Mistakes in Retail Digital Transformation

A key challenge that retailers face today is the difficulty of accurately judging where they are on the digital maturity curve relative to their competitors. There appears to be little expertise in making this assessment; for example, 79% of digital leaders don’t know they are ranked as leaders, and only 56% of retailers ranked as average in our study believe they are at this level. The other 44% in the average category mistakenly believe they are either leaders or laggards. The lack of competitive clarity makes it even more difficult to develop an effective competitive strategy.

Our research suggests that retailers’ plans reflect neither self-awareness nor a realistic idea of what it will take to catch up or leapfrog their competitors in this highly competitive space. Namely, factors such as online sales penetration, business performance, attitudes about digital, planned technology investments and efforts to close skill gaps do not align with the progress retailers expect they’ll make vs. their competitors over the next three years.

As part of this research exercise, we also asked 125 retail managers about the biggest mistakes they saw related to the digital transformation. Their top five answers were as follows:

  1. Failing to stay fully on top of changing customers’ needs and behaviors.
  2. Focusing insufficiently on cybersecurity.
  3. Ignoring fresh thinking from outside the company.
  4. Lacking a clear digital strategy.
  5. Moving too slowly. 

All five of these top answers are indeed critical to success. Retail executives would be well served to take these opinions from retail managers to heart.

Successful digital transformation initiatives require executives to have a vision for and understanding of what they are trying to achieve. As number 4 above identifies - retail managers believe an unclear digital strategy is among the biggest mistakes companies make when embarking on a digital transformation strategy. Digital strategies flow from and are the result of an effective digital transformation master “doctrine.” The purpose of a digital transformation doctrine is first to create a unified understanding of why digital transformation is needed and, second, to guide all tactical digital strategies that evolve from it. An organization’s digital doctrine should influence its strategy, its operating model and the tactics it employs to compete.


  1. Winning Strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  2. Digital Transformation - Mindset Differences
  3. Analyzing Retail Through Digital Lenses
  4. Digital Thinking and Beyond!
  5. Measuring the Pace of Change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  6. How Digital Thinking Separates Retail Leaders from Laggards
  7. To Bot, or Not to Bot
  8. Oils, Bots, AI and Clogged Arteries
  9. Artificial Intelligence Out of Doors in the Kingdom of Robots
  10. How Digital Leaders are Different
  11. The Three Tsunamis of Digital Transformation - Be Prepared!
  12. Bots, AI and the Next 40 Months
  13. You Only Have 40 Months to Digitally Transform
  14. Digital Technologies and the Greater Good
  15. Video Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  16. Report: 40 Months of Hyper-Digital Transformation
  17. Virtual Moves to Real in with Sensors and Digital Transformation
  18. Technology Must Disappear in 2017
  19. Merging Humans with AI and Machine Learning Systems
  20. In Defense of the Human Experience in a Digital World
  21. Profits that Kill in the Age of Digital Transformation
  22. Competing in Future Time and Digital Transformation
  23. Digital Hope and Redemption in the Digital Age
  24. Digital Transformation and the Role of Faster
  25. Digital Transformation and the Law of Thermodynamics
  26. Jettison the Heavy Baggage and Digitally Transform
  27. Digital Transformation - The Dark Side
  28. Business is Not as Usual in Digital Transformation
  29. 15 Rules for Winning in Digital Transformation
  30. The End Goal of Digital Transformation
  31. Digital Transformation and the Ignorance Penalty
  32. Surviving the Three Ages of Digital Transformation
  33. The Advantages of an Advantage in Digital Transformation
  34. From Digital to Hyper-Transformation
  35. Believers, Non-Believers and Digital Transformation
  36. Forces Driving the Digital Transformation Era
  37. Digital Transformation Requires Agility and Energy Measurement
  38. A Doctrine for Digital Transformation is Required
  39. Digital Transformation and Its Role in Mobility and Competition
  40. Digital Transformation - A Revolution in Precision Through IoT, Analytics and Mobility
  41. Competing in Digital Transformation and Mobility
  42. Ambiguity and Digital Transformation
  43. Digital Transformation and Mobility - Macro-Forces and Timing
  44. Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time