How retailers can accelerate their digital transformation projects

Starting small with digitalization in retail before embarking on high-cost investments.

Online shopping is setting new records. In 2019, worldwide ecommerce sales generated $3.53 trillion. Online retail revenues were projected to reach $4.2 trillion in 2020, but the market will probably outperform the predictions.

One of the reasons for it is the COVID-19 pandemic and omnipresent use of online shopping, which has underlined one important fact: only retailers with a digital presence will thrive. Digital chains are experiencing online sales growth at an incredible 275% rate.

Today, we are witnessing an increase in technology investment to better respond to changing customer habits, including:

  • Smoothly functioning customer-centric web and mobile apps.
  • Growing adoption of mobile and digital payment systems.
  • Rise of smart stores, technology-enabled elements, and online-to-offline (O2O) integrations.
  • Integration of breakthrough technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain.
  • Greater operational efficiency with cloud-driven technologies, which allow retailers to collect and analyze large volumes of sales data.

The key reason behind the increase in technology investment — in 2019, experts predicted a 3.6% growth in global spending on technology in retail — is to help ecommerce businesses better respond to changing customer habits.

As a result, the global digitalization of retail leads to hypercompetition in the sector.

How hypercompetition makes customer experience the new battlefield

Today, it’s not enough to launch a website and build a mobile app to call your business digital, attract customers and keep them engaged. The ecommerce market is highly competitive and saturated, where customer experience (CX) and customer satisfaction are becoming the only real driving force for revenue growth.

As Gartner reports, a superior CX and efficient customer experience management (CEM) are some of the few remaining means of sustainable competitive differentiation. In fact, the Gartner study found that 89% of brands are expected to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience in the following year.

It’s no wonder: when they provide their customers with a seamless, personalized, and immersive CX, retailers increase their profits by 17%, while those who are lagging behind reach only a 3% growth.

The psychology behind consumer behavior

According to an EY international consultancy agency report, today’s shoppers expect the following from their shopping experience:

Omnichannel presence

Modern customers use multiple devices and applications during the product research, transaction, and post-shopping period. As more customers now engage with online stores via mobile devices, retailers must ensure that all digital channels are integrated and offer a consistent experience (such as shopping carts updated in real time across devices).


An in-store personalized approach is being replaced with 24/7 available services and customer support, recommendations, and content tailored to their individual needs.

Seamless experience

From catalog browsing to order checkout, customers want their e-shopping to be frictionless, intuitive, and quick. According to a Perceptive report, customers take a negative approach to anything that slows their customer journey at any phase, causes them to hesitate and wait, takes up their time unnecessarily, or hurts their feelings.

In today’s digital retail, a superior CX means everything, as it is becoming the only way to outperform competitors. A better-quality product will attract fewer customers than its competitor if the latter offers a better CX.

4 Ways to speed up digital transformation in retail without spending a fortune

At Uploadcare, we’ve defined four guidelines which help retailers accelerate the digital transformation of their business with low-cost investments. This allows ecommerce apps to get quick results before proceeding to costly next-gen technologies.

1. Improve site speed

Increasing load speed is paramount: the ideal load time is no more than 2.7 seconds. Every 100-millisecond delay above that reduces conversion by up to 7%.

Companies have multiple opportunities to improve and differentiate their website with new technologies: launch an AI-based chatbot, provide personalized recommendations generated by machine learning algorithms, and so on. But speed remains the number one concern, as for users it’s still the main factor to evaluate a digital retail platform.

2. Optimized media assets

E-stores may contain tens of thousands of images, which creates serious potential problems with website optimization.

Heavy media assets affect speed and website performance. However, they remain irreplaceable for online shopping: product images are processed 60,000 times faster by our brain than descriptions. Quality visuals are the cornerstone of an optimized CX, and central to boosting online sales.

That’s why retailers have to search for ways to strike a balance between an image-rich interface and excellent performance.

3. Put a mobile-first strategy at the core

By 2021, m-commerce is expected to account for 54% of ecommerce sales. However, this doesn’t correlate with the statistics which say that only 12% of consumers find mobile shopping convenient. That makes it a real challenge for retailers to convert mobile users into paying customers.

4. Handle traffic spikes

An influx of visitors to a website is a great thing for an ecommerce business, but only if a website is protected against downtime or slow functioning during traffic spikes. If a web page fails or doesn’t load quickly during a traffic surge, they will abandon it.

Tactics to boost your customers’ online experience

1. Optimized images

Today, there are lightweight and easy-to-use programs that tackle this problem in no time. For example, Adaptive Delivery, developed by the Uploadcare team, converts media files into much lighter versions without corrupting their quality. A tiny snippet of code, which will only add about 3 KB to your page, empowers major processes behind image and media file optimization.

2. Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

The approach allows you to cache your content on multiple servers around the world, so it can be delivered from the one located closest to a website visitor. Uploadcare’s clients get their media assets delivered via our CDN. Plus, they use our Adaptive Delivery service for image processing to compress and scale images. Decreasing image file sizes inevitably leads to decreasing total page weight.

3. Monitoring site speed

A high website speed ensures both increased customer satisfaction and higher rankings in search engines. A better PageSpeed Score leads to a greater number of website visitors, which leads to more purchases. Hence, compressing your data and streamlining your web performance is the number one step in attracting and keeping more customers.

5. Responsive design

Consumers expect businesses to provide an immersive, dynamic experience characterized by rich interactions and imagery. To satisfy their customers, retailers must ensure optimal viewing on multiple devices, screen types, and different operating systems. Certain tools, like Adaptive Delivery, provide automatic image optimization and adjustment on the go, which leads to longer shopping sessions, more pages viewed per session, and higher conversion rates.

6. Fast loading mobile experience

Retailers should provide users with a mobile version of their website which displays quickly and reliably on any mobile device. To achieve this, even under low bandwidth conditions or when users do not bother clearing the smartphone cache regularly, they should compress their content and optimize images to ensure that high-quality visuals are delivered to any end user despite his/her geographical location.

7. Consistent customer experience

Cross-channel cart synchronization and real-time product updates, order tracking across all touchpoints, and unified storefronts are only some of the issues which must be taken into account when a retailer is planning to go mobile. A unified approach allows retailers to sync sales channels, and this is especially important now, when 60% of shopping experiences start and end on separate devices.

The digitalization of retail is a multidimensional process, comprising both technological and cultural elements, and aimed at satisfying customer expectations and demands.

  • Providing customers with omnichannel shopping and delivery options, engaging as many platforms and touchpoints as possible.
  • Ensuring that a customer can access an e-store from any location at any time via the smartphone in his/her hand.
  • Personalization of the shopping experience is developing into hyper-personalization through advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), tailored recommendations, and Business Intelligence (BI) tools empowering data-driven decisions.
  • The digital experience is expected to be “zero friction.” Retailers are expected to design web and mobile solutions that are optimized for users in terms of site speed, design and use, tackle traffic congestion at peak demands, and offer consistent services and experiences.

Using the multiple tools that are currently available allows retailers to accelerate the digitalization of their business and deliver the CX their customers are expecting today.

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