Article

Anna Bravington
Anna Bravington 5 January 2018

Tough Choices for Retail Businesses in 2018

The retail market is difficult at the moment, with nearly 45,000 UK retailers in financial distress during Christmas (The Guardian) it's going to be a challenging this year for the retail sector. They are up against online retail giants like Amazon, brutal price wars, and the need for more complex technology to cope with consumers increasing demands of speed and ease of shopping. 

Here's the dilemma - how can retailers afford the latest technology to please their customers and help boost sales when they are struggling financially? 

Imagine this scenario…

A retailer has a limited digital budget due to internal cost cutting. They need a new ecommerce website that connects to their accounting, EPOS, inventory, and CRM to be able to truly give their customers the best experience. They don't understand their market or website users very well, and they currently don't have any marketing activity. They have put the project out to tender and your agency has decided to bid for it.

You are an integrated agency. You offer strategy, marketing, user experience and web development. You want to pitch for the retail project, unfortunately, the client needs all of your services for this project and they can't afford them all. Cutting out any of the services would impact the performance of the end product and you worry the client won't be satisfied with the end result. It feels like a no-win situation and we’ve all been there.

Usually there is a compromise when the client doesn't have the budget, and something gets removed from the project. In my experience it's normally the strategy or user experience, and it hinders the success of the website.

What's the solution?

I look towards 'as-a-service' cloud based systems to help out in these situations. They are a great way to cut project costs without compromising on quality, as these pre-built services offer top-level technology at a reasonable monthly cost. There are a few areas of the project that could benefit from bringing in another service that will not only save money on the project, it could shorten the timeline too – which might help you win the pitch against other agencies:

  • Integrations – instead of having your team create custom integrations for the retailer's systems, which can be costly and time-consuming, you could use an integration platform-as-a-service (like Talisman's TIDE) that has connectors already set-up for multiple retail systems. It is very quick and easy to connect everything together. This approach would reduce integration costs from thousands to a couple of hundred pounds a month and your final product wouldn't be compromised.
  • Remote user testing – keep costs down in user testing by using remote user testing software (like What Users Do). You will get good results and will save money on getting users and staff to a UX lab.
  • Automated marketing – to save costs on future marketing, set up triggered marketing tasks so that the basics are covered and, so they don’t need to be done manually on a regular basis. This will save lots of man hours and reduce the project ongoing costs.
    For example, shopping cart abandonment automated emails – your CMS might already offer this, Shopify's payment plans include this already, but if your CMS doesn't include it then use a bolt-on platform like AbandonAid.

Different Ways of Working

As you can see from the example above, thinking about how a project can be delivered using ‘as-a-service’ cloud systems and not just your own in-house expertise can save considerable budget and time on a project. In this highly competitive market it could give the that all-important edge that will win you a pitch without compromising your standards.

Vinay Shivakumar
Vinay Shivakumar

Great article Anna! One way for retailers to stay ahead in the game is to leverage Proximity Marketing. Using affordable technologies like Beacons (costing just $50 on average), businesses can have meaning customer engagement without exceeding their budget. You can find a brief discussion on Proximity Marketing and Beacons here:
https://blog.beaconstac.com/2017/09/marketing-strategies-for-small-and-medium-businesses-should-include-beacons/

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