This article first appeared in MyCustomer.
Ask any retail CEO what keeps them awake at night and most will come up with a list that includes:
- how to transform customer experience, infrastructure and operations at the same time as reducing costs
- demands on them to facilitate new business opportunities and better customer experience at the same time as implementing an agile, flexible, scalable digital platform
- how to nurture innovation and creativity to attract and keep customers and the kind of employees who can build a digital future
They’re big issues which demand bold solutions, yet according to analysts Everest Group, only 10% the C-suite are ready to take action and make digital transformation happen. It takes a degree of business bravery to set the digital store ball rolling, knowing that it may take out a number of existing structures on its way through the business.
The good news is that kickstarting the transformation process can be achieved by taking a few fear-busting steps which are readily achievable and, importantly, give quick results. First, do an honest audit – shine a light on every part of your infrastructure to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly from legacy systems to bolt-ons, patches and dormant processes. Once you can see exactly what your starting position is, it’s much easier to identify where you need to go. Then focus on the three ‘I’s:
- Isolate the customer support systems and technology which are rarely used or mostly replaced by other processes and either eliminate them or separate their management from the rest of your estate– they will not move the business forward and could cause issues with future tech implementations. Unisys’ recent survey of more than 12,000 retail workers revealed that 56% were frustrated with their employers’ out of date tech, with obsolete devices causing them the most pain. Moving on from these would instantly improve productivity, morale and customer experience
- Identify areas with room for improvement, and implement the ‘quick wins’ – proving that a strategy for tech transformation can get underway without interfering with business as usual should bolster business confidence in further-reaching infrastructure changes and innovations. Click and collect is a prime example of this – it can be up and running in weeks and you should see immediate improvement in customer experience and processing efficiency
- Involve the IT team in setting your strategic course – they are the people who will be tasked with delivery of the necessary software, hardware and systems integrations needed to make your digital store work efficiently. Getting them on board at the very start will encourage them to think outside their day-to-day work patterns and allow them to flex their creative muscles. It will also enable you to work together to uncover areas where you may need third party help or specialist training.
Cost vs value
The three ‘I’s will enable you to overcome concerns about the practical implementation of a transformation strategy and take action to stay ahead of your competitors. But the underlying issue of managing cost at a time when every penny counts requires something more fundamental – an acknowledgement that ‘cost’ means more than just pounds and pence:
- the missed opportunities to improve customer experience which will inevitably occur if you delay building a digital store
- the massive additional investment in resource and time in order to catch up with retailers who have already begun the transformation process and are moving further ahead with upgrading customer experience each day
- the threat of attrition due to staff becoming frustrated and moving on - according to Unisys, retail workers are seven times more likely to want to leave companies that lag behind the industry’s tech leaders
are all very real costs which will have far-reaching consequences for retailers – ones which will be counted in footfall, brand reputation and industry standing as well as in cash.
Tackling this issue depends on shifting business focus from cost to value. Rather than weighing up the expense of implementing your digital customer experience strategy – traditionally a stumbling block for the C-suite – it’s vital to assess the value of transformation across all business areas. From operations and logistics to HR and the shop floor, the first question should be ‘what long-term value will this strategy give us?’. The answers will touch every part of the business – systems, processes, stocks and staff – and will paint a far more accurate picture of what the business will become than totting up the figures on a spreadsheet.