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Leading Retail’s Digital Transformation

By Tracy Issel, General Manager, Worldwide Retail, Consumer Goods & Hospitality, Microsoft on February 28, 2017

Filed under Retail & Consumer Goods

Technology’s profound impact on how we live, work and think has sounded a clarion call to the business community: evolve or risk obsolescence.

The mandate for a retail industry forever changed by it is no less urgent.

Merchants determined to survive and thrive in a shopping landscape upended by a $355 billion e-commerce market, an endless aisle of products and smartphone-addled consumers are leading a digital transformation in the spirit of creative disruption.

The moment calls for it.

The digital age has hatched “the expectation economy,” marked by “ever-accelerating customer expectations, applied ruthlessly to every purchase decision, experience and moment of attention,” according to forecasting firm TrendWatching. And for retailers and consumer products organizations, attention must be paid.

Just as technology has empowered us to simplify and customize every micro-moment of our hyper-connected lives—from paying bills to personalizing playlists—it’s also catalyzing retail innovation and growth.

Digital interactions increasingly pave the path to purchase. Hence, technology solutions backed by data-driven insights are critical to granting today’s consumers what they want: Highly curated merchandise and shopping experiences.

Savvy retailers and brands are driving a digital transformation informed by the demands of the expectation economy. It’s rippling through their organizations—from the C-suite to the store floor. They’re tapping talent with digital chops, and cherry picking the best practices of Silicon Valley-style tech entrepreneurship to model their own incubators of innovation.

The change comes as merchants and brands compete for ever-fragmenting chunks of the distracted shopper mind share.

Consumers have the world’s mall at their fingertips, 24/7, with unprecedented limitless digital shopping choice, product and price information.

Meeting their demands in the expectation economy means tapping technology to deliver and anticipate idiosyncratic needs and preferences in real-time—from texting a personalized sale offer to a shopper’s smartphone the minute they enter a store to offering them the lowest price on a web order based on their personal basket size, a la Jet.com.

Suffice to say that one-size-fits all retail products and experiences don’t cut it for shoppers these days.

For retailers and CPG brands, a digital transformation is also being shaped by the rise of collaborative commerce, as shoppers increasingly want a hand in the product-development process.

They’re turning to technology to create and foster customized products and experiences such as startup Stitch Fix, the online styling service that ships items tailored to shopper tastes based on sophisticated algorithms, to sneakers that have been designed by consumers themselves in the 3D-printing workshop of a Converse store.

But all the technology in the world is virtually meaningless without the adoption of a data-driven culture.

Indeed, there’s gold in them there data.

But the key is mining the data via analytics to unearth actionable, measurable business insights. It’s a top goal touching nearly every facet of the digital transformation unfurling at retail companies and CPG organizations today.

In my next post, I’ll talk more about smarter commerce in this expectation economy and the valuable role that technological innovation is playing whereby retailers can now capture ten times the insights in one-tenth the time.

In the meantime, you can also access this new Microsoft resource on transforming retail for the digital age. In this paper, we discuss the opportunities for the retail industry to grow, adapt and evolve to address the changing needs of customers and capture new business potential, and how Microsoft can help accelerate digital transformation.

LinkedIn: Tracy Issel

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