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2 Successful Digital Transformation Examples from Retail: Walmart and Starbucks

Digital transformation examples can help us study the benefits of digital transformation.

At least, when the examples demonstrate successful transformation…

There are also examples of failed transformations – and failures to transform at all.

For instance, there is a long list of companies that failed to transform.

Blockbuster and Borders are two examples.

Their inability to adapt to change – and their competitors’ successful changes – contributed to their total failures.

These cautionary examples should serve as warnings to businesses that are hesitant around digital transformation.

However, for more useful information, we should study stories that don’t end in failure.

Below, we’ll look at:

  • Two examples of innovative digital transformation: Walmart and Starbucks
  • What innovations they are using to evolve and adapt to tomorrow’s technology-fueled future
  • Why their innovations are successful

Let’s start with Walmart, the store that has dominated American retail for decades … and is now being threatened by Amazon’s omnipresent dominance.

Walmart: A Digital Transformation Example in the Making

Thanks to Amazon’s online domination, retail stores around the United States have been feeling pressure to evolve.

Walmart is no exception.

Fortunately, Walmart is taking steps to compete with its digital competitors before it’s too late.

Here’s how Walmart is undergoing digital transformation:

It is adopting new technology in an effort to make up lost ground.

Walmart has partnered with Google and Microsoft to build out e-commerce capabilities: voice-activated and cloud computing respectively. 

It has also invested heavily in in-store automation and other online capabilities.

It is also working with Microsoft to develop a “cloud factory” – an experimental factory that uses everything from IoT to AI.

Walmart has aggressively acquired e-commerce sites.

The retail giant has also made extensive acquisitions of other online retail websites, such as, Moosejaw, Bare Necessities.

It made headlines when it purchased the giant, a $3 billion acquisition. 

The company has launched its own technology incubator.

Called Store No. 8, this incubator helped launch a variety of services, such as Walmart InHome Delivery, a grocery delivery service.

It also plans to develop an unmanned store – much like Amazon’s Go store – with no cashiers, checkout counters, or lines.

Walmart is enlisting heavy hitters from the tech sector to aid its digital transformation. 

It has tapped an executive from Bain Capital Ventures to run Store No. 8. 

And it has tapped Amazon veteran, Suresh Kumar, to be CTO and Chief Development Officer.

It has even experimented with AR and VR technology.

Early experiments include training employees for Black Friday with VR technology.

However, Walmart has bigger visions for the future – including VR shopping, AI chatbots, and personal assistants.

Final Notes: Walmart’s innovations paint a powerful vision of the future of retail.

Walmart’s story is far from over.

Only the future will tell how it can compete against stores such as Amazon.

However, Walmart is aggressively expanding its digital reach. And its investments in digital transformation bode well for the retail chain.

Starbucks: A Digital Transformation Success Story

Starbucks is another company that has innovated extensively with digital technology.

Its digital transformation doesn’t make the same headlines as Amazon’s inventions – such as drone delivery or automated warehouses.

However, when you look under the hood, Starbucks is serving up more than lattes…

Starbucks is your friendly, analytics-driven neighborhood coffee shop.

Data and analytics have been used extensively to inform decision-making at Starbucks.

Examples include: real estate purchases, menu design and optimization, and marketing decisions.

Thanks to its world-wide chain of stores, its app, and its extensive customer base, it has mountains of data. This information offers a massive edge that competitors will be hard-pressed to match.

Mobile technology means “line avoidance,” loyalty rewards, and personalized marketing.

Mobile ordering, offered through the Starbucks app, improves order speed and makes Starbucks more convenient than ever.

However, thanks to its loyalty program, Starbucks can personalize its marketing efforts to each individual.

Some claim that because Starbucks is tied directly to your consumption habits, Starbucks will know as much about you as Google or Facebook.

From venture capital cafe to cloud-brewed coffee.

In 2009, Starbucks launched its own technology incubator, Starbucks Digital Ventures.

This is what launched the mobile app that has helped accelerate the company’s sales. Since then, Starbucks has innovated with the mobile and data strategies mentioned above.

More recently, Starbucks has partnered with Microsoft to further enhance the order process.

The Azure-powered Starbucks Production Controller integrates all of Starbucks’ devices to help sequence orders holistically, in real-time.

Final Notes: Starbucks’ size and innovative drive will help it define the cafe of the future.

From mobile payments to data-driven business processes, Starbucks is using every tool at its disposal to innovate.

The digital transformation of this retailer has turned its business around in the past several years, which bodes well for its future. 

Given its already-dominant market position, Starbucks will likely continue to lead the way in both digital innovation and the retail coffee space.

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Digital Adoption Team
Digital Adoption Team
A wonderful team of Digital Adoption, Digital Transformation & Change Management Experts.

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