Omnichannel Retailers Embrace Agile

Usually, retailers driving their business both via online and offline channels run large, slow-moving IT departments. There are thousands of people working on hundreds of IT projects in parallel, strictly following a top-down, waterfall-like approach to doing these projects. When looking for a metaphor for this, a big oil tanker comes to mind: big, powerful and optimized for the task at hand – but also very slow to react.

Need for fast innovation

However, more and more retailers recognize the need for fast innovation and a short time-to-market. In a time when consumers are demanding convenient shopping experiences across all touchpoints, they are forced to change their behavior and turn to agile methodologies, a good example of which is Target. During the NRF Bigshow in New York two weeks, Mike McNamara, EVP and Chief Information and Digital Officer, presented his vision for efficient workflows and technology.

Tangible business benefits

In his insightful talk, he explains how he sees an agile work style as one of the key factors of success. He highlights how Target sets the stage for agile development by encouraging developers to use the latest technologies and bring in agile coaches. Tech teams iterate, test and learn all of the time and can move very quickly. In one case, the task of redoing parts of the supply chain logic was done by four developers in 8 weeks – something which would have taken them “scores of engineers” and many months in the old days.

According to McNamara, the new initiatives already led to positive results:

  • Number of incidents that impact trade down by 50%
  • No downtime during Holidays
  • Significant cost reductions

Other omnichannel retailers are also looking for ways to speed up development. Organizations such as John Lewis, Argos, and Westfield actively foster a startup environment to experiment with ideas and attract talent. Moreover, German retailer REWE has founded its own technology hub REWE digital to enable developers to work on the company’s technology – the agile way.

In summary, we see that instead of deploying new oil tankers, retailers gradually put more and more speed boats into the water, which are small and can react very quickly, creating business opportunities along the way.

If you are interested in learning how REWE made use of the commercetools platform to accelerate their business in an agile way, take a look at this REWE case study.

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