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Consumer research provides insights to retailer success in 2021

Heather Narva
Senior Marketing Manager, Oracle Retail

In an interview with The Green Sheet, Rose Spicer, head of global retail marketing for Oracle, discussed findings from the company's recent study Anatomy of Change: Understanding Consumer Behavior in the New Next 2020.

Results are based on a survey of 5,000 consumers from around the world, including the United States, UK, Australia, China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, France, Germany, and UAE, which explored consumers' current shopping habits and preferences. Researchers also found retail brands are leveraging business intelligence across multiple channels to deepen customer relationships.

Seven retail solutions

In addition, at NRF 2021 in January, Spicer highlighted findings from the survey, and offered the following seven New Year's resolutions to retailers (resolutions are referred to in the Q&A):

  1. Protect the experience: Keep store customers comfortable by observing social distancing and hygiene requirements in stores.

  2. Get creative with fulfillment: Explore alternative delivery methods to meet customer needs.

  3. Elevate new brands: Be discoverable online and across social media.

  4. Create transparency: Communication is critical; offer granular tracking methods to keep customers informed of delivery status.

  5. Focus on inventory: Maintain adequate inventory levels. A majority of customers in all regions will look for alternate stores if faced with out of stock items, researchers found.

  6. Turn data into insight: Use predictive analytics to help retailers anticipate guest behavior.

  7. Get started: Get moving and continue beyond COVID. Use duct tape initially, if needed, but figure out how to scale, Spicer advised.

The Q&A

How can third-party service providers help retailers protect the customer experience without overstepping or appearing patronizing?

Now, more than ever, consumers need to feel safe as they browse the aisles. Oracle Retail's recent Anatomy of Change Consumer Research study found that 66 percent of consumers prefer contactless or self-checkout options. These hygiene measures reassure consumers who are coming in-store. While retail point-of-sale systems might not seem like a cutting-edge addition to a retailer's transformation plan, it sets the stage for a safe, customer-centric experience.

In your resolution, "Focus on inventory," you mentioned leveraging apps to serve customers. Can you share examples or use cases where this has worked well?

Inventory is a make it or break it factor for any retailer. More than 63 percent of global consumers reported turning to an alternate store or retailer to meet their needs for essential items when their preferred store was out of stock.

Retailers must optimize inventory and understand the demand of today's shoppers; this is where technology comes into play. Models relying on cloud services and machine learning can predict inventory levels and recommend inventory redistribution. These apps, when leveraged, create granular transparency and drive inventory accuracy.

For example, Giant Eagle began using Oracle Retail's technology to manage around 100,000 products across every store and optimize millions of customer transactions. Using Oracle Retail solutions, the retailer was able to gain insights into finance and operations in real-time. This allowed the grocer to pivot quickly to changing consumer habits and demands.

Turning browsers into buyers has been a popular topic in the payments industry. What advice do you have for retailers for solving or mitigating shopping cart abandonment?

Retailers must develop an understanding of their customers and behaviors. Nowadays, predictive models and cloud services can easily be leveraged to gain valuable insights on how to better serve consumers. Accurate data will also give retailers better control and visibility over the customer journey and the sale of inventory.

What strategies can service providers employ to help their retailer customers get started and implement technology?

Retailers are struggling to adjust their inventory and traditional supply chain management processes during the pandemic, so time is of the essence. Service providers should help their retailer customers get started quickly by simplifying and scaling operations. Service providers can do the heavy lifting to optimize inventory and reduce the burden on the IT and development teams of retailers.

However, retailers have to do their part too in researching and identifying service providers that are right for their store. As the industry is changing, retailers need to continue to do more with less, and utilize a service provider that is integrated and streamlined.

View the full research report

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