Jon has been working in the retail industry for more than 15 years and has been employed by some world-leading brands. He’s currently collaborating with a number of technology companies and their retail clients. We’ve asked him to write a series of blogs covering his experiences and reflections. In this blog, he'll be considering the pandemic and how it's accelerated digital transformation.
The impact that the pandemic has had on the adoption of digital technology
Whilst this pandemic has deprived us of so many liberties that we previously took for granted, it’s also been the chance for reflection. It's a great time for reading and developing new skills. I’ve personally never read so many commentaries and articles on the impact to the workplace, the economy and society in general.
Something that I’ve found entertaining have been the many varied calculations of digital progress that we as humans have made during the lockdown. The first I saw of these was when Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, presented his company’s quarterly earnings report to Wall Street in April 2020. He commented that two years of progress had happened in just the first two months of lockdown. This was then followed by commentary after commentary, upping the number of years of progress. It culminated with McKinsey’s report that demonstrated ten years of progress in 90 days, calculated using USA eCommerce penetration.
Whatever algorithm you’re using, it’s difficult to deny that we’ve all become more digitally savvy. Even my elderly father, a Holocaust survivor in his 90s, is competently joining family Zoom calls, text messaging and sending video clips and images.
So it is that almost every consumer purchase now has at least an element of the digital in its journey. Even if it’s not the purchase itself, it’s the research, the social validation with peers, the store opening hours, the estimated delivery time or the checking on returns policy. The returns policy, in fact, has become an increasingly important click made by consumers in their personal decision-making process.
Companies, especially retailers, are recognising this and getting on the digital transformation journey to stay relevant, or rather, to stay in business!
What we are seeing is the companies that were already progressing well on this journey pre-pandemic are the ones coming out of the first lockdown period in the strongest position.
Many are citing significant numbers of new customers transacting on their eCommerce channel. For others, it may be converting previous bricks and mortar customers to digital ones. The vast majority are seeing increased eCommerce sales, leading to new business challenges in fulfilment and inventory management.
What’s the cost of delay?
Companies that were not on the digital transformation journey are now looking to jump quickly into it. Those that were are now endeavouring to accelerate towards providing a true omnichannel capability, where the lines between physical and digital are blurred and the customer gets a great and consistent experience in a way that is most convenient for them.
Cash for investment, in many companies, is of course very limited at the moment. Whilst the ambition and imperative to act is clear, CIOs can’t afford to invest in large and complex foundation programmes to enable business vision. Many vendors offer enticing solutions to deliver quick wins, but beware wall garden solutions that isolate you, preventing you from integrating wider functions/service offerings for your enterprise.
It’s key to identify the providers that are technology experts and that are really trying to partner with you, to help your teams unlock sustainable customer value that is aligned with your omnichannel business vision. The best of these partners will recognise your investment constraints and will have thought through approaches to minimise client risk. With ongoing disruption from local and national lockdowns across the world a likely scenario, a partner that can not only do all of this but do so with velocity and agility is ideal.
This concludes Jon’s first blog, and we welcome feedback on his observations. In his next blog, he’s going to explore the human element of this digitisation in retail.