Strategic planning is integral to any retail business’ development, but it’s often let down by poor execution. In 2020 and 2021, brand strategy had to remain adaptable and flexible as the world threw an array of curveballs that completely steered the retail sector off course into unchartered territory.

But in 2022, companies will not necessarily differentiate themselves by their ability to identify how markets are moving, but by carrying out the necessary strategic responses as quickly as possible. The C-Suite must be focused on digital transformation and improving innovation that meets shifting customer needs, all while controlling costs effectively. However, 70 per cent of leaders believe that strategy implementation is more difficult than formulation, and 95 per cent of company employees do not understand the overarching strategy.

So, how do we bridge the gap between C-Suite direction and day-to-day action in a manner conducive to growth? 

Re-establishing lines of communication from the top down to address strategic gaps

We’ve learned over the last year that leaders had to respond to the evolving environment by thinking and adapting quickly. Coles and Woolworths raced to implement new technologies and transform labour arrangements to keep up with the e-grocery boom, and local brands from Bonds to Atoir jumped on the loungewear trend at speed. But as we move forward in the current operating environment, companies will differentiate themselves not through their ability to see how markets are moving, but by carrying out the necessary strategic response through team alignment.

Identifying the barriers to strategic plan implementation is the most important step to making an informed change in the right direction. The top five barriers to strategic success  facing companies in 2022 include:

  1. No business alignment
  2. Lack of visibility
  3. Wasted management time and resources
  4. Rigid, unadaptable processes and tools
  5. Information silos across teams

But identifying these barriers is only one piece of the puzzle. Retail leaders need to take note of the right  solutions to truly keep on top of the shifting customer landscape.

Lesson 1: Highly aligned, loosely coupled

Highly aligned brands are able to communicate overarching business goals and the ‘bigger picture’ without having to micromanage everyone, giving leaders confidence that the wider team is working towards the same goal.

Leaders that invest in transparent management time will gain the trust of their employees. This positive working dynamic empowers workers to move forward with what they think is best without being shackled by bureaucracy or fear of failure, helping generate creative responses in line with business goals.

Lesson 2: Move towards an agile mindset

We’ve seen a large jump in the number of Aussie retailers embracing agile as a way of working, striving to bring people, processes, technology and tasks together when delivering a project.  We’re almost in the middle of an agile boom with 83 per cent of large corporates adopting to agile, and four in ten implementing the approach for non-IT teams like marketing, HR, finance and product development.

The Iconic successfully brought agile work to its workforce to drive team alignment and increase visibility across different departments. This strategy addressed the company’s need to combine technical and non-technical work such as sourcing suppliers and optimising website conversions, by bringing together marketing, merchandising and eCommerce departments under one common goal.

Lesson 3: Work like a network

Generally speaking, most retailers are set up as a network. You have a central Head Office and then tens or hundreds of stores across a wider network. Part of the challenge when managing this network is to have everything working in alignment from the customer experience to visual merchandising to the training of store associates.

But when it comes to managing how things get done and the distribution of work, changes must be made. This is particularly important in hybrid work environments where employees can feel isolated from their colleagues and leaders. In the post-COVID-19 age, work should be asynchronous and help maximise each employee’s productivity. This is where strategy plays an integral role. It’s important to implement a feedback loop from the bottom up so changes can be made as necessary and allow a network environment to thrive.

Lesson 4: Align tech with business teams

According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years, reducing time to market from ideation to completion and ensuring technology is fit for purpose to run the business.

It’s important that retail businesses continue to leverage this uplift in digital to improve how teams work and execute the overarching business strategy with no hiccups.

Lesson 5: Remove information silos

Information silos are a major block to decision-making, hampering the opportunity for business growth. Information needs to easily pass between the many internal departments of organisations, and while tech can help simplify this process, it can also make the system far more convoluted. This reduces the accessibility of information and decreases visibility, making internal department campaigns and objectives difficult to decipher.

Companies like OfficeWorks assessed and found ways to streamline operations which is fundamental to a core retail process, by utilising to break down information silos, provide visibility across the program of work and automate the process for their teams.

Working smarter not harder under a unified goal 

If we’ve learned one thing, successful organisations are aligned and have transparency and visibility at all levels when rolling out a strategy. They actively seek opportunities to make efficient and effective use of their time and resources, ensuring each department is working under a unified view to achieve a common goal. These characteristics, when present in a retail business of any size, ensure businesses are placed in pole position to carry out necessary strategic responses as quickly as possible, which, as we’ve seen in today’s ever-changing landscape is paramount to ongoing productivity and profitability. 

Gavin Watson is industry lead marketing, creative and advertising and Rohini Sharma is industry lead at