Connectivity, Commerce, and Retail CFOs: Harnessing Technology to Drive Growth, Part 1

By - April 3, 2015

In a world where consumers can both shop without leaving the house and communicate directly with brands with the click of a button, connectivity is key to all things retail. As digital innovation continues to evolve, company reach and influence is also expanding, with “one-size-fits-all” retail business models giving way to broader, more global approaches to sales. Against this industry backdrop, investment in technology innovation is becoming a leading requirement as retailers seek to stay on top of current trends, areas of focus, and shifts in consumer culture.

In such a dynamic marketplace, there may be no executive feeling more pressure to remain “in the know” than the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). As companies look toward globalization to expand partnerships and drive supply chain efficiencies, traditional financial officer roles are simultaneously broadening and deepening. In addition to overseeing and protecting the retailer’s bottom line, CFOs are now expected to make decisions and forecast predictions around managing resources, teams, and partner relationships both at home and across the globe. This increase in responsibility and scope has prompted Deloitte consulting to redefine CFO as “Chief Frontier Officer”—the entity responsible for corporate success, profitability, and sustainability across the globe—a mandate achievable only through technology.

Omni-channel Communication Gives Rise to the “Non-Store”

It goes without saying that the old mantra “If you build it, they will come.” no longer applies to retail. Rather, CFOs are finding that the most successful companies are those able to proactively reach out, educate, attract, and engage consumers, often before the buying process even begins—all of which requires a range of communications tools the industry has never before had at its disposal.

Innovations and advancements in online communications technologies are enabling retailers to bridge gaps associated with today’s channel fragmentation, allowing them to leverage e-commerce tools to connect with shoppers via multiple online channels in a timely, personal, and targeted manner. No longer simply an extension of a company’s brick-and-mortar store, websites, social media channels, and new and evolving digital platforms are quickly growing in popularity as alternatives to the traditional retail in-store shopping experience. These “non-store” interactions are on the rise, with Kantar Retail predicting that by 2020, non-store sales will account for 12.3 percent of the overall U.S. retail marketplace (for non-automotive goods) and Forrester Research projecting that online sales will reach $370 billion by 2017.

E-commerce and Mobility: Engaging the Global Consumer

Another way CFOs are keeping pace with dynamic and wide ranging consumer demands is by harnessing the enormous potential of e-commerce and mobile technologies, looking to such tools to connect with on-the-go shoppers in a broader and more personalized way than ever before, while also allowing for collaboration among partners and employees around the world as supply chains become more expansive and interactions begin to span not just cities, but continents.

From the retail CFO perspective, e-commerce and mobile technologies not only facilitate critical communication that drives engagement and loyalty—they also directly impact how customers and retailers interact during the sale. Nearly half of mid-market retail websites are currently optimized to accept mobile payments, and one quarter currently accept Point-of-Sale (POS) mobile payments. Unleashing these technologies’ ability to cater to the “always-on” customer means greater opportunity for both sales and customer retention across both physical and virtual store experiences. These same technologies are also helping to drive CFO forecasts that overall retail sales will increase 3.9 percent in 2015, according to a recent survey by BDO USA.

Looking Ahead: Opportunities and Obstacles in a World of Global Expansion

While technologies are evolving and expanding to enable retail profitability as operations grow, staying afloat in this shifting environment means CFOs will begin to look to new, powerful ways to appeal to customer tastes, manage global partnerships, and optimize supply chain operations. We’ll take a deeper look at such challenges and the innovative ways CFOs are looking to solve them in Part 2 of this blog series. More information is also available in our Industry Brief, “The New Financial Frontier: How Retail CFOs are Leveraging Technology to Optimize Growth.”

Learn more about the author, Brion Reusche.

*Sources

“Business Trends 2014: Navigating the Next Wave of Globalization,” Deloitte University Press, p. 103, http://d2mtr37y39tpbu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Business-Trends2014.pdf

“Retailing 2020: Winning in a Polarized World,” PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Kantar Retail, 2012, p.9, http://www.pwc.com/en_US/us/retail-consumer/publications/assets/pwc-retailing-2020.pdf

Lomas, Natasha, “Forrester: U.S. Online Retail Sales To Rise To $370BN by 2017 (10% CAGR) As Ecommerce Motors On With Help From Tablets & Phones,” TechCrunch, March 13, 2013, p.2, http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/13/forrester-2012-2017-ecommerce-forecast/

Porter, Gordon, “Retail CFOs Project 3.9 Percent Boost to Sales in 2015: BDO Survey,” BDO USA, LLP, February 17, 2015, p.1, https://www.bdo.com/insights/industries/press-releases/retail-cfos-project-3-9-percent-boost-to-sales

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