Long-term strategy is key to digital transformation in retail


Staying afloat in today's retail space is now oft-dependent on being technology-savvy. How can businesses stay fresh and keep up with the fast pace of the retail marketspace?


Despite the return of a growing and relatively stable economy, there are still increasing numbers of shops closing and city centre high-streets grasping for tenants to fill empty space. High profile casualties continue to fall victim to the rise of online shopping giants. Not least of all companies such as Amazon and Alibaba, which continue to grab the headlines as the poster children for ecommerce and ‘retail 2.0’.

The answer to the high-street retailer’s quandary can be found in the increasing importance of digital channels in the customer psyche. This shift to a ‘clicks’ and ‘bricks’ business model is leading many UK retailers to an uncomfortable truth – digital transformation is the key to remaining relevant in today’s evolving marketplace.

Retailers look to invest in digital transformation

According to a recent report by PwC, retailers are responding by significantly upping investment in digital technology. Around 69 per cent of global retail CEOs are planning to increase their investment in digital technologies to improve the customer experience.

However, whilst many retailers see digital transformation as the silver bullet to all their problems, they should approach these initiatives with measured caution. The last decade is littered with recognised high-street brands that have gone bust, after failing to effectively transition into the increasingly digital environment they were operating in.

Failed digital transformation initiatives could cause similar casualties over the next decade too, with market leaders potentially usurped by digital-by-design companies like ASOS.

Overcoming trials and tribulations

The retail CIO is, therefore, facing a number of external market challenges, as well as a variety of internal trials in 2017.

Competition is fundamentally changing with challenger brands and new market entrants, not to mention the technology environment itself is rapidly shifting. Brick-and-mortar stores are also struggling to meet the expectations of a new wave of digitally native customers. Finally, the consumer demand for mobile apps and websites means that retailers have had to follow suit from a workforce perspective, to create a wholly mobile-enabled environment.

VMware Workspace™ ONE™ and AirWatch are simple and secure enterprise platforms which enable retailers to centrally manage every device, every app and every mobile use case, both corporate-owned and BYOD. This is crucial for retailers, as both are key components in the arsenal of any retail CIO looking to pursue digital transformation initiatives.

CIOs have a great opportunity to help the overall business not only keep pace with industry changes, but to also future-proof against obstacles which may hold companies back, by embracing fresh digital transformation initiatives.

    Bringing the high-street back...virtually?

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