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Posted September 15, 2021 by FreedomPay

The Post-Covid Silver Lining for Retail Data Commerce

Like a coiled spring, consumer demand is set to explode once social, entertainment, and shopping restrictions are lifted. Retail and hospitality will be the first to benefit as consumers seek to make-up for lost ground. But has Covid left businesses too weak to reap the rewards or has it helped change them for the better?

It’s easy to focus on the negatives of Covid. Lockdowns impacted growth forecasts, crippled logistics, and stymied retail sales. It almost singlehandedly decimated the hospitality, travel, and entertainment businesses. Stores closed, live events were canceled, and consumers shifted to online shopping.

Trying to find positives is hard—but not impossible.

The challenges experienced over the last 18 months, have caused major disruption. But they have also triggered business and functional heads to re-evaluate what’s important and have given them a wakeup call for change.

For example, they now realize the value of fast-tracking data-driven innovation, whether determining customer behavior—to optimize loyalty, offers, and customer preferences—or boosting efficiency through real-time analysis and stock control. This has led to the acceleration of data-led projects.

The result is that retailers and hospitality leaders are re-evaluating new ways to use digital data 
Despite businesses giving the impression of being “multichannel,” Covid revealed that, when it came to customer-facing services, this was far from the case. Not only were many unable to join up services, but they also weren’t able to use data to unify communications across channels and offer seamless experiences, including loyalty and rewards, to incentivize customers during the pandemic.

With the realization that connecting data across operations is key, there is now renewed focus on removing business silos. By making transactional, stock, and customer data easier to share, they can effectively increase its value and their competitive edge.

Loyalty is becoming much more dynamic. The reduction in customer interaction, sales volume, and value during Covid has made retail brands rethink habitual and outdated approaches to loyalty. Prior to Covid, they were already exploring new ways to bring customer loyalty into every interaction, and this has accelerated as face-to-face connections have reduced.

They know that it’s no longer a case of simply asking customers to sign up for a static loyalty or referral program. Instead, they must connect it downstream to digital and social activities and across ecosystems, loading it with more targeted and personalized incentives that can be redeemed easily in multiple locations and even with partners.

The road to recovery is hard, but headway has been made
Covid has forced many businesses to accelerate their commerce investments. There are five developments that could result in retail data and commerce platforms being fitter, healthier, and better calibrated for future demand:

1. POS innovation. The desire to keep customers safe, has driven widespread investment and adoption of contactless technologies including mobile-wallet acceptance and QR codes for info, check-in, pricing, and payment.

2. Business agility. Organizations have had to adapt fast – innovating business models, supply chains, goods, and services, integrating digital and opening the door to self-service options and curbside collections.

3. Customer-centricity. Leaders have broadened their thinking around value, moving measurement beyond what competitors are doing and sales/revenue return to business and customer needs and making operations more efficient.

4. Ecosystem evolution. This is supporting more flexible relationships within a broader ecosystem to drive return on investment faster than ever before—especially as attitudes to risk change, and retailers seek specialized tech support from new disruptors and challengers.

5. Vendor value. Solutions partners are working even harder to secure business buy-in and investment by providing more tangible customer-experience improvements, more compelling business use cases, and deeper, richer consultative services.

To be sure, Covid will continue to impact and shape digital-transaction strategies. Apart from business-to-consumer, digital-only brands and e-tailers, many retailers will have to fight to regain pre-Covid transaction levels.

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