By Retail Doctor Group, in association with Ebeltoft Group

The retail landscape is evolving at a breakneck pace, driven by the unstoppable force of digital transformation. Gone are the days when shopping was a simple transaction between a customer and a storefront.  

Retailers are compelled to embrace cutting-edge technologies to meet the ever-changing demands of tech-savvy consumers. This paradigm shift has far-reaching implications for the way retailers operate, from the in-store experience to supply chain management and customer engagement strategies. 


  • ​​What is Digital Dependency in Retail?
  • ​The Impact of Digital Dependency in Retail
  • ​Best Use Cases and Australian Case Studies
  • ​Challenges and Strategies for Embracing Digital Dependency
  • ​Opportunities and Training for Retail Staff
  • ​Global Trends and the Future of Digital Dependency in Retail
  • ​Conclusion​

Australia reflects an Internet penetration of 96.2%, with over 25 million Internet users as of early 2023. Of these, 91% of 25-34-year-olds use social media to interact with retailers. In addition, over 90% of consumers do their own pre-research before committing to a purchase. For this, a search engine is most often used, followed by social media channels. 

Globally, it has now become the #1 operational priority for retailers to accelerate their digital strategies to meet these ever-increasing usage patterns.  

This is known as the era of digital dependency. 

What is Digital Dependency in Retail? 

At the heart of this digital revolution lies the concept of digital dependency – the reliance on digital tools and platforms to deliver seamless, personalised, and efficient shopping experiences. Digital dependency in retail encompasses online shopping, contactless payments, and augmented reality, which together enhance the customer experience and streamline the purchasing process. 

Digital Dependency continues to rise as a trend in 2024 due to the ingrained consumer habits formed during the pandemic and the ongoing advancements in technology. This trend is pivotal for the retail sector as it aligns with consumer expectations for convenience, efficiency, and enhanced shopping experiences. 

The Impact of Digital Dependency in Retail 

The impact of digital dependency on the retail sector is multifaceted, touching every aspect of the business. Key areas where this trend is leaving an indelible mark include customer shopping experiences, omnichannel interactions, insights, and supply chains and inventory management. However, it’s the customer engagement aspects – search results and social media presence – that have the most impact on customers. 

Omnichannel Shopping Experience 

Consumers today expect a unified and consistent shopping experience across all touchpoints, whether they’re browsing online, in a physical store, or interacting with a brand through its social media channels or mobile apps. The digital dependency trend means retailers will need to focus on their omnichannel offerings, seamlessly integrating both online and offline channels to provide a cohesive and personalised experience. 

Data-Driven Insights  

Digitalisation generates a wealth of valuable data, from customer browsing patterns and purchase histories to social media interactions and online reviews. Retailers will need to leverage this data to gain deeper insights into consumer behaviours, preferences, and sentiments, which will enable them to make more-informed decisions about product assortment and pricing strategies. It’s also a great way to determine what your targeted marketing campaigns should be about. 

Supply Chain Optimisation 

Digital technologies have revolutionised supply chain management, enabling retailers to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. From real-time inventory tracking and demand forecasting to automated warehouse management and route optimisation, digital tools are empowering retailers to optimise their supply chains and deliver products to customers faster and more reliably. 

Personalised Customer Engagement  

With the aid of digital platforms and data analytics, retailers can tailor their marketing messages, product recommendations, and promotional offers to individual customers based on their preferences, purchase history, and browsing behaviour. This personalised approach fosters stronger customer relationships, enhances brand loyalty, and ultimately drives both word-of-mouth and bottom-line sales. 

Best Use Cases and Australian Case Studies 

Technology has certainly left an indelible mark on retail. The successful implementation and strategic advantages of embracing digital technologies cannot be overstated, and include the tools that aren’t just meant for retailers toi use, but to help customers experience the kind of shopping journeys they now long for. These technologies include: 

  • Augmented Reality (AR) in retail. 
  • Chatbots and virtual assistants. 
  • Internet of Things (IoT) and smart inventory management. 
  • Mobile commerce and in-store engagement. 

