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Industries around the world are approaching digital transformation—the impact of using digital technologies across the board—in different ways. Some industries tend to view this as a transformation of the customer experience while others are more about the transformation of the enabling technologies. However, the retail industry is rather unique in that it is poised for a transformation of sorts both from the business and the IT sides of the house, almost as if there is a race to get there first! Even though, digital transformation is a journey rather than a destination. These are the thoughts that are slowly beginning to take shape in my mind as I gear up to facilitate the Executive Exchange Thought leadership session on the Race to Retail Digital Transformation -- Business or IT? as part of the CDM Media CIO Retail Summit in New York.

Business racing with IT? Yes! A resounding phrase I still remember from the NRF Conference is the fact that the retail industry will go through as much transformation in the next five years as it did in the past 50 years. However, for such transformation to be effective, let us take a closer look at what matters, and what doesn't! Thinking of five tenets here to drive such transformation, and thus, 5 questions that we should ask ourselves.

  1. Channel does not matter. To the retail customer, it should not matter which channel they use to shop for items of interest. Just this weekend, my spouse was looking for furniture where she found an item she liked online but wanted to check it out herself in person at a nearby store and landed up ordering it using her mobile phone through a third-party who would assemble and deliver it on a date and time of her choice. Omnichannel. Question: What kind of transformation would IT need to go through to deliver such experiences?
  2. Location should not matter. So, what if my spouse is vacationing in Hawaii or gearing up for school in the fall back home or is just walking the Magnificent Mile in Chicago? If she finds an item of her taste, she should be able to order it and have it shipped to a location of her choice to be received by the person of her choice -- the recipient might be a close family member or friend located thousands of miles away. Question: Can IT be everywhere to make this happen?
  3. Automation—and people—matter. Let us not lose sight of the human element—the greeter at the front of the retail store, the store clerk wishing you a nice day or a fantastic weekend—they matter for sure! Automation done right is all about increasing the overall efficiency of the retail process end-to-end while redirecting the brainpower to more innovative applications. Next-generation technologies open up options for new business models and newer ways of enhanced customer experience. Question:What can technology do to augment revenue generating opportunities? IT is no longer just about saving money—it is also about opening up avenues to make more money too!
  4. Innovation matters. However, such enablement requires an ecosystem that wholeheartedly embraces innovation across the community with passionate members collaborating to bring together diverse perspectives. Collaboration is the most effective mechanism to sustain innovation—whether it be collaboration between retail enterprises or individuals with expertise in the business of retail or its enabling technology. Question: What are the characteristics of an ecosystem that can drive such innovation?

What is the fifth one you ask? I do have an idea on what it could or should be—but I am going to “shop” for it and defer that to the executives who will be at the CDM Media Retail Summit. If you are attending, I look forward to your thoughts there.

But, wait a minute!

Why not start the exchange right here? Want to join me in shopping for the fifth tenet? Why not make the fifth tenet an omnichannel experience?

Go for it!

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