NRF 2021: Retail’s Digital Transformation Reckoning

NRF 2021: Retail’s Digital Transformation Reckoning featured image

Retailers were forced to adapt to new and different ways to operate and reach consumers in 2020, and that was major topic of conversation at NRF 2021. Those who had already moved or had been moving to digital, omnichannel platforms could meet the growing need for services such as online ordering, delivery, pickup, curbside, and more. Any company that had not begun its digital transformation journey either needed to catch up in a hurry or risk failing.

Take, for example, Walmart. The world’s biggest in-person retailer has been selling more and more online for years, and it had already implemented pickup and delivery services before 2020. That infrastructure helped, but 2020 accelerated the move in a digital direction.

“Five years of digital transformation in five weeks,” said Janey Whiteside, Walmart Chief Customer Officer, in an NRF 2021 session. “A huge shift toward online shopping.”

Along with traditional online shopping, which often offered different inventory than stores themselves, Walmart saw a 300 percent increase in the use of pickup and delivery services directly from the stores themselves.

One new service that Walmart added is express delivery to cater to those consumers who prefer the immediacy of in-person shopping but cannot get to the store. This involved essentially converting stores into distribution centers.

“We wouldn’t be able to get from a fulfillment center to a doorstep in a matter of hours,” Whiteside explains.

Data Fuels Digital Transformation

A company can’t start from scratch and make the digital transformation that Walmart and other retailers have during the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so requires a foundation of data enabled by technology.

In a recent LinkedIn Live panel discussing the key themes of NRF 2021, Rizing Senior Consulting Manager Kimberly Sharp discussed her experience in retail and building that data foundation utilizing SAP Customer Analytics Repository (CAR).

“When we implemented CAR, we were so excited to be able to know where to put seasonal items,” said Sharp. “And this pandemic has become not so much a finite game, but CAR serves the same purpose—access to real-time sales and inventory information leads to quicker and better decisions.”

Sharp added that using CAR with other tools, such as SAP Promotional Management and SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C), allows retailers to gain a 360° view of what customers are buying, where they are buying it, and how they are buying it. That data can be used to drive a better, more personalized customer experience. It can help identify those purchasing options during a pandemic—such as online, pickup, delivery, and more—that customers are looking to use frequently.

“Better use of data and higher quality data is going to be a differentiator,” said Sharp.

Hear more from Sharp on NRF 2021, along with the rest of our panelists, in the video below:

The Digital Transformation Reckoning at NRF 2021

The last year has made something very clear for retailers—the digital-focused, omnichannel approach preached as the “future” is now the present. Walmart’s “five years of digital transformation in five weeks” highlights that.

Retailers who were at varying points of their digital transformation journeys shared experiences at NRF 2021. It’s evident that the farther along companies had gone in setting up that digital transformation foundation through infrastructure, processes, and data-driven technology, the better they could adapt to the pandemic.

Transforming through better access to data with tools like SAP CAR and using that as the backbone for an overall move to a digital strategy can help a company become more resilient in the face of chance. That was the reckoning that retailers found in 2020. Still, they now have an opportunity to future-proof themselves against the next challenge while setting themselves up to better connect with customers.

To find out more about SAP CAR, or otherwise see how your company can become more adaptable and nimbler, contact Rizing.