Not All Digital Transformations Are Created Equal

If You Want Success All Day Everyday, Be In The Frontlines To Understand What It Takes To Succeed.

Everyone has a spin on what is going to be in the future for the retail industry. For the record I don’t agree with many of the ideas. Great business strategies are not built around speculation, there is too much at risk. Especially in an unpredictable societal, economic, political and technological climate.  I also believe that far too many retailers have jumped on the technology bandwagon with no clear plans or strategies and they are drowning in debt, with no ROI. I have had similar conversations with a few tech experts who agree. Why is this happening? Because, not all digital transformations are created equal, in fact most transformations are only as good as the cultures, talent, strategies and operational execution behind them.

The only strategy that I can concur with most experts is that “Customer Experience” is a correct direction. Unfortunately, if a customer experience is in some way connected to technology, that initiative had better be scalable and have the capabilities to continuously evolve and engage customers. If the intent is to create customer experiences, at the level of entertainment that exists in theatrical plays or a theme park. This curtain has already dropped and the patrons went home early! Because the show will get boring very quickly and I believe that this concept that is being conveyed is impossible to continue to financially support. Therefore, the problem as I see it not everyone understands the scope of work that needs to occur at the frontlines to deliver that kind of experience.

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Back To Reality Say’s The Realist!

I believe the rush towards developing a customer experience is also flawed because it lacks depth in investment of HI (Human Intelligence). While taking a program at MIT I wrote an assignment on the use of technology within a retail environment to engage customers from when they entered the store to the moment they left, end to end. Drawing the lines between AI (Artificial Intelligence), robotics and HI is daunting (even with all the experience in retail that I have!). So I don’t see how anyone can believe that this or that piece of technology will be the killer strategy! It Will Not Work!!

Nor will buying a generic training program off the shelf, at best most of these programs provide the same usual tactics of greetings, introduction to the store, show the merchandise and tell them about a sale. FULL STOP this is not a customer experience or service story. Then it is followed by asking the customer questions about what they are looking for, more show and tell. Sorry it is not enough!!!!

So I fail to understand where the competitive advantage is, if every retailer is to adopt the same strategies and tactics from a training program?
To be blunt there isn’t an advantage. Customer experiences have to be grown from within, customized and personalized to represent your brand.
You can build it anyway you want, but it cannot be built without a Vision and Clarity on how it should be delivered. What will be the memorable brand moments that belong only to you? Define that and you have the beginning of a story. From here then plan to add technology that will enhance the experience. Keeping in mind, that technology is not the experience driver of your brand and that people are.

Brands that are not evolutionary and leading the world on social responsibility are not going to make it.  Your brand must have a purpose not a political one, but a reason for existing, a reason that consumers say they are aligned with you and that they understand the in store behaviours of your staff. They appreciate them. They trust your sourcing, quality and performance of your products and service. LUSH, Lululemon to name a couple.

Let’s bring retailing back to its reality for just a moment. We cannot forget the fundamentals of retailing because there are in my view and experience, too many farfetched ideas out there that are not deliverable. Couple that with a wealth of soundbites with nothing tangible tied to them and you have confusion, that is why many transformations fail. If you want to win in retail get back to the grassroots and stick to it whether you sell in a physical space, cyber space or both, the rules are the same.

Retailing Fundamentals 

Here are the retailing fundamentals that have been around since humanity began to barter and trading for goods. It has never changed and anyone that tells you it has, they have  likely never sold anything in a retail store.

So here it is in a simple format;

“Offer what the customer wants to buy, when they want it, at a price that they are willing to pay, coupled with a consumer model they deem worth experiencing. Then and only then do you have a brand to sell from.“

Retailing isn’t hard we are just making it harder. 70-80% of retail activity still happens in stores ultimately that number may change to 50/50 by the year 2030, but the physical store will never disappear. What will disappear are the retailers that haven’t figured out the right strategies to adapt. Stay in the game make a difference, develop your brands longevity.

My name is George Minakakis and I am the CEO of Inception Retail Group, I advise Private Equity and the Author of the Great Transition The Emergence of Unconventional Leadership

“If you want to change the performance of your retail brand, you have to change the way you see retail.” George Minakakis, September 2019

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