Want this e-book emailed to you?

Rebuilding retail with a digital foundation


Digital transformation and the Covid-19 effect


While digital transformation in the retail industry has been on the agenda for many years, the pandemic forced it to the very top. Covid-19 altered the landscape virtually overnight, compelling retailers to embrace digital technology and reassess their operations to respond to the changing needs of both their consumers and their employees. According to a McKinsey Global study of executives, companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And while solutions may have initially been created as temporary measures, the survey suggests that many of the changes are expected to be long lasting, and significant investments are already being made to make them permanent.

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, how has your company’s or business area’s adoption of the following technology trends changed?

% of respondents (n=800)
Note: Figures may not sum to 100% because of rounding
Source: McKinsey Global Business Executive Survey July 2020

Reimagining a new era for retail

If the pandemic was the catalyst for rapid digitization, it also served to surface some of the issues that have been weighing on the minds of retail executives for some time, such as: the rise of eCommerce; the role of the physical store in a digital world; data, device and app security; supply chain efficiency and sustainability; the challenge of remote and hybrid working; and of course customer and employee experience in light of rapidly changing expectations. With these issues now firmly front of mind, retailers are not only being forced to consider new ways of operating, but to envisage a new era for retail, with digital at its heart.

We have transformed our stores to act as fulfilment centers. To make that work, the flow of goods needed to change, the supply mechanisms needed to change, and also the floorplans of our stores needed to change. Ecommerce is 24 hours a day, while traditional stores are not, which means we’ve needed to learn how to operate at two speeds, while operating from one space. Goods can be delivered from the stores, or from different distribution centers – and algorithms are helping figure out where the goods are being sourced from. We’re rapidly expanding data and analytics and changing how they’re embedded in decision making.

Barbara Martin Coppola
Chief Digital Officer
Harvard Business Review

There’s no question that post-pandemic recovery will be a slow process. A recent survey by Forrester predicts that it could take as long as four years for retail sales figures to overtake pre-pandemic levels. However, there is an overwhelming consensus within the industry that if the sector can capitalize on the changes that have been forced upon it and emerge from the other side free from legacy systems, practices and mindsets, the future for retail is a bright one.

With Gartner predicting people-centricity and operational excellence as the key drivers for digital transformation in retail going forward, it’s clear that implementing a secure digital environment that will underpin and unify all aspects of commerce will be the key to industry resilience, agility, security and growth. 

Top trends in retail digital transformation and innovation for 2021

People centricity

  • Touchless interactions
  • Associate enablement and effectiveness
  • Values driven consumption

Operational excellence

  • Fulfilment execution
  • Algorithmic merchandising optimization
  • Collaborative ecosystems
  • Cost optimization

The time is now to rebuild retail with a digital foundation, that will:

Accelerate your organisation with future-ready IT

Empower secure, distributed work and protect consumer trust

Improve the employee experience for a better customer experience


Three key benefits the right digital foundation can deliver

As retailers look to invest in advanced technologies and innovations – including AI, virtualization and data applications – having the right digital infrastructure in place is becoming increasingly critical.

The ability to ensure always-on connectivity, to turn services on and off with ease, to facilitate collaborative business models and joint ventures – and to do it all with guaranteed security – is now front of mind for many retailers today. With customer experience firmly at the centre of retail strategy, retailers are striving to make physical stores centres for customer engagement, while seeking to differentiate online channels from their competitors with qualitative technology offerings. In the grocery sector, advanced technology is fuelling progress in the checkout experience, where increasing automation is proving a battleground as companies look to speed up the customer experience and free up the workforce. And advanced use of data is being applied both behind the storefront/customer experience and in back offices and supply chains.

With the right digital foundation, retailers can:

Harness the power of cloud

Achieve greater ability and control over your data and operations by unifying in-store, back-office, call centre, supply chain and e-commerce in a secure cloud environment, while reducing infrastructure, storage and computing costs.

