As we consider ecommerce trends for 2024 and beyond, we must start with the acknowledgement that hype and consultative conversations have overtaken reality. This realisation is born from our extensive retail industry experience, and validated during engagements at the recent National Retail Federation's The Big Show held in New York.
Organisations around the world are nowhere near a state where they can confidently proclaim that the omnichannel is dead. Rather, most retailers are still in the rewiring process to achieve a state where ambient technology replaces the omnichannel, and is effective. Retailers cannot apply ambient technology if they don’t have a common, clean and curated data set. There cannot be any silos. Naturally, this also applies to deploying artificial intelligence (AI).
The starting point is defining a singular purpose across the company that spans marketing, brand and culture, which in turn informs how retailers engage across different channels. Put bluntly, you cannot have a shiny app and ecommerce or hybrid store if the POS is hopelessly outdated. Businesses need to be consistent about who they are across the spectrum of their technology. The key message here is: if the brand doesn’t work, technology won’t fix it. Brand fundamentals such as product and price need to be in place before making ecommerce, AI or channel investment decisions.
A layer beneath this, organisations need to introspect. What is our strategy? What are we trying to achieve? Do we have a clear grasp of our retail practice? The rationale is to get to a point where you can pivot quickly. Agility only exists in a state of clarity.
With this in mind, there are certainly trends which will become more widespread over the course of this year and beyond. Underpinning all of them is hyper-personalisation.
AI and machine learning
This can have a massive impact on personalisation, as long as the data is good. There are a host of use cases, both internally and externally, and so getting to the right use case is crucial.
Retailers need to rewire themselves to be able to integrate various channels, systems and touchpoints into a seamless, cohesive customer and employee experience.
Loss and fraud detectionThe attempt to combat syndicated crime is growing rapidly around the world and involves proactive risk detection and case management.
Getting closer to the peopleThere is a global understanding that good customer experience starts with the people on the shop floor. Large and enterprise retailers can no longer manage a workforce manually, but they must focus on retaining their brand culture: they must innovate on how to motivate and incentivise staff in an environment full of controls.
Building agilityThis applies to all technology. Retailers cannot afford to work on POCs forever. Pick one or two use cases, partner with specialists, deploy and iterate.
Brick and mortarInternational data shows customers want to be back inside physical stores again. Specialist online retailers realise they need brick-and-mortar presence.
Investing in the right softwareThe digital strategy needs to be coupled to managing resources. Retailers need the right stock in the right place with the right people at the right time.