Why Digital Transformation in the Retail Sector is More Important Now Than Ever
The world is in the chokehold of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments are trying to contain the virus transmission at various levels by implementing measures like widespread testing, contact tracing, mandated isolation and social distancing.
While this pandemic has put a break on business activities, it has given a mandate to retail businesses to accelerate the pace of digital transformation programs and tweak their customer journey to respond effectively in these challenging times.
Why Digital Transformation for Retailers is More Important Now
- Life after COVID-19 will be different: With dwindling economies and increasing emphasis on personal safety, we will see a lot of changes in consumer demands, spending style, saving patterns, shopping habits and buying channels. The world after COVID will see a multifold surge in digital buying and online interaction with brands for continuing social distance. This makes a perfect reason why business leaders must continue with their plans of transformation. Business leaders must scramble their options of operating and making profits in the post-COVID digital era. Business recovery and sustenance depends solely on the digital channels and experiences amidst social lockdown. Some of the areas where immediate digitization can help brands improve their customer experiences include establishing digital channels and improving presence, investing in data and better models for customer demands, integrating pandemic outbreak models with customer and supply chain demands, and empowering employees to run the business from home.
- Retailers will require deeper insights about their supply chains: The pandemic has exposed how vulnerable supply networks across the globe are. Many retailers have been affected because of their inability to predict and meet consumer demand for their products. Retailers will need more transparency of inventory to plan their online and offline customer experience.
- Retailers with a digital presence will thrive: Retail businesses with a digital presence are already ahead of the curve. As consumers cannot leave their houses and are spending only on essential items, digital channels help businesses to work as usual. Digitally advanced and data-rich companies have already started to capture market share by using this pandemic as an opportunity for innovation and customer acquisition. As retail businesses navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, they should question themselves. With existing financial carnage wrought by the pandemic, are they ready to face deep and lasting scars that competitors are going to bring on? More than 20 retailers are planning to file or have filed bankruptcy during the COVID-19 crisis. Continuing with your existing digital transformation program is a far better option than closing businesses or filing for bankruptcy.
- Customers are relying on brands: By far, customers are affected the most because of restrictions, social distancing, queuing up for entry in retail stores, maintaining personal hygiene, and other preventive measures. And they're rooting for their favorite brands to provide better services while taking care of their safety. This accelerates demand for transformation more than ever.
What Difference Can Your Digital Transformation Plan Make?
"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." — Mike Tyson
Retail businesses now know what getting punched in the face looks like. In the chaos of COVID-19, with consumers avoiding going out to stores, the safety of the online world for essential and luxury needs, entertainment, communication, and telecommuting has transformed a digital transformation plan from a good-to-have to a must-have.
I strongly believe retailers with ongoing digital transformation programs have already achieved a medium level of agility, flexibility and responsiveness to steer a new course while evolving even during this time. Retailers will be in different stages of their digital transformation journey, but are judiciously positioned for:
- enabling operational data to produce effective insights about supply chain, IT, and customer demands;
- deploying tools and processes to serve customers effectively;
- full automation and digitization of their existing systems;
- migrating their workloads to cloud and using everything as a service (XaaS); and
- adopting DevOps for better application delivery, modernization and sustenance.
Driving these measured efforts into a lasting change requires a bold vision, risk-taking approach, and ruthless actions to reinvent retailers during this monumental crisis. This will help digital retail leaders to create a mind-set throughout the organization to win under any conditions.
Vishnu Nallani Chekravarthula is vice president and head of innovation at Qentelli, the first technology firm to focus on continuous delivery through orchestrated engineering and enabling business transformation through digital transformation.