Accelerate e-commerce and omnichannel

Migrate the customer experience from in-store to a digital world. Reliability and availability of services are the foundation to serve your customers with on-demand assistance.

Increase customer-centric agility

Quickly respond to changing customer needs with the ability to turn on new technology and services easily, facilitate pop-up stores and joint ventures, and rapidly connect sites and suppliers to organizational ecosystems.

Drive IT-led sustainability

Gain visibility and centralized access to management and resources, to identify inefficiencies - the main driver for unwanted spend – and reduce unnecessary workloads. 

Deliver always-on connectivity

Protect the organization from IT failure and ensure business continuity, by providing always-on connectivity to all work-relevant resources from disaster recovery locations.

Distributed work presents security challenges for every organization, but with customer data protection such a critical priority for retailers, the issue is compounded.

Cyberattacks increased dramatically during the pandemic, with global cost of cybercrime estimated at in excess of $1trillion  in 2020 – the equivalent to 1% of global GDP – and that number is only likely to increase. If a hybrid working environment is the future, how to secure it is the number one question. With most apps delivered as Saas or hosted in the cloud, balancing user experience with security is increasingly difficult. And with BYOD (‘Bring Your Own Device’) on the rise in many businesses, organizations need a modern and comprehensive approach to protect against threats while supporting device choice.

With the right digital foundation, retailers can:

Implement zero trust security

Enable secure private access to applications without a virtual private network (VPN) and protect access to apps, wherever those apps are accessed from.

Accelerate your journey to SASE

A seamless and secure network is the glue for a connected retail operation. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions provide retail IT teams with a single dashboard to manage apps and services, cloud security polices, firewalls and zero-trust access.

Secure the supply chain and reduce costs

Modern behaviour-based analytics connect existing datapoints, allowing for a reduction in security restrictions while increasing overall security measurement with proactive, risk score-based controls.

Protect apps and APIs

Deploy a framework for unified management and monitoring of how your apps and data are being consumed, to help plan capacity and scale on demand, avoiding disruption to the customer experience by a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

Guided work within a unified enterprise workspace

Connect your line of business apps and deliver AI assistance within a unified enterprise workspace, to ensure every employee feels supported and can be productive from day, even when switching applications or device type.

In times of great change, employee needs can dramatically shift, and organizations must respond to maintain an effective and satisfied workforce. This means that workspace technology needs to focus on more than technology—it needs to focus on the person. 

Digital transformation brings with it far more than just technological change. It can enable changes to processes and cultures which – just as much, if not more,  than new technologies – can have a positive impact on efficiency, productivity, engagement and wellness. The best digital solutions will allow organizations to work smarter, ensuring employees have everything they need to do their best work, day in and day out, regardless of location, device or network. Customer experience is the beating heart of the retail industry. By empowering employees with the tools they need to provide consistently great service in-store, online and at every brand touchpoint, companies can build both loyalty from employees and brand trust with their customers.

With the right digital foundation, retailers can:

Enable remote working and empower a hybrid workforce

Deliver the same high-definition experience no matter where your users work, while providing strong corporative protection with intelligent analytics and adaptive security controls, with contextual access.

Improve productivity and performance

By providing seamless access to virtual desktops and apps, workflows are effortless, distractions are diminished, and content is easy to share – meaning people can focus and projects keep flowing.

Modernize your contact center

Empower your contact centers with secure, seamless access to customer and company data any time, anywhere – maintaining 24x7x365 connection with your customers to stay competitive in the digital era.

Empower a better customer experience

Provide employees with anywhere access to in-store technology and apps on all endpoints, to enable them to deliver a faster and better experience to your customers, whether in-store or online.


Citrix for retail

Citrix solutions for retail streamline and unify all aspects of operations, data and insights across your organization, providing a unified experience for both employees and customers. Enabling high-impact, high-touch customer service, Citrix enhances productivity for store associates, headquarters, employees and remote staff, and delivers always-on in-store and online experiences to your customers, with secure unified commerce.

