In 2020, we met face-to-face with 1,447 business and IT executives to gather their views on the trends affecting their organizations and industries. Across the retail and consumer industry, we had in-depth conversations with 159 executives from the retail, consumer packaged goods, wholesale, and consumer services sectors. These conversations took place before and after the pandemic declaration, providing unique insights into evolving priorities. We summarize the findings from these discussions on our Retail and Consumer Services CGI Client Global Insights page.

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to put pressure on retail and consumer organizations to be more adaptive to change, with those furthest ahead in their digital journeys at a significant advantage. In this blog, I offer recommendations to accelerate digitization to deliver growth, strengthen market position and build resilience.

  1. Accelerate digitization for greater agility and value

The pandemic is serving as a wake-up call to accelerate digitization to become more agile, faster. Those companies most advanced in their digital journeys pivoted services quickly, blending online and offline channels to meet customer needs for safety and convenience. Interestingly, digital leaders with highly agile business models also report higher results from their digital strategies. Taking their cue from digital leaders, retail and consumer organizations should invest in cultures, operating models and technology to adapt faster to harness new opportunities. This includes revisiting business and IT models and approaches, and appointing a transformation leader to improve the chances of a successful transformation.

  1. Optimize operations to deliver convenience and unified experiences at better cost

Improving the customer experience remains a top business and IT priority; yet, lack of operational optimization continues to hinder progress. Moreover, employees lack the real-time, actionable insights needed (particularly in-store) to provide seamless experiences. Accelerating the adoption of mobile-first digital employee tools alongside implementing a unified commerce solution is key to improving visibility and decision-making, and optimizing operations. In addition, looking to key aspects of the technology supply chain—such as cloud, managed services and automation—will also help to increase flexibility and reliability, optimize costs, and free up resources to channel toward other improvements.

  1. Build resilient product and technology supply chains to improve speed and agility

Improving supply chain agility is a top business priority and among executives’ top digital initiatives. The pandemic not only strained logistics processes, it also tested long-haul sourcing models and exposed weaknesses in technology supply chains. Building resilience requires thinking out-of-the-box. For instance, consider setting up highly automated “micro-fulfillment” centers, sharing store space and building alliances to gain a competitive edge. Consumer packaged goods organizations can also explore creating their own distribution channels and forging complementary partnerships to reinvent products and services. High-speed data connectivity across the end-to-end supply chain will enhance agility and foster collaboration. In addition, taking a balanced approach to sourcing that includes relationships that are close to home and global will help to build technology supply chain resilience.

  1. Advancing the future of work for business continuity, agility and productivity

Digital engagement is taking on renewed importance with both customers and employees. Executives have the opportunity to capitalize on this change by re-evaluating their ways of working to build a more agile, digital workforce. Having the right digital “toolbox” that supports seamless communication and remote collaboration is imperative to maintain productivity and customer service levels. Augmented and virtual reality solutions can be further leveraged with connected devices to bridge the gap between on-site and remote work, while drones and robots have the potential to become game changers in last-mile delivery. In the longer term, it is important to take an approach that is flexible and balances humanistic and empathetic strategies with productivity and collaboration.

  1. Take a collaborative innovation approach to adapt to new business realities and maximize ROI

As the pace of change accelerates and new customer behaviors emerge, innovation will drive growth and differentiation. However, only 24% of executives are highly satisfied with their innovation ROI. Delivering innovation that is continuous, relevant and value-driven requires a collaborative approach across stakeholders in the organization as well as forging strategic ecosystem partnerships. Innovation initiatives must be founded on a strong governance model and clear KPIs. Implementing a proven framework can further help to ensure KPIs are measured and tracked with a regular cadence of reviews. For innovation to flourish, it is equally important to build an inclusive innovation culture to engage employees across the organization, share ideas and spark creativity.

  1. Invest in data quality to enhance business processes end to end

Harnessing the power of data analytics continues to be among executives’ top business priorities, and predictive analytics is their second most-important digital transformation initiative. The pandemic underscored the importance of insight-led decision-making. It also brought into sharp focus the challenges of extracting value from data, including a lack of data quality and consistency, and data quantity. Retail and consumer organizations should create a centralized data hub that synchronizes data from all functions of the business. Rigorous data management approaches will also help to break down silos. Such an approach provides a strong foundation to leverage technology in smarter ways to better serve customers and optimize operations, such as using advanced analytics to provide intelligent product recommendations and pricing options. Building collaborative data alliances with ecosystem partners to collate and share anonymized data lakes will also help to optimize operations, offerings and services.

Amidst the challenges of this uncertain period, retail and consumer organizations have a tremendous opportunity to reshape their future. CGI is working with retail and consumer organizations around the globe to help organizations adapt to a new reality and seize new paradigms to survive and thrive. Contact me to learn more about the CGI Client Global Insights and our framework to help clients rebound and reinvent through and beyond the phases of the pandemic.

Respond. Rebound. Reinvent.

Rely on us for practical solutions, co-created with clients, to solve complex challenges. Throughout the pandemic crisis, our local experts in 400+ locations, combined with our global resources, help you respond to unprecedented challenges, rebound at the right pace, and reinvent ways of working. We are committed to supporting you and the communities where we live and work. Visit cgi.com/3R to learn more.

About this author

Jean Baptiste Branquart

Jean-Baptiste Branquart

Vice President, Retail & Consumer Services, Global Industry Lead

Jean-Baptiste leads the development and execution of market strategy and supports business development for the retail and consumer services industry. He has over two decades of expertise in the retail industry and was instrumental in founding CGI’s global Retail and Consumer Services Innovation Center in ...

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