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Digital transformation: No how, no where, no way, no when – but a why

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Digital transformation: No how, no where, no way, no when – but a why
Digital transformation: No how, no where, no way, no when – but a why
A recent study by PwC for JDA Software revealed that 70% of senior retail CEOs are actively looking at investing in ‘digital transformation’ as they all now see that customer experience is key to keeping customers back for more. Across online, mobile and stores they are all planning to do something to make the shopping experience better and drive clicks and footfall.

All good news – especially since mobile is the cornerstone to most of the investment and the area where most of these CEOs are focussing their attention – but there is still a very much an air of “Yes, I am going to do something, I just don’t know what, when, how or where…”. At least they seem though to understand the “why”.

And this comes as no surprise. There are a bewildering array of technologies out there all purporting to make your retail business better. In the mobile sector alone, there are countless ideas, theories and products to do this. Next week’s Mobile World Congress will see 110,000 mobile-y people gather in Barcelona to congratulate each other on how great these myriad products are.

The only problem is they are all largely unproven, expensive and confusing.

Take mobile payments as an example. The latest research from Forrester shows that some $52 billion was spent through ‘mobile payments’ in the EU7 countries in 2015. By 220 this could be nearer $150 billion. Great, but what does that actually mean? Is that using phones as a card proxy a la Apple Pay? Is that using One-Click on Amazon to buy stuff? Is that just buying things online using a mobile? Is it all of them? Some of them?

This is the conundrum facing retailers with every facet of technology. What does it actually mean?

‘Digital transformation’, I suspect, like all transformation will take time. It will be made up of baby steps as these CEOs who are driven to embrace it take small bits and see what happens. With the rest of us watching these will be the proving grounds for tech and, as they are successful or not, the pace will increase.

Specsavers is a good example. It introduced iPads to give a much more personal, high tech sales process to its stores. You get your eyes tested then the results are gone through with you on a tablet and your options laid out for you in HD on a lovely screen. Doesn't add much really, but it is travelling in the right direction.

What the company now realises is that giving shoppers a taste of this ‘digital transformation’ has made the next step in the process – where you actually go and pay for you specs – really naff. Why give up the lovely screen and go stand at a till. So it is trialling…. Taking the payments at the iPad too! Yay… mobile payments in action! At last.

But I bet that this type of mobile payments isn’t the whizzy high tech swiping, wafting, NFC-ing kind that is counted in the Forrester stats. It’s too boring.

I don't mean that I think that it’s boring – I think it shows great vision (boom, boom) – I just think that in the mobile echo chamber it is considered small fry.

I expect that we will in 2017 see many more of these incremental victories for mobile, but don’t expect too much. With many retailers struggling to understand the real impact Brexit might have, digital transformation may have to wait while we struggle through economic transformation.
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