Best Practice


Mar 26 2020 ...

Interview: Digital transformation in retail

Juan Avedillo now Co-CEO joined the Nextail team as COO at the start of 2020, and we wanted to learn how his personal and professional trajectory led him to our team.

Before joining Nextail, Juan spent almost three years as Partner and Chief of Technology Practices at digital transformation consultancy, The Cocktail. Before that, he was Associate Partner at management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., where he’d spent almost a decade setting and supporting the transformation strategies of a large number of global McKinsey clients.

But what was it that tipped the scales in favor of taking on a new professional challenge at Nextail? We decided to ask.

What ignited your interest in helping companies through digital transformation?

Personally, I get restless when it comes to business as usual, as it leaves little to the imagination. Companies undergoing change, rather than staying the same, have always been more fascinating to me, and this curiosity is what has led me down my professional path.

Digital transformation is where the velocity of change is the highest, and no industry has been left unturned. This is another aspect that I enjoy about this work – that the world of digital transformation truly gives you a cross-sectional view of a variety of companies and industries, which is both professional and personally enriching.

The reason I made this most recent move is closely related to this vision. On the one hand, the work I was doing was reaching a stable, BAU state and I began to feel the familiar itch of wanting to look for something more dynamic and at the brink of change. At the same time, I saw the opportunity in Nextail to satisfy that very curiosity.

What makes retail unique in its digital transformation journey?

There have been two waves of digital transformation in retail: The first being the rise of the internet which shook up retail and other industries in a way they never had been.

While this first wave left retail irreversibly changed, I’d say it was more push than pull, and what resulted was e-commerce, which is merely a new, albeit huge, channel for stores, and largely customer-facing innovations.

Today, we’ve reached the second wave which, much like the industrial revolution, consists of the entire transformation of how we work. Automation and data proliferation are allowing us to rethink retail entirely, because we can understand customers better than they understand themselves and eliminate the many inefficiencies that have arisen around the industry. Without them, what does retail look like? Like something entirely different.

In the past, the role of IT departments was to grapple with the proliferation of tech finding its way into organizations and to manage tech costs, almost like a necessary evil. Today, on the other hand, they’ve become a principal value generator as we’re seeing in retail.

What drew you specifically to Nextail?

There were several aspects that drew me to Nextail.

On the one hand, it’s hard not to get excited about AI; it’s set to be a huge driver of growth in the economy. After decades of speculation, we’re finally able to reap the benefits from meaningful applications like mass scale data processing and automation like Nextail does in the case of retail.

What really intrigued me though, was the possibility of being part of something that is transforming the retail industry as a whole. To begin with, SaaS technology like Nextail is the best option for retailers that need to transform quickly in today’s digital reality. It allows them to shake off their legacy systems and scale quickly, which is necessary for their survival.

But on a much deeper level, what Nextail does is it resolves many core inefficiencies that have been holding retail back all this time. