Last updated: Digital transformation in retail: Stats and strategies

Digital transformation in retail: Stats and strategies


Over the past several years, digital transformation in retail has effectively blurred the lines between physical and digital. Nascent online channels were first a thing of convenience and then upgraded to a lifeline in the early days of COVID. As we begin 2022, omnichannel retail will continue to be a competitive advantage.

The days of having a separate a physical and digital strategy are over for retailers. E-commerce is here to stay and the best retailers will integrate teams, systems, and metrics in order to call it what it really is: commerce, plain and simple.

Digital has to be the cornerstone of any modern retail strategy because of its unique ability to collect, integrate, surface, and act on customer data at the right time and place. When all other channels can leverage this rich data, retailers are able to be a true partner to their customers. They can understand what they want and be available to deliver whenever and wherever they need.

But if your digital strategy has its own infrastructure and can’t actively support other channels, you have some catching up to do.

Digital transformation in retail: The stats

Digital transformation has hit every sector of the market with retail leading the charge. Over the past 10 years, online shopping channels have switched from nice-to-have, niche commerce opportunities to a requirement.

Some amazing stats from Digital Commerce 360:

  1. In 2012, e-commerce made up only 8% of total US retail sales

  2. By 2019, e-commerce made up 15.8%, after inching up annually

  3. A year later, e-commerce ballooned to 19.6%

When the pandemic hit, retailers that had invested in their online channels got to flex their muscles and provide for a society deeply in need.

But in-store retail isn’t going anywhere

Despite the importance of e-commerce now and in the future, it’s unlikely that shoppers will ever stop going to physical stores. The ability to try on and touch products like clothing and shoes remains important for many buyers. The balance and integration of the physical channel is essential for a holistic digital transformation in retail.

For example, contactless and buy online, pick up in store systems will remain essential for retailers as consumers came to expect these options during COVID.

Digital channels are much more than just a place to check out online. They can educate, entertain, and inspire customers. It simply doesn’t matter where a shopper chooses to check out, but it does matter that all of the branded touchpoints serve the greater goal of getting the shopper further down the purchase funnel.

There’s often a digital aspect to every shopping journey, whether doing research online or actually clicking the buy button. All channels must be easy to use, full of helpful information, and even have soft pushes to encourage shoppers to checkout on whichever channel works best for them.

The never-ending journey

Digital transformation in retail will never be finished. There will always be a hot, new channel to add to the arsenal or a technology that shoppers can’t get enough of that needs to be implemented yesterday.

In this way, “transformation” might actually be an outdated term. “Evolution” might be more accurate because advancement in retail is never quite finished.

That’s part of the fun; there’s always a new product or process that is coming around the bend that keeps retailers on their toes and ensures no retailer can ever get complacent. The winners in this new retail reality keep their ear to the ground to take new technologies seriously and try them out.

The retail sales driver of 2030 is probably being developed right now and the best retailers in the world will incorporate it as soon as they can get their hands on it.

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