Let’s now take a look at the practical implementations of these technologies in specific retail niches, including case studies and best use cases in Australian retail. 

Augmented Reality (AR) in Retail  

AR has emerged as a powerful tool that can enhance the shopping experience. Just some of the benefits of using AR in a customer journey include being able to virtually “try on” products (Nike), visualise how furniture or decor would look in their homes (IKEA), and interact with products in innovative ways (Amazon). 

Myer, one of Australia’s leading department store chains, has embraced AR technology to enhance its customer experience. In 2018, Myer introduced an AR feature in its mobile app, allowing customers to virtually try on different makeup products and visualise how they would look. This innovative approach not only provides a more engaging and personalised shopping experience but also reduces product returns and increases customer satisfaction. 

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants 

Chatbots and virtual assistants powered by AI enable retailers to provide 24/7 customer support, answer FAQs, and even guide customers’ purchase decisions by making personalised product recommendations. 

The Iconic, a leading Australian online fashion and sports retailer, recently successfully implemented a chatbot named “Rosie”, who streamlines the customer service process and improves the shopping experience. Rosie is able to answer questions about product sizing, availability, and order status, allowing human customer service representatives to manage service recovery aspects and more complex inquiries that require the human touch. 

Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Inventory Management  

The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a significant role in the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR or Industry 5.0). In revolutionising inventory management in the retail sector, IoT has helped retailers leverage connected devices and sensors, track stock levels in real-time, automate reordering processes, and minimise out-of-stock situations. 

Woolworths is Australia’s largest supermarket chain. The retailer uses IoT technology to optimise its supply chain and improve inventory management. The company has implemented a system that uses sensors to track the movement of pallets and crates, enabling efficient restocking and reducing waste caused by overstocking or understocking. 

Mobile Commerce and In-Store Engagement  

Smart devices and phones allow retailers to tap into mobile technologies that enhance the customers’ in-store shopping experiences and drive sales through mobile commerce. 

Target is a popular Australian retailer, with branches worldwide. The Target mobile app not only allows customers to browse and purchase products but also provides in-store navigation, personalised offers, and product information through QR code scanning. This approach combines the convenience of online shopping with the tactile experience of physical retail, catering to the needs of digitally-dependent consumers. 

Challenges and Strategies for Embracing Digital Dependency 

While the benefits of digital dependency in retail are undeniable, retailers also face significant challenges in implementing and managing these digital transformations. These challenges include: 

  • cybersecurity and data privacy  concerns. 
  • The integration of legacy systems. 
  • change management and employee training needs. 
  • investment opportunities and their related returns on investment. 

Let’s explore some of the key challenges and strategies for overcoming them. 

Challenge: Cybersecurity and Data Privacy  

As retailers increasingly rely on digital platforms and continue to collect the vast amounts of customer data they need to stay relevant in this digital age, it’s paramount to ensure robust cybersecurity measures are in place, while also adhering to data privacy regulations. Retailers should invest in advanced security systems, implement strict data governance policies, and prioritise transparency in their data collection and usage practices. Customers will appreciate this transparency, and retailers will remain compliant. 

RDG Recommends: Establish a dedicated cybersecurity team, conduct regular security audits, and implement strict access controls and encryption protocols. Additionally, provide comprehensive training to employees on data privacy best practices and ensure compliance with relevant regulations, such as the Australian Privacy Act of 1988 (amended in 2017) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Challenge: Integration of Legacy Systems  

Many retailers, especially those with longstanding brick-and-mortar operations, face the challenges when integrating new digital technologies with their existing legacy systems. These challenges include compatibility issues, data silos, and operational inefficiencies. 

RDG Recommends: Adopt a phased approach to digital transformation, gradually integrating new technologies while ensuring seamless interoperability with legacy systems. Retailers should partner with a reputable retail advisory group and experienced technology consultants to develop a comprehensive integration strategy – one that ensures a smooth transition and minimises downtimes and disruptions to ongoing operations. 

