Customer service, mobile integration and technology investment are key to success for this year, according to Manhattan Associates.

The global supply chain optimisation provider has predicted that continued pressure on margins from prevailing economic conditions and an increasingly inflationary environment will force both bricks-and-mortar and online retailers to invest in strategies and technologies that make their assets work harder and that help them reach new customers in new markets.

“Online-only retailers have, by and large, been the winners to date in the ongoing retail revolution that continues to see the volume of goods bought online grow and grow, however traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers are starting to fight back by investing in services and technologies that will help them remain both profitable and relevant,” said Scott Gillies, director of retail, Asia Pacific at Manhattan Associates.

“They are implementing what consumers like about ecommerce into their stores at the same time as investing in their own online offer and making the overall cross-channel shopping experience seamless for their customers. 

“They are also, in increasing numbers, selling their goods overseas – through online and offline ventures – and building infrastructures and associated systems capabilities that can facilitate this.”

Manhattan Associates identified six top trends that are set to influence the Australian retail scene in 2013:

1)    Online retailers facing tough competition
Online shopping in Australia accounted for 6.3 per cent of all retail sales in 2012 and this is expected to grow at a compound rate of 14.1 per cent by 2016. With more intense competition in the online retail world, traditional retailers will need to focus on providing an excellent overall service experience by investing in the supply chain and associated technology that supports an optimised fulfilment process. They may also need to consider improving visibility of their brand on the high street via pop-up shops, kiosks and other types of ‘product-less stores’.

2)    Mobile commerce is here to stay
Annual smartphone shipments are predicted to soar to one billion globally for the first time this year and over 172 million tablets will be shipped internationally in 2013. This will increase mobile shopping and force retailers to optimise their websites and online shops for smartphone and tablet access. Retailers will need to offer brand, store or product mobile interactions to their shoppers. Examples include quick response (QR) codes, gift cards stored in mobile applications or free applications to scan a product’s barcode and have an instant quote on delivering the same product direct to their home.

3)    Winning the showrooming battle
To win this showrooming battle, retailers will need to build customer profiles based on previous purchases to encourage future transactions. Many traders are also in the process of deploying omni-channel strategies, such as buy online and pick up at the store. To connect all channels and obtain a holistic view of customer activities it will be essential to run an effective and reliable order management system in tandem with other enterprise systems.They can also provide a great in-store experience, run outstanding loyalty programmes, offer private labels or exclusive brands, embrace both consumer and business technologies, and provide consistent superior customer service across their multiple and integrated channels.  

4)    Investment in in-store technology accelerates
The next months will see more technology integration between the store and other channels to ensure customers get what they want when they are actually in the store. At the front-end, tablets, apps, QR codes and interactive screen technologies will be used in innovative ways to facilitate search, payment, and other in-store service options, whilst at the back-end, order and warehouse management systems as well as supply chain intelligence tools will ensure stock availability and visibility. Leading brands are already testing interactive screen technology, for example, Sportsgirl, who have installed interactive mirrors in its fitting rooms. 2013 will see more deployments of these types of initiatives as retailers look to maximise the potential of their high street real estate

5)    A seamless shopping experience across multiple channels will become critical
Consumers expect to find consistent items, prices, availability, payment methods and promotions across all channels. To meet these increasingly complex demands requires creating a single view of the world that can be facilitated by a distributed order management solution, which provides flexibility in the way supply chains are able to execute fulfilment. Moreover, an intelligent supply chain management solution helps to move beyond the simple view of inventory held in stores or at the distribution centre and widens the field of vision to encompass all the channels through which the company interfaces with the consumer. By being able to see – and make available for sale – as much inventory as possible, the opportunity presents itself to sell more.

6)    International expansion to accelerate
With international stores, such as Zara, TopShop and Costco, increasingly penetrating the Australian market, local brands have a fight for survival on their hands and will need to maximise service levels, provide a seamless shopping experience for their customers at the same time as ensuring they’re matching supply and demand in an efficient and effective manner as possible.