For better or worse, Amazon has turned the retail industry upside down and redefined what it means to be a modern consumer. Increasingly, consumers turn to online channels to purchase everything from toilet paper to cars. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently reported that between the fourth quarter of 2017 to 2018, e-Commerce sales increased by 12.1%. Even more interesting? Amazon accounts for 49.1% of all online retail spend in the country, with eBay trailing at 6.6%. Brands that aren’t meeting consumers online are missing a key opportunity to compete.
Companies looking for a silver bullet are turning to the emerging opportunity of Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS), which is paving the way forward for large brands and brick-and-mortar stores to compete in the digital era. Similar to Software-as-a-Service, where, for example, companies select services to improve timekeeping or payments, RaaS can be purchased to create a better experience for the customer and create a better user experience for both the front- and back-end operations that service the customer. The ability to purchase, rather than build custom solutions, significantly reduces overhead costs for companies and provides a heightened sense of service.
RaaS is the next-gen Wild West, where rules don’t apply. In the retail industry, brands will begin creating a footprint of what the new retail space looks like while leveling the playing field between Amazon and their brand. As brands strive to gain equal footing with Amazon, RaaS will help companies big and small deliver a new level of service by meeting the customers where they are. There are three key RaaS benefits organizations can take advantage of. Let’s explore them further:
- Leverage and implement innovative technologies – At rapid speed, decision makers are flooded with new and improved technologies. The endless innovative solutions that all hold promise to move the needle for a company, however, aren’t always in reach, especially for retailers with smaller budgets or less manpower. Luckily, RaaS solutions offer a foot in the door for companies looking to improve or change an aspect of their business, all while competing for customers’ share of wallet. For example, Kroger and Microsoft are working together to implement innovative technology to build a futuristic “connected” marketplace and seamless data-driven ecosystem. While still in its early phases, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this technology available for grocery chains beyond Kroger.
- Streamlines innovative marketplaces – Meeting the customer where they are is always a requirement in today’s digital era. With e-Commerce rapidly growing as an industry, creating lasting customer experiences will lead to increased engagement and brand loyalty. Broadly speaking, by reducing the cost and time commitment to build new solutions, RaaS is streamlining marketplaces, allowing for companies to remove friction points in the customer journey. One hot-to-trot trend in retail here is improving the delivery experience. Take Amazon and Kohl’s for example, which joined forces to enhance the customer experience and reduce the friction points around online returns. This streamlines the marketplace for customers and offers a new avenue for brands to compete.
- Provides real-time inventory – RaaS also can be applied to brands looking for real-time inventory updates, which benefits both the buyer and the seller. Walmart is leading the charge with their new fleet of in-store robots that can check inventory levels in-store. This is a step in the right direction as RaaS heats up — by integrating technology like this and keeping inventory up to date, the buyer will avoid the frustration of low stock and the seller can strategically understand what is or isn’t working, amongst a variety of other benefits.
What This Means For Retailers
The implementation of RaaS solutions in the retail space will spark innovation as it continues to pick up speed and streamline processes. Looking to the future, the supply chain will likely be the most transformative area retailers will experience as we see it unfold at three major touch points. First and foremost, RaaS solutions will begin improving the delivery process as a result of superior management capabilities around optimization and efficiency. Second, retail will begin feeling the effects of improved customer experience. As RaaS transforms the supply chain, the services received will improve and customers will feel more connected to brands. With this comes the final development, where the connected experience comes to the forefront. RaaS will integrate everything from inventory monitoring to delivery speed, and the customer will feel the increased connected experience.
RaaS solutions are the next-gen Wild West, with more improvements and developments to come. Expect to see brands compete in previously unimagined ways.
Rob Maille is Head of Strategy and Customer Experience at CommerceCX as well as one of the co-founders. Maille is a seasoned entrepreneur and CX expert with over 25 years in digital strategy, enterprise application development and user experience. He has been creating easy to use, customer-driven solutions that customers love since 1991. Maille’s primary role at CommerceCX is to inspire, create and define digital solutions for clients. He is an accomplished designer, technologist and thought leader with a focus around digital applications, product strategy and process enhancement. He possesses extensive subject matter experience in financial services, human resources, digital commerce, startups, insurance and healthcare, with a focus in creating high-performing teams focused on delivering creative products.