Commerce is changing. Are you prepared?

Recent news reports have revealed that signs proclaiming Jesus is coming were removed from roadsides. Because they posed a threat to motorists, signs asking for your readiness were removed from the roadsides. They were not a problem because I was already so familiar with them. Is there another force that is causing major changes? Not even commerce. Are you aware that digitalisation is on the horizon? Are you used to them?

A grey November morning brings slush to my steps as I walk along Helsinki’s streets. I am on my way to Solteq’s breakfast event to learn more about ‘digitalization of commerce’ in practice.

As I gaze at the store windows, I wonder if digitalization will make brick-and mortar stores obsolete. I’ll soon discover what Gartner’s plans are.Toni NygrenSolteq’sJuha LuomalaWhat do they have to say about a topic that they both have studied?

Brick-and-mortar shops are a living, breathing entity.

I am surprised when the first piece of information comes to me while holding a coffee cup. Nearly 80% of commercial income was earned from brick-and mortar stores in 2013. Online stores have seen a huge rise in popularity since then, at least according to my view. This is why I am waking up. Gartner predicts that traditional stores will generate as much as 72% of the income next year.

But, the buying behavior has changed. E-commerce websites can be used as an extension to the traditional retail outlet network. E-commerce sites can influence as much as half the traditional retail outlet purchases.

It is easy for me to agree with the research results when I consider my purchasing habits. My sister and I walk around the city looking for what we are looking for. Instead of heading to the cashier, we now have a cup of coffee, and then use our phones to find the best place to buy the product we want in the right size, colour, and price. A few years back, we would go through all possible brick-and-mortar shops with the same agenda.

The brick-and-mortar shop isn’t dying, but it’s become more showroom-style for customers to ‘try on’ products. To feel that it’s still enjoyable to shop there, customers need to try, get advice, or sample something. Traditional stores must also be able to seamlessly integrate with the internet as shopping becomes more like coffee shops. Our coffee break can be combined with the best retail sales performer, an e-commerce website or mobile experience that gives consumers a positive and relaxed feel.

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Guide hand invisible

Without digitalisation, a digital customer interface with WOW-factor is impossible. Harmonized product and availability information is essential for customer interactions at all touch points. Processes must not get entangled.

Gartner’sToni NygrenMost commercial digitalisation projects aren’t visible to customers. Danfoss freezers, for example, transmit data to the maintenance network about temperature changes and doors that have been left open. Smart shelving reminds employees to replenish stock in retail outlets. Customers will only see this shelf as a convenient well-stocked shelf.

We are immersed in digitalisation through back-office processes without even realizing it. Even though we as consumers are often unaware that we use digital applications, invisible powers control our experiences. Merchants reap the benefits of satisfied customers, lower waste and lower operating expenses.

Digitalisation is not always overlooked. Miniature info robots, for example, lead me to the right area of the hypermarket where I can find the exact lightbulb that I need. Volvo’s pre-existing delivery service: A car’s trunk acts as the online store‘s delivery point. A digital key is used to allow couriers to leave merchandise in the trunk.

These are just some of the many aspects that digitalization involves. However, there are many other things that must take place behind the scenes.

 

In the name of customer, customer and customer

According to Gartner’s survey of Finnish ICT decision-makers, the top investment goals for them include improving customer experience and then developing digital products or services. Omnichannel commerce is a necessity.

If the driver of the digital service is not the customer, it could appear that developing digital services might be the wrong investment focus in a country known for being too engineering-focused. Mobile purchasing was not invented by IT management. It became an integral part of commerce because of the changes in buying behavior.

I am an individual. You are an individual. All of us are individuals.

People who know me best make the best stores. The fish counter staff knows me well enough to know what kind of fish I like, especially since they have more fish in stock today. The stores where the salesperson brings me a belt to emphasize my waistline in the new dress. This is a must-have!

The equivalent of this would be that data gathered from multiple digital devices about a customer will be combined to create a single profile in tomorrow’s retail world. Merchants with larger customer bases will be able serve me the same way as my favorite salesperson at my favourite boutique. Is it possible for an online store to feel personal? Even the landing page?

You don’t have to be limited to e-commerce websites, mobile apps or other traditional customer touch points. Pinterest already offers a “Buy It” button. We can also order dishwashing detergent by pressing a button on our washers. Commerce follows the customer wherever it’s most convenient and logical to do business. Customers prefer products and services to pave the way.

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Omniscient answers

How is it possible for merchants to monitor millions and thousands of people and still serve them all equally? We must do more. Watson, the ideal assistant for merchants, can always provide an answer, even though it is difficult.

According toJuha LuomalaWatson, a specialist in retail trade, acts as an assistant for both merchants, and customers. Northface, for example, has a Watson App that allows users to search for gear suitable for different weather conditions.

Watson assists merchants in a variety of ways, including pricing, selection planning and discussions about why product X isn’t selling. Watson is able to debate and explain its recommendations. Watson, like all real people, is open to changing his role and becoming an independent decision-maker.

My coffee cup is empty, and I’ve sat down with candy skewers and marshmallows during speeches. My thoughts are focused on the digital force for positive change. Watson might be a support system for those who see the signsboards as either threats or opportunities.

The world is changing and it’s for the better. It’s changing for both people and players in the retail industry. Looking down at Solteq: My eyes are open to all the markets and opportunities Solteq offers its customers. This allows Solteq to choose the growth path that will lead it to become the world’s most small-scale global player in digital commerce.

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