Digital Transformation in Retail – 9 Lessons learned

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Retail Technology Show in London. It was a great opportunity to meet some new faces and hear from industry leaders. Aside from lots of merch and chocolate, here are 9 key takeaways from across the 2 days…. 

Making sense of limitless choice 

The old adage that the customer is king has never been more applicable. Nowadays consumers have more choice than ever when it comes to how they spend their money, which leads to less loyalty and more unpredictability. Retailers should be prioritising programmes that make sense of customer behaviour and drive repeat transactions. 

Change is human 

Some may believe that the robots are coming, but a people centric approach to change is how you deliver transformation. No matter what the technology is, it remains the case that you need people to embrace the change in order for it to work. It was reassuring to see and hear the lengths change management was emphasised throughout the event. 

Information is culture 

Similar to the need for change management, particular attention needs to be paid to cultural change to land transformation. Retail tech offers us hugely valuable insights. These insights, however, are only as impactful as the mechanism of sharing information inside your organisation. Whether the transformation is pricing, loss prevention, or store optimisation, paying attention to your hierarchy and culture of information spread can land large scale change. 

Small wins, big results 

We’ve already heard that predictability in customer behaviour is key and this must be considered as part of any transformation product. Changes that interrupt rather than enhance the customer journey will have your would-be customers spending their hard-earned cash elsewhere. To land change, look at the small wins. Rollout in a subset of stores at first. Start innovation small so that you can scale it big. 

Don’t turn your back on the back office 

It is often the shop floor where we jump to when considering transformation in retail. The level of innovation at the back office, however, should not be ignored. Back office optimisation can increase the level of employee engagement and ultimately drive business and customer efficiencies. The impact on the back office should be considered as part of any transformation. 

Data readiness discomfort 

You need an understanding of your data quality and limitations before introducing new tech. The lack of data readiness was emphasised as a pain point during several talks and conversations. Make the effort to understand your data and outline your data strategy in line with your business strategy early in the transformation process. 

AI et Al 

AI, AI, AI. The word is everywhere. It’s true that we are on the cusp of a generative AI revolution that will change not only how we shop, but many other aspects of everyday life. The eagerness to adopt this technology within the retail sector is hugely exciting. Whilst AI solutions are tempting, don’t walk before you can run. We’ve all heard the stories of chatbots gone wrong, damaging reputation and turning off customers. Taking the time to understand your customers, your people, and (again) your culture is more important than jumping straight into the deep end. 

Everything Omnichannel 

Omnichannel was the other ever present across the event. When making a change or introducing new tech, what is the impact across all channels? To hammer home an earlier point, change should enhance not interrupt the customer experience. That experience is an omnichannel one, and that way of thinking is very much embedded across the sector. 

The future is bright 

And finally, what was most impressive, was the positivity and passion on show across the whole event. The retail sector has experienced some tough times in recent years, but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom. It is people’s enthusiasm, curiosity, and willingness to ask the big questions that is driving retail innovation and transformation, which was on display by the bucket load! 


I would highly recommend the Retail Technology Show. If you’re interested in the event you can visit their LinkedIn page here for all the information you need. Check out more information around our work in Retail here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can retailers navigate the challenge of limitless consumer choice?

Retailers should prioritise programs that analyse customer behavior and encourage repeat transactions, combating reduced loyalty in today’s saturated market.

What role does cultural change play in retail transformation?

Cultural change is vital for successful transformation. Sharing insights effectively within the organisation is as crucial as adopting new retail tech, impacting areas like pricing and store optimisation.

Why is it important to focus on small wins in retail innovation?

Incremental change, starting with small wins, is essential to prevent disruptions to the customer journey. Rolling out innovations gradually allows for scalability and ensures customer satisfaction.

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