barometro retail esade

November 17, 2022

67% of Spanish retailers say their main challenges are the digitisation of customer relations and communication with their employees 

  • The report highlights the retail sector's move towards 'Phygital', which is the convergence of physical and online sales channels.
  • For 43.8% of the retailers consulted, COVID-19 has strengthened communication between these organisations and their end customer and society.
  • Access the full report (access to PDF)

17 November 2022. ― The main challenge for Spanish retailers is to digitalise their relationship with the end customer and communicate with their employees. This is one of the main conclusions of the third edition of the study "Challenges of retail in 2023: convergence, convenience and talent", developed by Esade with the support of technology consultancy firm SEIDOR and with the collaboration of communication consultancy firm ATREVIA, for which 250 manufacturers, retail trade, distributors and wholesale trade were interviewed. Specifically, 67% of retailers surveyed say that "the digitisation of the relationship and communication with both audiences" is the main challenge. Of this, 36% indicated that the digitisation of the relationship with end customers is a priority. For 31%, it is the digitisation of internal communication.

Another challenge pointed to by the sector is the need to improve internal processes, largely due to the impact of the pandemic. In a context as unstable as that of recent years, companies have had to adapt quickly, especially by using technological transformation in order to continue to carry out their activity and adapt it to the emerging needs of demand.

Towards the 'Phygital' and sustainability as a key message

The move towards 'Phygital', which consists of the complete integration of physical and online sales channels, is another of the trends towards which the retail sector in Spain is moving, as a tool that allows for the improvement of the customer experience. In this regard, according to Javier Alonso, Marketing & Commerce Senior Advisor at SEIDOR, "while in recent years the online channel appeared as the natural evolution of the business, now organisations need to move forward in their real knowledge of the customer journey and its processes in order to consolidate the Phygital integration".

Another trend is that of ultra-fast online commerce, which is currently transforming logistics management and popularising the concept of micro fulfilment. Sustainability has also consolidated its place as an essential premise and marketing tool for any organisation. In this sense, the largest brands are seeking to help tackle the biggest problems faced by our society and the planet, despite the fact that sustainability efforts have made little progress as a result of the geopolitical context and uncertainty of the last financial year.

Strengthen communication with the consumer and society

The majority of retail companies agree, with 43.8% of the responses, that COVID-19 has reinforced the communication of these organisations with the end customer and society. According to Spanish retailers, there is a need to improve external communication, a factor they consider essential to maintain ties with the end customer. This communication, which is increasingly two-way, has also been recognised as one of the major challenges. According to Isabel Grifoll, Deputy President of ATREVIA, "in the current context, brands must connect with their audiences through increasingly personalised two-way communication and active listening to the customer, which transmits to society the differential values demanded by an increasingly aware, demanding and connected consumer".

Redefinition of operations and new business models

From a distance, we find a set of variables that retailers demand and which are linked to their need to profoundly reinvent themselves as a consequence of the pandemic. Specifically, 23.1% of the responses indicated that the health crisis led to a redefinition of operations and logistics. Logistics will continue to be one of the most complex elements in the retail value chain, especially given the price increases that are currently straining procurement and transport needs and resources.

Furthermore, according to the report, 20.7% of respondents say that the pandemic led to a need to create new business models and the restructuring of retail outlets. In this sense, Marc Cortes, director of the Executive Master Digital Business at Esade, pointed out that "the consumer has fully incorporated the demand for a new shopping experience based on convenience, hyper-personalisation and flexibility." "In this way, experiential shopping has ceased to be an attractive offer to become an obligation from the point of view of a better connected, better informed and less-conformist customer," he added.

Better experience of retail employees

Moreover, for the companies surveyed, another challenge for 2023 is the need to move towards a human resources management model that enhances the employee experience in the retail business.

Improving this experience has a direct impact on improving end-customer satisfaction. For this reason, retailers will have to redefine, specialise and permeate professional roles and profiles to adapt them to a different and more competitive scenario.

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