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Undoubtedly, digital transformation means different things to different retailers. However, a common link for all retailers is embedded in a strong and robust digital movement that leans on transformational and consumer innovation-rich retail programs and approaches. It is abundantly clear that much of retail industry’s growth is fraught with challenges associated with unforeseen market uncertainties, legacy systems, lack of skilled resources, delayed or insufficient insights and tight budgets. However, retailers can create integrated and personalized digital content and commerce inside and outside the four walls by marrying together pragmatic retailer-consumer digital buying journey workflows and related business user and consumer-facing change management best practices. This is a required building block for enabling a seamless and up-to-date digital commerce experience.

It can be argued that a highly sophisticated digital transformation approach, related asset or solution is not as important in the store, DC or supply chain as is the operational pragmatism, business connectivity and day-to-day adoption or usage associated with such a transformation, asset or solution.

For instance, it is clear that 7 in 10 retailers use an eCommerce platform that requires some form of re-investment to be aligned with evolving consumer/market trends. Additionally, at least half of retailers plan to develop a unified commerce platform in the store so challenges associated with an ageing store POS environment can be overcome. However, a dedicated strategy to manage and grow relevant content, digital assets and overall user experience in an integrated and user-relevant manner is the missing link that negatively impacts flow of business, traffic and retail experience every day. At a time when the average consumer is using more than two digital devices for engaging with retailers at any given point in time, retailers need a combination of timely insights, new operational workflows and better business adoption strategies. Such strategies are needed to find ROI and benefits from unified customer messaging, integrated shopping carts, loyalty programs and digital content personalization for consistent customer traffic and conversion.

In the retail industry in particular, rapid re-prioritization and re-engineering parts of the business is required in some measure for digital transformation. Rapid re-prioritization does not mean a complete shake-up of strategy, resources and systems. It involves building rapid prototypes and models for scalable digital roll-outs in profit or near-profit centers involving new categories, new formats and domestic/international markets that show growth promise. Above all it requires a detailed assessment of business user and consumer adoption scenarios for success.

The reason such a strategy is needed in quick order is due the fact that more often than not digital innovation gets delayed when sudden tactical priorities and internal organizational roadblocks come into play such as immediate payment advancements, data security measures or EMV implementations in the stores that require compliance. When retail companies get caught in the moment it is a classic retail growth inhibitor that has stunted customer and revenue growth for years. Even the most forward-looking retail executives know that no amount of planning and mandates can change the status quo if transformational assets or programs are derailed by short-term priorities or feared by those within the organization who stand to be impacted by it despite the lure of gains or efficiencies.

Retailers are gearing up for the next phase of growth where they must cater to new audience groups such Generation Z and other new demographic groups, categories, channels and markets. If they intend to attain integrated commerce and seamless customer engagement, more pragmatic digital transformation strategies are needed.

For further discussion on this topic and other retail trends or issues, please contact me at sanand@edgellmail.com or on Twitter: @sahiranand or @EKNResearch.