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Retail agility amidst disruption requires a digital tech foundation

Guest Post: Richard Willis, RVP Solution Consulting EMEA & APAC at Aptos It’s no secret that as an industry, retail has been tasked with navigating —… View Article


Retail agility amidst disruption requires a digital tech foundation

Guest Post: Richard Willis, RVP Solution Consulting EMEA & APAC at Aptos

It’s no secret that as an industry, retail has been tasked with navigating — and responding to — greater change than ever before. The global pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of our lives, and now we are left wondering whether consumer behaviour — and therefore, retail — has been irrevocably altered.

In a time when the unexpected crops up at every turn, retailers are stepping up their digital transformation efforts and investing in technology not only as a means of differentiation, but also as a means of survival.

Consumer digital engagement, mobile and contactless payment options in store, robust in-season merchandise planning capabilities, and flexible omnichannel fulfilment are just a few of the areas in which retailers saw fit to invest — and quickly. Speed and agility must underpin the new retail model, equipping an organisation to respond to consumers’ evolving shopping patterns no matter how frequent or drastic those changes might be.

To get started on this path to organisational agility, and with it the ability to survive and even thrive despite disruption, savvy retailers are embedding tech DNA into all facets of their business.

Technology at the core

Since the start of the pandemic, retailers have been forced to take a hard look at what they sell, where and how they sell it, and to whom. During shop closures, digital content and interactions became more pervasive and played a central role in virtually every customer journey. In turn, shopping experiences have extended across more channels and become highly complex.

While most retailers recognise this new reality, many often lack the right tools and capabilities required to connect the dots. Despite the urgency to create seamless customer journeys that drive conversion and retention, various functions across the retail enterprise — and their respective technology systems — still operate in silos. As a result, some retailers have an extremely limited view of the end-to-end customer journey, particularly as shoppers cross back and forth between physical and digital channels.

That’s not to say executives don’t understand the need for technology. As recently noted in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2021 report, ‘Amid the challenges of 2020, two truths became evident. More companies than ever have embraced the axiom that every business is a technology business, and they’ve ignited a new era of exponential transformation as technology continuously reshapes industries and the human experience.’

As Accenture reinforces, it is clear that retailers must embed technology into the very core of their business to gain the upper hand in a time of uncertainty. Technology must touch all areas of the organisation and influence people, processes, and performance. In doing so, retailers will gain detailed insight into their business operations, better understand their customers, and be more resilient when disruption strikes again.

Choose your tech wisely

A recent study revealed that digital leaders (the top 10% of companies leading technology innovation) achieve twofold to threefold revenue growth as compared to their competitors — a widening divide that Accenture calls the ‘Digital Achievement Gap’.

While one cannot ignore the appeal of twofold to threefold revenue growth, as retailers rush to become ‘digital-first’, they must avoid the allure of always chasing the latest technology craze and instead focus on their underlying technology architecture and strategy.

Technology investment made without a guiding strategy — or without the necessary process changes — won’t pay dividends and will only result in time and money wasted.

Instead, technology must be what connects every part of the business and supports the entire value chain, including product, order, and customer lifecycles. While hyped technologies can be impressive, and there are certainly business cases to be made for many of them, retailers’ first priority must be a digital technology foundation that enables integration. This digital core should include the ability to knock down operational silos and bring unification to every step of the customer journey.

A time for reinvention

In the face of uncertainty, the time is now for retailers to address the gaps in their technology capabilities that have previously left them exposed. And as their digital transformation journey progresses, retailers must keep an eye towards reinvention and, with it, the opportunity to define and redefine the role their brand, products, and services play in customers’ lives.

When a retail organisation is able to create a shared vision for the future and infuse technology into its very fabric, it will be best positioned to fulfil its promise to customers and achieve operational excellence — no matter what change or disruption lies ahead.

To find out how Aptos can help your retail operation, click here.

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