The Retailer Spring Edition 2022




David Perks Director of Retail Services Objectivity Ltd

H ow to adapt to an evolv ing digital transfor mation journey to stay ahead of the pace of change.

There are so many solution providers out there offering off-the-shelf products and, for some, this is an attractive offer. They bring expertise and experience in solving specific pain points, and there’s a level of comfort in being a ‘fast follower’ and doing what others have already done. “Steal with pride,” as they say, and that maywork for some. Nevertheless, off-the-shelf products aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. More businesses today are using partnerships to solve business issues or add new channels, whether that is bringing in complimentary offer ings or services using concessions or a delivery partner. This can carry its own challenges when it comes to system integration and the need to be efficient and keep costs under control to ensure the partnership is a win-win for both parties. This approach can also add complexity to an already complex business model. The retail, hospitality, and leisure industries have been particularly hard hit and have arguably had to adapt the quickest over the last two years. Balancing costs, customer experience, online/ offline trading, and keeping staff and customers safe have been forefront of their minds. In addition to finding new physical trading partners, service sector businesses are turning to bespoke software solution partners that can support part or all of their digital transformation journey. There aremany reasons to take such an approach. It may be that the business doesn’t have all of the capability to build its own or, indeed, the capacity to deliver it all internally and needs support for individual projects. A partnership approach can be extremely helpful as it may be tackling a broad set of operational challenges and having a thought partner that works on awin-win basis can be veryvaluable as they can provide consulting advice. The partner can also suggest ways to optimise your digital transformation strategy by sharing resources or expertise. They are often licensed providers with the like of Microsoft and Mendix and, therefore, can help choose what’s right for the business based on current relationships. They can also work alongside internal teams and be flexible enough towork with existing partners, as often they have their own partner networks.

Below, I have listed some of themost common challenges I see retail and brand organisations facing today: • Legacy systems replacement — updating payroll, forecasting and replenishment, intranets, supplier portals. • Legacy process optimisation — i.e., replacing Excel and paper-based activ ities; exploring low-code solutions, power applications and the optimum use of cloud services. • Online/offline (omnichannel) — quick fixes that were put in place during the pandemic that now need refining or improving. • Sustainability agendas — digital solu tions that can support service providers by providing tools to reduce waste and the use of packaging as well as track the product lifecycle. • Labour optimisation — tools and solu tions to support the right people, the right place, at the right time goal that can be built to suit and support team engagement and communication, or to organise tasks digitally. • Offer and product — i.e., store and ranging design, customer personalisa tion, loyalty programmes, pricing and promotions, right product, right location, right volume; tools that can be created to support any customer-facing need, including the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality. • Data management and 24/7 support ser vices — these are becoming essential for businesses that now operate online and offline and across multiple time zones.

Digital transformation can be complex and chal lenging. Many consider it a strategic imperative, but interpreting its execution varies widely. For some, this has meant updating old legacy systems, removing reliance on Excel spread sheets, or buying off-the-shelf solutions to replace manual, paper-based processes. It may be that the definition of a successful digital transformation will evolve as the industry landscape changes. I haveworked for a number of different retailers and, rightly so, they have all had digital as a key strategic component next to, often: range and offer, customer experience, team engagement, leadership development, and cost optimisa tion. Sound familiar? The digital transformation journey varies, depending on an organisation’s specific needs, leading to retailers sometimes onboarding this strategywithout having a clear goal in mind. Instead, digital transformation becomes more of an intent, which often lacks a clear roadmap with milestones and a good understanding of the destination. The pace of digitally enabled change is only ever-increasing, spawning new tech solutions and developments. But, coupled with rapidly changing consumer demands following Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, cost pressures due to inflation, and the conflict in Ukraine, it’s all the more important to be clear about where you’re going. Yet, it’s equally crucial to remain agile in order to stay ahead of customer expectations and the competition. Many businesses now view digital transfor mation in much the same way as they should approach people development: as an enabler for the business to operate more efficiently and improve the customer experience over time. What this should look like will not always be clear and this, to some extent, is right and will varyvastly depending on the type of sector and a business’s level of digital maturity.

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