The retail market is changing enormously, partially due to the growing success of digital platforms such as Amazon. At the same time, technology is developing further and further and customers are making more online purchases. How can retailers respond to this? Ruud Schoenmakers, IG&H’s new retail partner, shows us.

How will the retail sector look in 10 years?

“Developments are happening so rapidly, it’s actually impossible to look that far ahead anymore. Newcomers, sometimes industry outsiders, are making increasingly large impacts on customer expectations and ‘what it takes to win’ within retail. Until recently it was still possible to downplay these developments. However, these days are now truly behind us.

For example, supermarkets in major cities never used to view restaurants as competition. However, with the current growing success of platforms such as takeaway.com and UberEats, it’s becoming apparent that traditional parties are being affected and need to adjust their business models.”

What is the central challenge facing existing retailers?

“It requires a lot of attention and energy to ensure that the current operation runs smoothly. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly important to change rapidly and to innovate in order to remain relevant to the market.

It is extremely difficult to do two things at once. The question of how to combine these issues in a controllable manner without being hampered by the enormous complexity is causing headaches for many executives.”

What do retailers need to focus on?

“Just like in other industries, such as financial services, there needs to be a realization that the transition towards becoming a digital business is both essential and existential. The moment that you lose clients to new competitors, technology and data science capabilities become your best friend.

At the moment, I would dare to estimate that most retailers currently allocate 90% of their budget to simply keeping the current systems up and running. A mere fraction is used for exceptional, let alone innovative, solutions.

This is not a sustainable state of affairs. It is essential that retailers set up their organizations to be flexible in order to respond to the changing customer demands. Software that supports them in this can lead to a breakthrough, including the high performance, low code platform OutSystems as well as the use of cloud solutions.”

How important will data science become for ‘physical stores’?

“Shop assortments are currently quite static and homogeneous. Data science allows retailers to frequently check what the optimal assortment is for individual locations, leading to optimal turnover and profit margins.

Moreover, data science combined with technology allows retailers to make the switch to real one-on-one interaction with individual consumers via all channels. This is a totally different ballgame to the impersonal and primarily product-based mass communication. Isn’t it a shame that I, a man, keep seeing handbag commercials? It’s a total waste of marketing money!”

How much will organizations have to change internally?

“Successful transformation into a digital business requires different skills, leadership, governance, attitudes, and behaviour. This transition is substantial, impactful, and requires care.

I am very proud of the fact that we at IG&H, as sector insiders, not only can sharpen strategies, but also implement them. A new way of working also requires different behaviour. Our organization’s transformation professionals help executives and employees sustainably adjust their daily work methodology. What’s more, our technology experts can implement the required software so that it stays fast and flexible in the future.”

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