Challenge: Change Management and Employee Training  

Introducing digital technologies often requires significant changes to existing processes, workflows, and organisational culture. Employees may resist these changes due to fear of the unknown or a lack of digital literacy, hindering the successful adoption of new technologies. This pushback may also be based on bias or the idea that robots and AI could replace humans in the workforce. 

RDG Recommends: Implement comprehensive change management programs that involve employees at all levels, addressing their concerns, and providing hands-on training and support. Foster a culture of continuous learning and encourage employees to embrace digital skills development as an integral part of their professional growth. 

Challenge: Investment and Return on Investment (ROI) 

Implementing digital technologies in retail often requires a substantial upfront investment in hardware, software, and infrastructure. Retailers must carefully evaluate the potential return on investment (ROI) and ensure that the benefits of digital transformation outweigh the costs in the long run. 

RDG Recommends: Conduct thorough cost-benefit analyses and develop detailed ROI projections, taking into account factors such as increased operational efficiency, enhanced customer experiences, and potential revenue growth. Seek out strategic partnerships and explore innovative financing options to mitigate the financial burden of digital transformation initiatives. 

Opportunities and Training for Retail Staff 

The rapid digitalisation of the retail industry presents both exciting opportunities and challenges for retail staff. As consumers increasingly embrace online shopping, mobile apps, and other digital touchpoints, retail employees must adapt and acquire new skills to remain competitive and provide exceptional customer experiences. 


In this digital-centric landscape, retail staff have the potential to enhance customer service, streamline operations, unlock career growth opportunities, and achieve a better work-life balance through the strategic adoption and mastery of digital technologies. However, this transformation also necessitates a commitment to continuous learning and professional development to stay ahead of the curve. 

These opportunities may not always be visible at first, but it’s essential that employees understand the role of technology in the company’s future success and how it impacts their day-to-day tasks: 

  • Enhanced Customer Service: Digital technologies enable retail staff to provide more personalised and efficient service by leveraging customer data, product information, and real-time inventory tracking. 
  • Streamlined Operations: Automation and digital tools can streamline routine tasks, freeing up time for retail staff to focus on value-added activities, such as customer engagement and problem-solving. 
  • Career Growth and Skill Development: Mastering digital skills and technologies can open up new career pathways and opportunities for advancement within the retail industry. 
  • Improved Work-Life Balance: Digital tools can enable flexible work arrangements, remote collaboration, and more efficient task management, contributing to a better work-life balance for retail staff. 

It should be noted that an employee survey or questionnaire – even done anonymously – can help identify skill shortages or upskilling needs. 

Training Needs 

To address these training needs, retailers will need to implement comprehensive professional development programs that combine classroom-based instruction, online learning modules, hands-on workshops, and on-the-job coaching. Digital literacy and data analyses upskilling must underlie the theory learned so employees are able to manage the technological curve. 

  • Digital Literacy: Retail staff must develop proficiency in using digital devices, software applications, and online platforms to effectively navigate the digital retail landscape. 
  • Data Analysis and Interpretation: With the abundance of customer data and sales metrics, retail staff should be trained to analyse and interpret data to make informed decisions and identify trends. 
  • Customer Experience Management: Leveraging digital tools for enhancing the customer experience requires specialised training on using technologies like AR, chatbots, and mobile apps to deliver personalised and engaging shopping journeys. 
  • Cybersecurity and Data Privacy: As digital dependency increases, retail staff must be trained on cybersecurity best practices, data protection protocols, and regulatory compliance to safeguard sensitive customer information and maintain consumer trust. As regulations change, retailers should offer updated training that aligns with these regulations. 
  • Change Management and Adaptability: Continuous training on new technologies, processes, and industry trends is essential to foster a culture of adaptability and equip retail staff with the skills to navigate rapid changes in the digital retail environment. However, change management is a delicate process that may result in pushback or bias as employees learn to cope with new mental processes. Patience in this changeover cannot be stressed enough. 

Collaboration with a well-established retail advisory group, industry associations, and technology partners can help retailers develop tailored training curricula that align with their specific digital transformation goals and workforce requirements. 

