Consumers have declared, and there can be no question that digital commerce is here to stay, in all its forms. According to estimates from the US Commerce Department, e-commerce accounted for approximately 15 percent of all retail sales in 2018, and that percentage is growing each year. It’s a wake-up call for mainstream retailers who had to accept online platforms and reconsider their consumer acquisition strategies.Digital Transformation in Retail.
E-commerce’s popularity is evident. Consumers want shopping experiences seamless, effortless, safe, and round-the-clock. What is more, there is a growing demand for convenience across the entire shopping experience – personalized shopping reviews, one-day delivery to one’s place of choice, easy returns, etc. – items conventional brick-and-mortar retail stores cannot deliver.
As the old political proverb goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and thousands of retailers worldwide are rapidly developing digital commerce strategies to capitalize on their $4.5 trillion market opportunity. Although, with true “David and Goliath” competitive situations in just about every retail sector, companies must not only accept the fundamentals of digital transformation but also ensure that they implement best practices in terms of their digital shopping experience’s efficiency and security.
Digital Transformation in Retail starts with the cloud for retailers
A change towards digital commerce is not just about building a website and introducing a range of new categories of products. Retailers need to think about their resources for web hosting too. In terms of scalability, efficiency, security, and total cost of ownership, online storefronts hosted in legacy static data centers can be severely limited. If retailers care about building world-class digital shopping experiences, a shift to the cloud is inevitable. But moving to the cloud is just the beginning. Modern retailers do need to take steps to avoid certain common pitfalls when initiating their journeys of digital transformation.
Reducing downtime on the website is critical
Site downtime can result in thousands or millions of dollars of lost sales for a large or medium-sized retailer. This may also permanently damage the reputation of the brand and the stickiness of customers (as shoppers would actually visit the websites of rivals if they have a terrible experience). This happens more frequently than you know, even to big businesses that you think you can invest in infrastructure on smaller companies. Downtime most often occurs when online storefronts get overwhelmed with more traffic than their infrastructure can handle efficiently, such as during peak sale times, aggressive marketing campaigns, and holiday seasons.
What retailers actually need is auto-scaling, which forecasts changes in site traffic, adjusts capacity to prevent costly drop-offs, and eliminates the challenge of overpaying for capacity during slower periods. It’s essential for a digital storefront to be able to scale capacity ahead of demand so it can cater to a growing shopper’s base. Predictive self-scaling ensures stable and consistent uptime of the web while ensuring that the capacity is always of the right size.
Slow page load times cause unhappy customers
Slow is as good as down in digital commerce. There is an unbiased amount of research available that correlates page load times with end-user satisfaction, loyalty, revenue, and even organic search engine traffic. Retailers must adhere to many best practices and invest in technology such as Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs), Content Optimization, and Image Management to ensure the digital experience is lightning fast. For both performance and experience, web pages, text, and images should be optimized.
Invest in security to combat cyber-threats and bot attacks
Cyber-attacks are rapidly becoming malicious and recurrent, and digital commerce is one of the main targets. The more advanced attackers today introduce malicious scripts to steal identities and credit card data. At the same time, hackers in the past would inundate digital storefronts with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks to bring them down or keep websites for ransom. Cybercriminals also have more tools at their fingertips, in the form of bots that search for vulnerabilities and target the most vulnerable sites.
Retailers must invest in a thorough security solution stack to fight off sophisticated threats, including a web application firewall, intrusion detection, bot control, and machine learning. Security vulnerabilities must always be patched in near-real-time, and a well-versed team is a vital prerequisite of such technologies. As they embark on digital transformation, modern retailers cannot afford to neglect security. Security solutions have to be applied at the edge of the network as well as at the infrastructure of origin where the digital storefront is hosted, not just one or the other.
Digital skills and executive commitment are also crucial to the performance
Finally, digital transformations can never be effective without the right people being involved and engaged in executive involvement. This may also require drastic changes to the structure of the organization. It takes desire, skills, and experience to create beautiful digital products to attract more consumers and generate new revenue streams. Modern retailers need to consider recruiting professionals as staff, vendors, or consultants-people who know what a successful digital transformation looks like and have done it before.