Mitch Joel, an author, speaker and founder of Six Pixels Group, argued that retailers have moved up their digital transformation projects, perhaps by as many as 10 years. He referred to the rapid rollout of features such as curbside pickup and the transformation of older consumers into fans of online shopping as the industry’s “great compression.”
“What we’ve seen is a true acceleration of digital transformation, in terms of innovation and in terms of where the world is at,” Joel said. “Everything has compressed. The stuff we expected to take until 2030 happened in the space of a few months last year.”
Data Is Now Retailers’ Most Important Asset
Building multichannel experiences that capture consumers, however they wish to shop, requires data that informs brands of shopper preferences. Moreover, retailers need the ability to process the data quickly — not just to build popular online experiences for large consumer segments, but also to build relationships with individual shoppers.
The “tricky thing” is that most of the data retailers possess is unstructured, Bransten said: “Our machines are only designed to make sense of about 10 to 20 percent of it. Retailers are increasingly asking, ‘How do I make sense of this data so I spend less time preparing data and more time responding to it and personalizing it?’”
Consumers Will Continue Their New-Found Shopping Habits
Retailers thinking that 2020 was an exercise in survival, with their industry returning to “normal” when restrictions on in-person shopping lift, will discover they’re mistaken, according to experts. Younger consumers have long been devoted to online shopping; the pandemic forced older shoppers to join them, and the latter group has seen the light.
“My 80-plus-year-old father now does online shopping, and he enjoys it, and he doesn’t see any way to go back,” said Sunil Gupta, Harvard Business School professor and author of “Driving Digital Strategy: A Guide to Reimagining Your Business,” in an interview.
McKinsey found that 75 percent of consumers have reported a new shopping behavior during the pandemic. That might include shopping online for the first time or buying an item online that they had previously only bought in person. According The Economist’s research, about 55 percent of baby boomers “will retain some of their new online shopping habits,” said Melanie Noronha, a senior editor for The Economist Intelligence Unit, the publisher’s research and analysis division.