The act of converting brands into sales underwent a profound change in 2020. Retailers were forced to speed up their digital transformation efforts to improve customer experiences but more urgently, to make sales at all as consumers shifted to online shopping in record numbers while the world locked down.
Now, ecommerce ranks number one in activities people do more than they did pre-pandemic according to digital analytics firm, Kantar. In today’s omnichannel landscape, online growth for retailers is nearly double as much in value and triple in percentage growth terms as its nearest competing channel.
What does the future of retail look like given this significant change event? Particularly now as inoculation numbers climb, and pandemic concerns start to ease in some parts of the world. Snow recently sponsored a CIO Predictions Panel for the retail industry in which three CIOs weighed in on what they believe will make the biggest impact on retailers going forward.
1. A digital transformation acceleration
John Hill is the CIO of the American apparel company, Carhartt. His first-hand experience tells him that those who accelerated their digital transformation efforts through the pandemic will achieve outsized returns post-pandemic. While an acceleration for his organization meant ramping up their digital technology investment, it also meant more diligence with aligning the supporting business processes.
“Spending time on organizational characteristics beyond the hygiene processes like project or change management but also figuring out how we can make sure the money we are spending will help us deliver on what we set out to achieve” was a game-changer, Hill says.
Aligning technology investment with business goals and processes was important a year ago and will be even more important as companies navigate out of the tumultuous times the pandemic brought on the industry. Retailers who haven’t started this process yet still have time to make the change.
2. Mastering the changing customer behavior
John Dickson is Vice President of IT Infrastructure and Cybersecurity at wholesale alcohol beverage distributor, Republic National Distributing Company. Through the pandemic, his organization saw tremendous change in how people purchased alcohol and other grocery items. Home delivery became the customer’s preference and he predicts this will continue to be the case going forward.
The changing customer behavior will force the closure of some retail establishments, particularly those that aren’t able to provide any type of delivery service. To keep pace with this change and others that are yet to come, CIOs must “learn to pivot and provide capabilities to the business that enable it to lead through change,” Dickson said. In today’s example, “IT will be the driver that allows businesses to succeed in the as-a-service model that customers prefer.”
Data and forward-thinking analytics on what customers prefer and what the business is able to deliver now and in the future will be an increasingly important function of IT.
3. CIOs as business leaders
Alessandro Ventura is the North America CIO of the consumer goods company, Unilever. He says the pandemic only accelerated a change which has been brewing among CIOs for some time now which is the need for CIOs to evolve their role from pure technologist to business leader. “The CIO’s role is changing and they now need to be digital transformers and technology and analytics experts who are also strong, agile practitioners.”
As change continues to dominate the retail landscape, IT can help lead the transformation not simply by making new technology purchases rather by articulating how the organization’s technology stack supports a new way of doing business. Analytics will help the business make smarter decisions and agile practitioners can implement a required pivot quickly and efficiently.
The business disruption in 2020 was perhaps felt most acutely by the Retail sector. As a result, retailers must find new ways of driving growth in the future. These three CIOs have offered up their insights on how to do that — each are rooted in first obtaining strong technology intelligence.
What does your technology landscape look like today? Only with that information can you align it with business goals and then optimize cost and gain efficiency of your technology estate. This is the foundation for further digital transformation enhancements and business growth.
At Snow, we believe that IT leaders who are empowered with end-to-end visibility of their technology consumption and resulting spend are better prepared to make strategic decisions and keep their organization resilient during times of change and uncertainty. Request a demo to see how Snow can help.