A key challenge that retailers face today is the difficulty of accurately judging where they are on the digital maturity curve relative to their competitors. There appears to be little expertise in making this assessment; for example, 79% of digital leaders don’t know they are ranked as leaders, and only 56% of retailers ranked as average in our study believe they are at this level. The other 44% in the average category mistakenly believe they are either leaders or laggards. The lack of competitive clarity makes it even more difficult to develop an effective competitive strategy.
Our research suggests that retailers’ plans reflect neither self-awareness nor a realistic idea of what it will take to catch up or leapfrog their competitors in this highly competitive space. Namely, factors such as online sales penetration, business performance, attitudes about digital, planned technology investments and efforts to close skill gaps do not align with the progress retailers expect they’ll make vs. their competitors over the next three years.
As part of this research exercise, we also asked 125 retail managers about the biggest mistakes they saw related to the digital transformation. Their top five answers were as follows:
- Failing to stay fully on top of changing customers’ needs and behaviors.
- Focusing insufficiently on cybersecurity.
- Ignoring fresh thinking from outside the company.
- Lacking a clear digital strategy.
- Moving too slowly.
All five of these top answers are indeed critical to success. Retail executives would be well served to take these opinions from retail managers to heart.
Successful digital transformation initiatives require executives to have a vision for and understanding of what they are trying to achieve. As number 4 above identifies - retail managers believe an unclear digital strategy is among the biggest mistakes companies make when embarking on a digital transformation strategy. Digital strategies flow from and are the result of an effective digital transformation master “doctrine.” The purpose of a digital transformation doctrine is first to create a unified understanding of why digital transformation is needed and, second, to guide all tactical digital strategies that evolve from it. An organization’s digital doctrine should influence its strategy, its operating model and the tactics it employs to compete.