the recession is officially over in Australia, the financial situation is such that consumer spending will remain cautious and considered. Wishlists enable retailers to cater to shoppers who aren’t ready to make their purchase immediately, but on a second or third visit to the website. Through an integrated tech stack that links wishlist to marketing software, retailers can send targeted promotions to customers based on items saved in their user profile.

The core founding principles of the retail industry – delightful experiences and beautiful products – have never, and likely will never, change. All that has changed is the methods through which retailers provide these experiences and products. And while it may be easy to think that revolutionising is key to success in the months and years ahead, in reality it’s the sophisticated behind-the-scenes foundations underpinned by an integrated technology stack and omnichannel selling that should be top of retailers’ shopping lists in the year ahead.

Vaughan Fergusson is founder of Vend