Global Trends and the Future of Digital Dependency in Retail 

While the focus of this article has been on the Australian retail landscape, it’s important to note that digital dependency is a global phenomenon shaping the future of retail worldwide. As these global trends continue to shape the retail landscape, retailers must remain agile, embrace digital transformation, and prioritise continuous innovation to stay ahead of the curve and meet the ever-evolving demands of digitally-dependent consumers. 

Lefties is a chain of affordable clothing stores from Spain that operates in 10 markets through physical stores and e-commerce. The company launched a new physical store format in Barcelona in September 2022, called “digital store”, with many innovative features. Some of the innovations aim to optimize operational efficiency, such as RFID technology to facilitate self-payment, a drop box in each fitting room to dispose of unwanted garments, and touch screens to customise your own clothes and have them produced in-store in a matter of minutes. 

Retailers must consider their retail ecosystem and how all of the aspects (both digital and physical) at all points of the customer journey talk to each other. Consumer insights and Limbic training can help map these customer journeys and behaviours at each point. 

Other global trends influencing the future of digital dependency in retail include: 

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML are revolutionising various aspects of retail, from personalised product recommendations and predictive analytics to automated inventory management and supply chain optimisation. As these technologies continue to advance, retailers will increasingly rely on AI-powered solutions to gain a competitive edge and deliver superior customer experiences. 
  • Metaverse and Immersive Shopping Experiences: The Metaverse, a virtual shared space where physical and digital worlds converge, is poised to disrupt the retail industry. Retailers are already exploring ways to create immersive shopping experiences within the Metaverse, allowing customers to virtually browse and purchase products in highly realistic and engaging environments. 
  • Blockchain and Supply Chain Transparency: Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionise supply chain management in the retail industry by providing end-to-end traceability, enhancing transparency, and streamlining complex logistics processes. As consumer demand for ethical and sustainable products grows, retailers will leverage blockchain to ensure supply chain integrity and product authenticity. 
  • Robotics and Automated Fulfilment: The rise of e-commerce and the need for faster and more efficient order fulfilment has led to the integration of robotics and automated systems in retail warehouses and distribution centres. From autonomous mobile robots to intelligent picking and sorting systems, automation is transforming the way retailers manage their inventory and deliver products to customers. 


The era of digital dependency in retail is here, and it’s not just a passing phase – it’s the future of shopping. Retailers who embrace this paradigm shift with strategic foresight and a customer-centric approach will thrive in the long run, while those who resist change also risk becoming obsolete. 

By leveraging cutting-edge technologies like augmented reality, chatbots, IoT, and mobile commerce, retailers can deliver unparalleled shopping experiences that cater to the needs of today’s tech-savvy consumers. However, successful digital transformation requires overcoming challenges such as cybersecurity, legacy system integration, change management, and substantial investments. 

Australian retailers, like Myer, The Iconic, Woolworths, and Target have already taken significant strides in integrating digital technologies into their operations, setting examples for others to follow. As global trends like AI, the Metaverse, and Blockchain continue to reshape the retail landscape, Australian retailers must remain vigilant, adapt quickly, and prioritise ongoing training and skill development for their workforce. 

Ultimately, the key to mastering digital dependency in retail lies in fostering a culture of innovation, embracing continuous learning, and placing the customer experience at the forefront of every digital transformation initiative. 

Contact the Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consulting practice that builds retail channels and increases the performance of retail and FMCG businesses through our customised & transformative ‘Business Fitness™’ methodologies.

Since 2005 we have partnered with our clients to build powerful, award-winning, sustainable, and “fit” implemented retail. Ensuring our clients consistently achieve above benchmarks, build sales and margin results. We stay with our clients to ensure success.

As the Australian elected member of International Retail Experts, Ebeltoft Group, we have more than 20 years of experience as retailers and consultants in all retail channels, segments and regions. Today, members of the Ebeltoft network advise 80 of the 100 largest retail companies in the world.

Want to know more about the Future of Retail and prepare your retail strategies? Schedule an appointment with our Insights division by e-mailing us at or calling 02 9460 2882.