The retail industry has been completely upended. In today’s integrated marketplace, customers can essentially shop anywhere, anytime, across many channels. Customers expect retailers to deliver convenience and differentiated experiences.

To compete, traditional retailers need to identify their purpose. They must understand their customers’ preferences and deliver on those. To accelerate responsiveness, speed and innovation into their businesses, retailers need very different offering, selling and operating models. They should find new ways to create value both from internal transformation and external ecosystem relationships. In essence, retailers must grow their core businesses while determining how to pivot to new business models.

Capitalizing on the new currency: Data

Our research confirms CFOs are uniquely positioned to drive their businesses forward. CFOs understand that data is, in many ways, the new currency. They understand the importance of creating “one version of the truth” about customers. They can bring essential insights to CEOs and the C-suite about how to improve operations and increase efficiency.

CFOs can help identify investments that will enable differentiation and growth. In fact, our latest research shows that many leading CFOs (80 percent) see themselves as the new value champions and transformation drivers. Advanced analytics are critical to this. Retailers need real-time insights gleaned from data about customers, merchandising, supply chain, ecosystem partners–the entire value chain.


of retail CFOs are targeting areas of new value across the broader ecosystem.


of retail CFOs say they have achieved new value creation through analysis of financial data.


believe finance will be key to balancing technology investments between core and new business.


look for talent that can communicate and influence others, one of the top skills identified when recruiting junior finance professionals.

Harnessing technology to improve the customer experience

Technology has reshaped every aspect of retail: Innovation and the Internet of Things will exponentially increase the number of points of purchase and interaction. Many companies urgently need to get digital and emerging technologies embedded throughout their organizations and not just the front office. These technologies have tremendous power to both reduce costs and simultaneously increase personalization and responsiveness, helping retailers create competitive advantage.

Seventy seven percent of our research respondents said they are focused on exploring how disruptive technologies could benefit the entire enterprise. When they consider using new technologies for their own function, finance executives most frequently cited concern about information security (46 percent), followed by difficulty standardizing enterprise data/agreeing on a single version of the truth (35 percent).

Rethinking the talent profile

To be successful in their more strategic, broader roles, CFOs need to be supported by a finance function that shares the same objectives and skills. And yet, there is a substantial disconnect: 79 percent of retail CFOs say that the CFO is carrying out activities that are far removed from those performed by the rest of the function. Much of the finance function is still focusing on traditional finance tasks versus new, more analytic or strategic roles. Some leading companies have progressive operating models with next-generation global business services (GBS) for multifunctional services along with AI, analytics and control towers. With these intelligent functions, talent is freed from transactional, repetitive tasks and can be reskilled to do more value-adding activities.

CFOs can be key strategic enablers in increasing their organization’s value creation.

Become the ultimate data authority

Incorporate integrated performance management with merchandising, planning and budgeting to impact profitability.

Champion investments in digital technologies

With C-suite, align technology investment plans to business strategy. Reduce operating costs through technology to self-fund additional investments.

Develop the future finance workforce

Determine what can be done using automation and AI, freeing people to be creative. Identify skill gaps and begin to upskill. Explore borrowing talent.

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About the research

Accenture conducted a quantitative survey of more than 700 CFOs and senior finance executives, including 82 from retail businesses, as well as a separate survey of 200 up-and-coming finance professionals in multiple industries. We also conducted almost 50 qualitative interviews with CFOs, CEOs and CDOs in retail and other industries.

Paul Prendergast

Managing Director – Accenture Consulting

Dihan Fernando

Managing Director – Management Consulting


Three ways to deliver retail with purpose
Drive retail growth with most profitable customers

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