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Retailers look to transform using digital

By Retail Technology | Monday September 17 2018

Digital transformation and the positive impact it can have on the customer experience (CX) emerged as a major theme at Retail Week’s Tech. held in London last week by staff writer

Retail business and technology leaders gathered with retail technology suppliers to share digital transformation best practice, where it emerged that cultural and leadership challenges are more of a barrier than legacy technology.

David Oliver, head of retail consulting at PwC, revealed how leadership needs to change, and how leaders are ditching the five-year plan to look to three years ahead, as digital transformation changes the nature of leadership.

“It may be that the C-suite retail managers have good supplier relations with their tech suppliers. It is easy to agree on the best path strategically. But that’s not always so easy to translate into practical action on the ground,” he said.

PwC commissioned Retail Week to survey retail senior and middle managers in businesses with a turnover of more than £50m about the impact and effectiveness of their digital transformation initiatives. The findings revealed that 75% feel digital transformation requires a change in leadership mindset.

True enabler

Only a third at management level agreed that supplier-retailer relationships were true partnerships, while 87% of retailers agree that the pace of change and the pressure their business is under to digitally transform have increased over the past three years.

Will Shuckburgh, EVP of global membership at Rakuten, both echoed and summed up the event theme when he stated that: “Retailers can’t afford not to be tech companies anymore.”
When asked the question: “Should retail businesses be looking to acquire other types of businesses, like Rakuten has?” Shuckburgh said that the retail landscape has been fundamentally changed by Amazon, and the sheer scale of what it does. 

“Mobile in particular has made it seamless to move between services,” he said. “Ecosystems are the future of what businesses will be. And everyone else will be destroyed by those kinds of businesses.”

Shuckburgh also pointed out that pressure to digitally transform in retail extends as equally to the supply chain as it does to CX. “Any retailer that doesn’t compete in the logistics business will not be around in a few years’ time,” he warned. 

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