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Report details seven imperatives for retail success

Retailers are setting ambitious targets for delivery times that will require significant investments to propel their supply chain fulfillment capabilities.

Those are among the findings in a new report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association, with support from McKinsey & Company. The report, Retail Speaks: Seven Imperatives for the Retail Industry, is the result of a benchmarking survey conducted with executives (such as CFOs, chief marketing officers, chief digital officers, and chief supply chain officers) from 30 U.S. companies, augmented by in-depth interviews with top retail CEOs, as well as proprietary McKinsey & Company customer research.

The report noted that the retail industry has seen more innovation in the past year than at no other point in the prior decade. 

"While the fundamentals are largely unchanged, customers' expectations are now exponentially higher and retailers are rising to the challenge," said RILA president Brian Dodge. "Leading retailers are embracing the opportunity to win new customers by leveraging lessons learned from the past year and investing in strategies to serve customers well wherever and whenever they shop." 

In reference to the changing retail landscape, Sajal Kohli, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, and head of McKinsey's global retail and consumer packaged goods practices said, "the arrival of COVID 19 in March 2020, which shut down retailers across the country and forced consumers to change buying behaviors, rapidly accelerated the trajectory of retail evolution, leading to more transformation in a year than has been seen in the industry in the last few decades."

The report identified seven imperatives that can give retailers the ability to adapt to a changing consumer landscape while pursuing new opportunities. They are listed below:

  1. Consumers now demand a seamless omnichannel experience: Consumers will choose retailers based on ease and richness of end-to-end experience. 
  2. Personalized shopping experience is now table stakes: Most retailers fall short of these expectations today. While 100% of top-quartile retailers cited omnichannel personalization as a top-five priority, only 15% of retailers have fully implemented personalization across all channels. 
  3. Turbocharge e-commerce delivery: The vast majority of consumers—over 90% — see two to three days as the baseline, and 30% expect same-day delivery. Retailers are setting ambitious targets for delivery times that will require significant investments to propel their supply chain fulfillment capabilities. 
  4. Purpose-driven approach to ESG is essential: Consumers are voting with their wallets for sustainability and broader purpose. One-third of survey respondents reported they had stopped using a brand based on its social actions, and 71% indicated they would lose trust in a brand forever if it placed profits over people. At the same time, consumers are willing to pay more for products that meet their values. 
  5. Recalibrate talent strategies: Retailers typically need to augment their workforce and capabilities to thrive in the digital-dominated world. To close the skills gap, companies will need to reimagine their strategies for sourcing and deploying talent—focusing on upskilling, new recruitment models, and diverse talent pools. 
  6. Explore the role of partnerships and ecosystems: The development of partnerships and ecosystems, especially those convened by retailers, will accelerate. McKinsey analysis suggests that ecosystems could collectively function as a $60 trillion economy by 2025. That makes developing an engagement strategy imperative for survival: even if retailers aren't positioned to establish their own ecosystem, they will have to figure out how to compete, participate, or coexist. 
  7. Seek transformational productivity gains: Retail as a sector has achieved outsized productivity growth over the past ten years. The next phase will involve deploying analytics and automation across P&L. Retailers will need to prioritize investments that are truly transformational.

Other highlights from the report are below:

  • Post-COVID-19 e-commerce penetration is expected to significantly increase to 25–40% across categories. 
  • E-commerce volumes grew as much in the first quarter of 2020 as they did in the previous 10 years. 
  • Leading retailers plan to increase hiring for e-commerce/data roles by 70% through 2022 
  • More than 75% of specialty retail supply chain leaders have made two-day delivery a priority, and 42% hope to offer same-day delivery by 2022. 
  • 80% of retailers plan to concentrate their 2022 supply chain spending on addressing e-commerce fulfillment. 
  • 80% of retailers believe company actions matter to consumers, and 64% believe those actions affect purchase decisions. 
  • Six of the seven global companies with the highest market caps participate in ecosystems. 

Access the full report here.

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