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Increasing agility for
adaptive retailing


Retail companies are looking for new ways to be competitive and fuel profitable growth.

To be competitive and to grow, retailers need to become adaptive: constantly learning about their customers and anticipating and flexing to deliver relevant, engaging and useful interactions. This requires rethinking the organization from the inside out. What operating model increases agility? How digital becomes integral to the business strategy? How to free up costs to fund transformational change?

Accenture globally surveyed retail executives and retail investor analysts.



Retailers are looking for new ways to be competitive and fuel profitable growth. Their cost reduction strategies are helping free up resources to reinvest in innovation and increasing agility to become adaptive retailers, but executives face barriers.

Retail Investor Analysts' Perspectives

Retail investor analysts indicate that growth is slowing for more mature markets and more established retail sectors. For those retailers, cost savings is becoming more important.

Sustainable cost management in retail involves:

  • Building strong relationships with suppliers for negotiation leverage

  • Effectively managing staff costs

  • Having fast product turnover, judging what is selling and where


Retail investor analysts say that retailers are achieving growth in the retail sector by:

  • Investing in e-commerce channels, e.g. digital

  • Cautiously expanding—not growing too fast and not opening too many stores, but establishing those they have are performing well

  • Investing in their brands and products

  • Entering into growing markets.


Barriers to becoming adaptive retailers

What's preventing retailers from being adaptive and achieving desired profitable growth? Our research found three consistent themes: inflexible operating models, difficulty executing cost reduction programs and difficulty prioritizing growth investments.

Amid these challenges, investment in digital has become a clear priority for retailers.


Recognition of digital’s importance

Retail executives see digital investments as a priority to enable speed, agility and scale—important components of adaptive retail that are fundamental to accelerating growth.


Retail investor analysts see technology as enabling retailers to increase competitiveness and grow, but, even in established markets, retailers have not reached their full potential with omni-channel retailing.

Become Adaptive

Three Actions to Become an Adaptive Retailer


81% of retail executives
say digital business is an enabler of strategic growth (similar to other industries).

Make "digital inside" a key element of your business strategy

To be digital inside, retailers should:

  • Have a digitally committed C-suite

  • Embed analytics everywhere

  • Enable talent with digital tools

  • Adopt multi-speed IT

  • Be boldly innovative with digital


Nearly half of respondents (46%)
are using advanced models to balance global and local business services.

Rethink your operating model

Pursuing advanced operating models that are digital-centric can enable adaptive retailing and help fuel growth.

Digitizing operations significantly reduces the lead time from product planning to sales, and operating in the cloud can provide access to a range of information and technologies.


Only 21% of retail executives
have the utmost confidence that leadership has the appropriate investment and growth initiatives in progress to help to achieve business objectives.

Get everyone on board

Success depends on leadership support, change management and governance:

  • Use data to support the directional decision

  • Gain alignment across the leadership team

  • Identify pockets of resistance along with a tailored intervention plan

  • Prioritize the scope of the effort, splitting the journey into manageable phases

  • Communicate the strategy, value drivers and expected outcomes

  • Strategically calculate each move and how it will contribute to growth

  • Dedicate a transition team throughout the transformation to becoming an adaptive retailer


C-suite executives and analysts in 9 geographies and 13 industries surveyed

Accenture conducted quantitative and qualitative research across 13 industries and 9 geographies to analyze the challenges and opportunities associated with creating cost-competitive operating models and reinvesting in growth. Fifty-four percent of respondents were C-suite executives or CEOs of business units. In parallel, Accenture interviewed 65 industry analysts across these industries to understand what external stakeholders measure, value and expect from the companies they cover.

Industries included: Automotive, Banking, Chemicals, Communications, Consumer Goods, Energy, Health, Hospitality, Industrial Equipment, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Technology, Retail and Utilities.

Join the conversation with us on Twitter @AccentureRetail

About the Author

Courtney Spitz
Managing Director, Accenture Retail Practice

Mail to James Courtney Spitz. This opens a new window. LinkedIn