Leaning into Retail’s Challenges with Digital Transformation

Digital transformation initiatives have picked up in the retail sector in recent years as store chains compete for brand awareness and sales in a rapidly evolving market. By 2026, retailers’ global investments in digital transformation tools are expected to reach $388 billion, growing by 18% a year.

That may sound like retail leaders are all in, ready to use new technology tools to extract maximum value out of their operations; ready to embrace change and grab the future by the horns.   

But the truth is many are probably not prepared for what’s ahead. Having worked with retailers on technology projects for 15 years, I’m impressed with their ability to build businesses that hold their own and endure in the face of adversity. I’m also impressed with their willingness to integrate new technologies in their businesses. But I’m concerned that they’re not shifting their mindsets quickly enough to adapt to the changes that are coming.

Are they adopting digital strategies that serve both younger and older populations? Are they successfully untangling their “spaghetti architectures”? Are they using technology to win the margin game? And are they evolving their mindsets to do a better job of collaborating with outside experts?

These common challenges apply to retail organizations of all shapes and sizes – large and small, high-margin and low-margin, global and regional, online, and offline. How retailers react to these challenges will determine how well their technology investments truly transform the businesses they run.

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