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Manufacturers and retailers remain confident of the potential benefits of the digital transformation of their businesses, despite widespread scepticism about B2B and B2C e-commerce. In new research from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants 68% of the manufacturers interviewed believed that e-technologies could save them the equivalent of more than 1% of sales and 31% put the figure as high as minimum 3%2 - this equates to E 10-15bn3. Similarly, 33% of the major retailers interviewed assumed cost savings of 0.5 to 1% and a further 40% even more than 1%4 – potentially double today’s retail margins5.

The study indicates that the current focus among retailers and manufacturers alike is on increasing cost efficiencies and optimising the supply chain, rather than on growth opportunities. However, it is anticipated that this perspective will change in the medium to long-term future. In fact, respondents were quick to recognise that they are only just beginning on the journey to transforming their businesses, with a significant number (60%) noting that the whole journey would probably take 2 to 5 years to complete.

An interesting trend that emerged from the research was that manufacturers saw themselves as more advanced than retailers when it actually came to implementation of e-transformation processes and overall progress in this area.

Gerhard Hausruckinger, a partner in Roland Berger, explains, “There is only one way to really make progress in this unknown territory, and that’s to launch projects and learn from the experience. That’s not to say that any action is better than no action. Organisations now need to place strategic bets – matching partners with core business processes in order to have a clear view on where to establish digital connections, with whom and when.”

Hausruckinger emphasises that, “You have to jump into the water if you want to be able to surf on the e-wave.” He advocates the use of trials – but only when they don’t require huge investment in new systems or complete structural re-organisation.

Robert Bailey, director of European sales development at Heinz agrees, “Otherwise, you lose the momentum and are overtaken by the speed of change. The challenge in e-transformation is not so much about technology as about managing organisational and cultural change.” He also states that at the heart of the e-transformation program has to be the link to the company’s business strategy and corporate vision as well as the design of core business processes.

Hermann Sievers, director of marketing at leading German retailer, EDEKA, adds, “Retailers and manufacturers urgently need the benefits that e-transformation can bring. Increasing costs, intense market competition and ever more demanding consumers are already putting us under pressure. E-transformation provides an opportunity to enhance our profitability even in these challenging circumstances.”

Hausruckinger concludes, “Not least important, is that e-transformation will also benefit the customer. If this process doesn’t improve the choice and quality of the goods in-store for the customer then ultimately, it will not have achieved its goal.“

-ENDS-


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Notes to editors

1. The research was conducted by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants as an integral part of the ECR Europe initiative. 45 retailers and 70 manufacturers from 15 European countries were interviewed for the research.

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