The future of retail? Buy from anywhere.

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many retail businesses had to move quickly from in-store transactions to digital sales. Amid this rapid and largely unexpected digital transition, retailers took a crash course in the importance of contingency planning and sustainability. The big lesson? Retailers need to be flexible to retain customers across a variety of sales channels, from in-person purchases to online orders.

Recent Fast business Innovation festival, Square hosted a panel discussion exploring a rapidly changing retail landscape. Experts shared tips on maintaining a consistent brand platform and voice, and how to get creative in order to stand out in a crowded retail market. Here are four key takeaways from their conversation:

1. Technology as a vital element
Many companies that made this pivot overnight in 2020 and became full-fledged e-commerce retailers have undergone a trial transition. But those who have found their bearings can now pause and think more strategically about how to use technology to improve their offerings. For a clothing retailer, this can mean not only selling blouses online, but developing a technological approach that can blur and blend the lines between in-person and online shopping. After all, consumers these days expect that they can order this blouse online and pick it up in store, or even virtually try on this blouse in the comfort of their own home.

As a result, a company’s technology platform is often greater than the sum of its parts. “This can be the lifeblood of your business,” says David Rusenko, e-commerce manager at Square. “Once you run your business digitally, your efficiency improves, your margins, your coordination, your ability to speak with your customers improves. “

2. Multiple channels with seamless experience
As the dust of this pandemic-accelerated change clears, many companies are struggling to determine which sales channels to focus on. The answer, Rusenko points out, should be all. “We really see that tendency of all the channels that converge and meet.

For a retailer, that could mean letting customers browse and buy online, then pick up at a store. For a restaurant, that might mean throwing away printed menus and asking customers to take a QR Code with their phone to order food and have it delivered to their table. To get there, companies need to think about the technology platforms they choose. The goal should be to ensure that brands can build deeper and more lasting relationships with their customers. “[Technology] is something that can bring all the pieces together to make it really cohesive and not just a bunch of different products that aren’t integrated, ”says Rusenko. “These cracks will start to appear quite quickly.”

3. A scalable but consistent brand voice
The trick to a successful onboarding is to maintain a cohesive brand voice to help retain customers. As a first step, Rusenko advises companies to take the time to fully understand what their brand represents. “For a lot of entrepreneurs, it starts out as an extension of themselves,” he says. “And then, over time, they start to write down exactly what it means.”

For Chris Duncan, co-owner and marketing coordinator at Honor Roll Clothing, noting these values ​​has helped her business stay on track. But it also recognizes the evolution of the identity of the brand and its audience over time. Ten years ago, the company’s iconic t-shirts that helped launch the brand matched what Duncan says was his worldview after graduating from college. But now, more than a decade later, he recognizes that most loyal consumers have grown alongside the brand, going from buying $ 25 shirts to $ 130 in hoodies. “Our core values ​​as a brand are exactly the same,” he says. “But as life matures and the different stages – marriage, children – you change. “

4. Make retail an experience
Today, customers are receiving more sales and marketing messages than ever before. Entrepreneurs need to be ever more creative to reach overwhelmed consumers in new ways. One of the ways the honor roll has been successful is to come out of the fashionable box. Each of the company’s new clothing collections now comes with a personalized music playlist. “Not only do you see the garment, but we want you to actually experience the thought process behind it visually and audibly,” explains Duncan. “I like to think that this doesn’t tell different stories, but deeper stories.”

Even in this highly digital age, companies like Honor Roll still appreciate the value of meeting people face to face. At the company’s annual barbecue in Atlanta, the focus is on customers, not sales. “We’re just here to love them and that’s it,” he says. “We meet new people, we connect with them and [that translates to] brand recognition across the board when they see the honor roll again.

Watch the full panel for more information on this topic


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