How many different ways can you talk about change? The need to change. The reason for change. The difficulty in changing. The drivers of change. Organizational barriers to change.
Those topics were a focal point of the first full day of XChange 2016 in Berlin yesterday.
It’s no secret to any of the roughly 750 attendees here that the retail industry is in a state of upheaval, driven primarily by technology and the subsequent impact on shopping behavior both online and off.
Demandware CEO Tom Ebling declared that, “adapting to change is going to be vital for our customers to be successful.” For many retailers, that “change” revolves around the need to put the customer at the center of all their activities, delivering a shopping experience that transcends channels and just…is.
A key factor in that is staffing your organization from top to bottom with people who understand, appreciate and embrace a customer-first mentality.
“We don’t want people at Crocs who think that customer centricity is somebody else’s problem,” said Harvey Bierman, vice president of ecommerce technology at Crocs, in a session on organizational development.
A session attendee asked how retailers should hire for customer centricity, to which the panelists replied that people simply have to be hard-wired for it.
“You should hire for aptitude and train for skill,” said Julie Rousseau, Industry Principle in Demandware’s Retail Practice organization.
The embodiment of a customer-centric culture is unified commerce, which provides a seamless way (that’s almost invisible to the consumer) to merge experience, operations and intelligence. Unified commerce requires significant change to technology infrastructure, store technology and organizational development. It is a time-consuming step-by-step process that requires patience.
In a fireside chat-style discussion with Demandware COO Jeff Barnett, Marc O’Polo director Dr. Felix Kreyer said that unified commerce was a priority for his company, and in fact it has been for two years. “I’m not sure it will ever end,” he said.
The CEO of LLX Business Services, Mark West, has been in the throes of unified commerce for several years, and offered three lessons: retailers must have a full understanding of the fiscal structures needed to put in place; they must not underestimate the degree of change required to implement unified commerce, and third, despite inevitable setbacks, they must never give up.
Why does change initiatives fail? One of the key reasons, according to Josselyn Simpon, managing editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, is because retailers fail to fully integrate their people into the process of change.
Case in point – Lacoste. The company’s initial implementation of Demandware Digital Store Solution, which enables endless aisle and clienteling, in 2014 fell flat mainly because the company did not fully train and engage with store associates on the technology. The expected improvement, the “change,” didn’t materialize. However, a second attempt at a DSS implementation fully embraced associates and store managers as part of the process, and has yielded dramatically improved results.
Who needs to change the most? It’s no surprise that the consensus among attendees is that the person at the top, the CEO, is the person whose management style needs to change the most in order to accommodate a digital, customer-centric culture.
But nobody said change was easy. “Change doesn’t mean just embracing the new,” said Dietmar Dahmen, Futurologist and Visionary, in a plenary session speech. “It means saying goodbye to the old.”
For many retailers, “the old” is what’s holding them back from becoming the customer-centric organization that the world’s shoppers are demanding.