Beating the post-holiday lull with digital transformation
Mobile apps, APIs and DevOps are helping retail companies engage customers all year round.
The holiday shopping frenzy seems to get crazier every year. Obviously, the run-up to Christmas is a huge time for retail, kicking off with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But things barely die down after the 25th, with post-Christmas sales proving ever-more motivating. In Canada, where I’m based, Boxing Day is the big event. And in the U.K., where I grew up, it was always January sales that kept things lively.
But nothing lasts forever and as we enter February, the inevitable lull is upon us. The post-holiday lull provides us all with a good opportunity for reflection. For retailers, it’s a chance to ask: What can we do to ensure we stay consistently competitive through all the ups and downs of the coming year? New research from Freeform Dynamics (commissioned by CA Technologies) suggests some interesting answers.
Digital transformation has become the key differentiator between companies that succeed and those that stagnate. With ecommerce, online marketing and events like Cyber Monday, digital tech is already helping retailers do exciting things. Around the holidays, retail organizations are focused on using the tools they already have to maximize success at a very competitive time. The post-holiday lull provides an ideal time to explore new digital strategies.
So what digital strategies will help retailers compete in the next holiday season and minimize the impact of future lulls? The Freeform Dynamics report Retail Organizations are Embracing Digital Transformation provides hard data on which technologies leaders in the field are benefiting from, what initiatives they are undertaking to ensure success going forward and how they might improve their efforts in future.
It should come as no surprise that mobile emerges as a key area of focus. But the technical approach that companies are taking is worth noting, as is the key benefit mobile apps are enabling. Of the retail companies that responded to the Freeform Dynamics survey, 78 percent said they were using APIs to develop apps. APIs help these companies build truly engaging apps by making all manner of backend data and functionality easily accessible.
A core business benefit of these apps is extending reach into new markets—80 percent of retail industry respondents said they were using APIs to expand their digital reach and 72 percent said digital initiatives help open new markets. I’d speculate that expanding into new markets is particularly valuable right now as some of these markets might not be as closely tied to the feast-or-famine cycles many retailers have come to take for granted.
It’s worth noting that there is more to successful mobile apps than making powerful features available via APIs. With so many retail organizations building API-driven apps, this isn’t a sufficient differentiator. To truly compete, you also need to be quick to market and ensure your apps deliver the best possible customer experience (49 percent of retail respondents noted improved customer satisfaction as the top driver behind their digital transformation efforts).
The need to quickly deliver apps that provide a great user experience is one reason that 70 percent of retail organizations are implementing DevOps—coordinating IT operations and development to more quickly, frequently and reliably develop, test and deploy new software releases. There’s work to be done for retailers who want to beat the post-holiday blues. And adopting solutions that maximize the effectiveness of DevOps is likely to be a key part of that work.