What your retail C-suite should know about tech and organizational agility
When the C-suite gets on board with omnichannel technology investments, everyone wins.
Today’s consumers expect a seamless buying experience across physical stores, web, social, apps and email, and they won’t settle for anything less. That means the days of a retailer getting by with selling, fulfillment and distribution channels that are siloed and focused on themselves are long gone. They’ve been replaced by the need for unified IT infrastructures that enable a consistent brand experience for all customers across all touchpoints.
Retailers with unified IT structures are able to handle changes in the market more fluidly. For example, Retail Dive reported on Best Buy’s 37% Q1 2021 sales growth, which the company attributed to its "operations and positioning" along with becoming a more "digitally-driven business." GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders called Best Buy’s omnichannel model "one of the most advanced in retail," and that makes the company a good example of what successful digital evolution can look like in the industry.
Digital Evolution: A Company-Wide Concern
In 2020 Boston Consulting Group reported in detail on the factors that determine whether digital transformation projects succeed or fail. Among other key insights, they found that while only 30% of such projects actually reach their objectives, companies can improve success rates up to 80% by embracing "six essential success factors," including "Leadership Commitment from CEO Through Middle Management."
When the C-suite truly understands the importance of digital transformation, it can look beyond short-term performance targets and budgeting. Company leaders can be models for enthusiastic adoption of new technologies and systems to achieve organizational goals. In absence of this leadership, organizations may struggle with destabilization and disruption while wasting both money and time in the process.
Business leaders who recognize the shortcomings of the status quo can take proactive steps to ready their organizations for the future. Retailers looking to embrace innovation have partnered with Windstream Enterprise to achieve seamless voice quality over broadband IP in the case of ERIK’S Bike Board Ski shops in the Midwest, and steady and secure WiFi to connect employees to corporate applications and to allow customers to access the company loyalty program in the case of Rotten Robbie convenience stores in Northern California.
Unifying Technology Systems
Rapidly changing customer behavior forced retailers to have a more adaptive mindset that embraces disruption and strives for higher levels of agility. This has presented new challenges for an industry that has historically used separate software systems to manage their omnichannel operations. Retailers had successful systems in place for brick-and-mortar sales, and then they brought on new systems to manage their digital channels. Now it’s time for their technology to catch up with the new digital retail reality of omnichannel retail.
Customers now think of a retailer as a single brand, whether they’re shopping in-store, online or via social. They expect a seamless experience in terms of buying, shipping, returning and customer support regardless of what channel they use. To meet this requirement, retailers need unified processes and systems that operate holistically as a single business.
Unified systems allow retailers to meet growing customer demand for "quick commerce," a section of the industry that is expected to reach $72 billion by 2025. Successful quick commerce relies upon seamless integration of online shopping and physical fulfillment, something that is only achievable when company leaders embrace digital transformation.
Leveraging Digital Channels
In the current supply chain environment, retailers have to deal with uncertainty and timelines that are often beyond their control. Their associates must be able to address and mitigate concerns about product shortages or delays quickly, and without the need for multiple emails and phone calls. With a unified system in place, retailers can proactively update via automated text or email customers who anxiously await delivery of an item ordered months earlier. This transparency provides a far better brand experience than having a customer feel forgotten or like they need to track down their order themselves. It can be the difference between a happy customer and business lost as a result of the delay.
While the advent of digital channels creates new opportunities for brands to reach customers and generate sales, seizing those opportunities requires retailers to make significant changes to traditional business models," commercial real estate firm CBRE points out. "Those retailers that address these challenges and adapt their growth strategies accordingly will position their business for success in the omnichannel world."
An enabler of agility, technology helps retailers meet the current omnichannel requirements and prepare for those coming around the next corner. It also helps companies automate processes, drive down risk and attract/retain employees during labor shortages. With the C-suite behind these efforts, retail customers are happier, employees are more productive and the bottom-line results are powerful.
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