With a digital foundation from Citrix, retailers can:

Improve the performance of people and processes
By moving to the cloud using Citrix cloud services, organizational silos can be broken down. Outdated legacy or proprietary retail applications can be integrated, no matter if resources still reside in an on-premises datacenter or a hyperscaler. Most importantly for the user experience, all resources are available from one single place, ensuring frictionless access experience.

Deliver a high-touch, high-performance customer experience
A differentiated customer experience is one of the last true competitive advantages for brick-and-mortar stores. Citrix solutions for retail increase employee productivity, improve in-store connectivity, and enable customers to shop in new ways, such as integrating the internet into the in-store experience.

Improve cyber security without restricting mobility
Retailers are challenged with the constant need to adapt to more sophisticated cyber criminals and ever-increasing volumes of data. Citrix solutions offer comprehensive protection, helping you to implement zero touch security, protect apps and APIs and accelerate your journey to SASE.

Centralize in-store and employee apps
By arming employees and associates with the same applications and tools, Citrix helps retailers to better represent their brand and serve their customers in innovative ways.

Deliver instant access to sales associates and staff where they need it
Citrix secure digital workspaces enable you to centrally manage and secure applications in the datacenter. This not only makes apps easier to update and improves data security, but ensures everyone who needs it has access to real-time data on any device, at any time.


Customer spotlight

Marc O’Polo International GmbH

Marc O’Polo is one of the world’s leading premium brands for modern casual wear, delivering eight collections to its retail partners in over 30 countries every year. With a guiding principle of “The freedom to be yourself”, the company is investing in infrastructure, technical innovations, and a healthy working atmosphere.

"Our goal is to create conditions under which our 2,000 employees worldwide can develop their full creativity and work together optimally," says Matthias Holzner, IT Manager for Application & Collaboration.

Many of the company’s applications have been deployed with Citrix DaaS for many years – but circumstances prompted a move to adopt a full digital workspace strategy.

A secure, agile infrastructure

User experience has always been an important factor for Marc O’Polo’s IT department, but after a 2019 ransomware attack, the decision was made to rebuild it from scratch and ramp-up security measures.

The new environment was planned and implemented with the support of IT service provider Provectus Technologies. A fundamental decision was the complete relocation of management of the environment to Citrix cloud with only servers with virtual applications operated on-premises, meaning all updates and security patches are installed automatically and that the environment is always up to date. Provectus specialists also recommended Citrix Analytics Services for the continuous monitoring and optimization of the security and performance of digital workspaces.

Planning for the new workspace strategy had already begun when COVID-19 struck, prompting further adjustments. Within days, large parts of the workforce were forced to work from home, and the IT department had to ensure that business processes could continue without interruption.

"With Citrix technology and the excellent support from Provectus, we were able to adapt very quickly to the new situation," reports Matthias Holzner. The infrastructure, originally designed for six servers, was expanded to 25, all thanks to scalable Citrix architecture.

Reduced administration effort

The new Citrix environment relieves the IT team of much of the ongoing IT administration work, which is now managed and kept up to date entirely by Citrix. "We used to spend an average of one hour a day checking each system. Today, we can simply rely on the environment to be available and up to date," says Holzner.

Greater employee satisfaction

Especially during the pandemic, the Citrix high-performance and secure digital workspace solution has been integral to meeting employee requirements. In an internal survey, 89 percent of employees reported that remote working has helped to improve their work-life balance. This prompted the company to introduce a new workplace strategy entitled "The Freedom to Flexwork”, giving employees the opportunity to work remotely from any location two days a week, and establishing the company campus to become a venue for meetings and agile cooperation.

“With the Citrix infrastructure, we are perfectly prepared for any configuration of the hybrid working world and can optimally support our flexwork strategy,” sums up Matthias Holzner. “In the future, thanks to Citrix, employees will be able to log in and work creatively from anywhere.”

Read the full case study

Are you ready to rebuild your retail organization with a digital foundation?