Data Protection is Critical in E-Commerce Strategy – Total Retail

Among the things retailers learned from the pandemic are two key business lessons. The first is that e-commerce needs to become an essential component of any strategy, and the second is that consumers are continually craving innovative, personalized experiences. But how do we keep customer data safe amid this growing trend of customization?
As we all went into lockdown, retailers rushed to upgrade their e-commerce offerings and customer service options, doing things such as implementing curbside pickup of online orders and home delivery options. Luxury brands also adapted by hosting online consulting and developing virtual try-on tools. However, adapting to e-commerce strategies proved difficult for some retailers whose business models are built on deeply personalized customer service, and they had to innovate in new ways to meet that demand for customization. For example, lipstick shoppers can buy a $15 tube of color-changing lipstick that reacts to their skin’s pH or body temperature, or they can shell out $300 for a device that “prints” a custom pigment. Consumers can even order a custom-fit stick-on manicure for under $20.
It turns out that most consumers love this type of personalization. But these strategies all have one thing in common — they rely on data and lots of it. Today, it’s essential retailers find that happy medium of competing digitally in a personalized manner while keeping their customers’ data protected.
One way of achieving the right balance of digital personalization and data privacy is building your e-commerce technology stack rather than relying solely on wholesalers. While it may require more work, brands have much to gain by investing in their e-commerce technology — and it’s as easy as working with your business consulting partners to make sure you’re looking to go about this the right way. For example, Mazars has an e-commerce expert team and a deployment offering for a full omnichannel customer experience. While relationships with “big box” stores like Amazon.com bring many advantages, and in some cases may be a great way to expand a brand’s reach, designing systems that keep personal information secure and private can strike a positive chord with customers and contribute to business success. This also allows brands to build a more independent business model that isn’t dependent on one behemoth.
Ulta Beauty and Sephora are two examples of brands that reaped the rewards of early investments in their own omnichannel strategies. In 2020, the beauty retailers saw their online sales skyrocket, and now they’re both investing heavily back in the in-store experience — providing those personalized services at each customer touchpoint.
It’s also important to take the idea of transparency a step further as innovation continues. Today’s consumers are not just demanding protection of their data; they’re also looking for transparency regarding what they’re buying, supply chain practices, and sustainable options. Retailers can put data-driven practices to good use (and keep a leg up on competitors) by providing clear reporting on how they operate and the good that they’re doing in this competitive world.
Especially in the age of GDPR, designing systems that keep personal information secure and private is critical to any business’s success. Missteps can cost a brand dearly in time-to-market, regulatory fines or (far worse) a damaged reputation.
When it comes to success in 2022 and beyond, creating and maintaining a seamless customer experience across digital and brick-and-mortar platforms is critical — but so is protecting their privacy.
Julie Petit is a partner at Mazars, a leading international audit, tax and advisory firm.
Related story: Data: The Unsung Hero of Retail’s Digital Revolution
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