North East Connected

A look inside: digital acceleration in the retail sector

Over one year has passed since the lockdowns prompted by the coronavirus brought digital acceleration to the forefront across sectors and further hastened its urgency. Now, winning the race to digital-first business has become an objective of high strategic importance for organisational leaders globally. But what does this mean in real terms? How is it achieved? What changes for IT functions? And perhaps most importantly, what exactly do we mean by ‘digital acceleration’? Simply put, to accelerate towards a digital-first modality means approaching any new opportunity or strategy with the aim that the solution should be as digital as possible. It is to imagine as much of the service you’re creating as possible being used by customers in digital form.

Retail is resilient

Retail has endured wave after wave of disruption for a very long time, and the best brands have adapted and thrived. From ‘mom and pop’ stores shifting their business online to give customers their favourite baked goods during the pandemic, to automotive manufacturers offering Chinese customers an Amazon-style way of buying new cars… there are degrees to which digital acceleration has occurred in retail. On the one hand, some businesses that refuse to adapt have been left behind already or are at risk of being so soon. On the other, the innovators are already ahead of the curve, reimagining retail’s next chapter of shopping experiences.

Retail embracing digital acceleration

For retail brands to stay competitive in this new age of digitalization they require new methods: one of those ways is to embrace a mindset around digital acceleration. This covers omnichannel retail models, blurring the lines between physical stores and the digital experience, and new ways of order fulfilment to meet customer expectations without squeezing margins. Omnichannel could like choosing a standard vehicle online, customising in a showroom, having the car delivered, and completing post-sale paperwork on an app. In-showroom customization is where the blurring of lines occurs – where physical spaces are used to offer digital experiences. I.E a VR test drive. Fulfilment without squeezing margins can be achieved using decentralized, in-store fulfilment models – though this requires high stock accuracy and a software-centric approach to order management.

Software-centric retail

As discussed above, the answer to many retail brands is to place a stronger emphasis on software. Obviously, almost every brand these days has an online store and convenient apps, but they need to lead the way. To truly embrace digital acceleration and shape the future of retail, leading brands need to take development operations up a notch. To do that they need the best development talent out there, and sometimes this isn’t possible locally — both in terms of cost and in terms of required skills. That’s where offshore software development teams can aid businesses in their digital acceleration roadmap.

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