In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, it could be argued the retail industry has experienced more significant digital transformation than many other industries. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores have been forced to expand their presence online, leveraging technology to enhance customer experiences and improve operational efficiency at breakneck speeds.
AlixPartners EMEA Head of Retail, Matt Clark, took to the main stage of World Retail Congress (WRC) to not only present our research findings on Transformational Retail, but also had the privilege of interviewing Régis Schultz, CEO, JD Sports and Luke Jensen, CEO, Ocado Solutions, two industry leaders with diverse perspectives of the retail digital transformation journey.
They both offered valuable insights into the challenges they face, highlighting successful digital adoption, the importance of leveraging and aligning organisational strengths, and attracting digital talent to achieve seamless digital transformation.
Digital Penetration and Building Retail for the Future
Régis emphasised JD Sports’ commitment to digital penetration in the market. He stated, "We are moving ahead of the market in terms of digital penetration, focusing on building a digital ecosystem and leveraging technology to be as quick and efficient as possible." Schultz acknowledged that relying on existing technology and integrating digital transformation was crucial to drive profitability.
Luke added the importance of rethinking the entire retail process. He emphasised the need to move away from a legacy mindset and explore innovative ways to optimise the supply chain. Jensen explained, "By streamlining the supply chain and embracing automation, retailers can significantly reduce costs and enhance profitability. Rethinking traditional models and embracing bold strategies are key to succeeding in the digital landscape."
Leveraging Strengths and Boldness
Schultz highlighted the significance of playing to the strengths of retailers rather than compensating for weaknesses. He stated, "Each retailer has its unique strengths. Instead of trying to be the best digitally, it is essential to leverage what makes us unique and partner with experts who excel in digital capabilities." Schultz mentioned the importance of embracing partnerships to enhance their digital offerings.
Jensen echoed this sentiment, stressing the need for boldness and a willingness to adapt to the future. He mentioned that successful retailers recognise the growing significance of online channels and actively work to embrace them. Jensen stated, "Online retail is not going away. By embracing it, fighting for it, and gaining knowledge, retailers can position themselves for long-term success."
Attracting Digital Talent and Investing in Development
Jensen highlighted the critical role of attracting and retaining digital talent within organisations, and the need for consistent investment: "By consistently investing in research and development, and by really challenging developers, retailers can attract top digital talent." He also emphasised the importance of creating an environment where developers feel valued and supported.
Schultz shared his perspective on attracting digital talent, with a focus on creating an organisational culture that embraces digital transformation. He noted that the retail industry ‘must adapt to the changing landscape and be open to learning from technology companies.’ Schultz encouraged retailers to not only invest in digital marketing tools and platforms, but the talent that uses them - and their importance and role in attracting and retaining customers.
Aligning Leadership and Organisational Mindset
The discussion also touched upon the challenge of aligning leadership vision with the actions of the team on the ground. Schultz stressed the need for ‘leaders to adopt digital rules and understand the significance of online channels.’ He highlighted that the majority of customers now explore online options before making a purchase, and retailers must invest in their online presence accordingly.
The importance of aligning the organisation's mindset with digital transformation goals was key for Jensen. He suggested that by creating ‘exciting problem-solving opportunities, and creating a culture that values digital capabilities, it can bridge the gap between leadership and the development team’.
As the digital transformation journey continues to evolve, both challenges and opportunities will be presented. There was a clear emphasis that digital capabilities need to be embraced, the uniqueness of the retailer should come first, aligning the right leadership approach and investments in digital talent are needed for retailers to be Digital-First. With the evolving digital retail landscape, retailers need to adapt, innovate, and leverage technology to remain competitive and meet evolving customer expectations.
To find out more about how Digital-First Retail can support your journey, visit: https://features.alixpartners.com/digital-first-retail/, and read our WRC-partnered research on Transformational Retail.