Accelerating Digital Maturity - taking retail operations to the next level

Europe is coming out of the pandemic. The past 18 months saw many retailers evolve, some struggle and others fold. DIY and grocery retailers did particularly well out of the pandemic.


Europe is coming out of the pandemic. The past 18 months saw many retailers evolve, some struggle and others fold. DIY and grocery retailers did particularly well out of the pandemic. If a retailer’s supply chain and logistics managed to successfully navigate lockdown, they were rewarded with sky high profits and happy customers. Take Denmark’s Jem & Fix for example, with over 120 stores, their profits hit DKK 509 million - a growth of 113 percent.  

What was behind Jem & Fix’s success is likely no different from all the other retailers who also found success in 2020. They were prepared. Thinking ahead was and is part of their strategy. Deloitte reports the pandemic saw companies recalibrate their technology investments. In many cases, companies only had to hasten their spending plans for technologies to help their processes. They weren’t starting from scratch. Gartner predicted worldwide IT spending, driven by companies' needs to shore up their digital transformation efforts, is set to increase by 9% into 2021 to reach a total $4.2 trillion, with most money directed to technologies.

So what next for retailers shoring up their digital transformation efforts? How should they be looking to direct their technology investments? We’ve come up with some next steps post pandemic for retailers continuing to invest in digital maturity.

1. Always look forward and keep an eye on upcoming trends

Consider the global, retail, technology and regional trends not just happening now, but also in the next five, ten and twenty plus years. If the present is about marketing automation, are you there already? And if you are, what should you be preparing for next? Many retailers dealing with large volumes are now implementing creative automation which manages the automated assembly of marketing assets, so it doesn’t have to be done manually. Looking even further into the future and consider the capacity for artificial intelligence software to support and improve your retail operations. 

2. More effective operations by innovation

Keep an eye on the effectiveness of your marketing and digital operations and continue to innovate them.  Just because operations work perfectly now, recent years illustrate it won’t always stay that way.  The pandemic forced drastic behaviour changes globally, but if we’re honest about it, they were already much needed. Innovating and optimising should always be a regular part of your daily operations. Try and test out new innovations bit by bit, so they get built into the fabric of your organisation. Ensure it is an essential part of your working culture.

3. Take ownership of your own data and processes

No-code platforms can be a good way to ensure you have ownership of data and processes. These are basically platforms and services that do not require specialist or hard to find skills to create, use or manage. But ownership doesn’t mean that the organisation has to control everything inhouse. It is still advised to work with providers, partners and consultants for guidance and support. What is meant here by ownership is having oversight and understanding of your own organisation’s data and processes. Working with no-code platforms will better enable ownership, as you can bring more knowledge in-house, train others easily and work closer with technology providers and partners. They also make the development and prototyping of new systems and ways of working easier, so you can keep the proof of concepts within the business and easily pick them up as and when you need.

This is a good conversation to have with your technology consultants and partners. They can advise on ways to retain ownership of data, best practice and the best no-code platforms that will suit your organisation’s particular needs. 

4. Automation vs workflow investment ratio

Most retailers are bringing automation into their operations. But how did they prepare for it, if at all? If done adequately, they will have ensured that the investment made sense. The benefits of automating operations would have been balanced with the costs of actually running the automation. With creative automation, for example, even if the production process of high volume projects dramatically improves, it defeats the object if you still end up increasing the workload just preparing the assets for automation. 



As you invest in automation, consider the impact on both preparation and production. Automation can only be effective when aligned with the necessary workflows. The preparation and production should be part of the same integrated process so it’s all “in-process”, not separated and “off-process”.  Falling into the “off-process” trap is when you are managing workflows through different, siloed systems - they don’t fall into your process, they operate outside of it. The effectiveness of automation drops, when you spend more time managing systems than benefitting from the automation.  When integrating a new technology, consult your provider about how it will impact all of your operations, not just while the technology is in play, but also before and after.

Digital maturity played a key role in getting through the pandemic and retailers are still continuing their investment into it, they haven’t stopped. And nor, should they…  The purpose is never to reach digital maturity, but always striving to improve it. Digital transformation is the journey and it should always be an ongoing one that never stops.

For more tips on digital maturity, read our related article Digital maturity - what are the lasting foundations?



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