Omnichannel Transformation and Adaptability of Small Retail Businesses

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för informatik (IK)

Abstract: The retail industry has faced many developments over recent decades as a result of digitalisation including the E-commerce and multichannel retailing phases. Consumers have seen the progression of new and digitised channels as well as solutions such as marketplaces, social media touchpoint and augmented reality tools. During the Covid-19 pandemic more consumers engaged on digital channels as the physical bricks and mortar stores were forced into lockdowns. However, the customer experience has not been seamless even in the era of digital retailing. Retailers have also experienced emerging dilemmas as a result of digitalisation. Despite the decades of retail digitalisation, the customer experience and industry remain somewhat tumultuous. Digitalisation has produced positive developments in retail. In parallel it has been challenged to adapt to the changes. The multichannel era has created a disjointed value chain and infrastructure that is impacting the customer experience. Furthermore, consumer behaviour has also changed. The current objective in the industry is to meet the new customer demands. To make it seamless for them, but also for the industry. This concept is omnichannel retailing - the current transformation objective in the industry. It remains novel and emerging. Many have started the transformation and evident in literature. However, this research domain remains minute in comparison to the knowledge in the E-commerce and multichannel domains. Those who have entered the journey are larger organisations and are experiencing the complexity of this digital transformation. This poses the question if  omnichannel transformation of small retail businesses is plausible, which also happens to represent the majority of the industry.  This qualitative case study’s objective is to gather and contribute to the limited knowledge in omnichannel retailing, and specifically for small business retailers. The business model concept and Complex Adaptive Systems theory, both associated to digitalisation of complex change has been combined as an omnichannel theoretical framework to assess the participants of this study. This study gathered empirical findings on business model changes and adaptive capabilities through in-depth interviews. The findings demonstrated small business retailers having the capacity to execute complex changes in their business models through adaptive behaviours. The study also highlighted areas in their business models and adaptive capabilities needing more consideration and development to support the ongoing omnichannel transformation. 

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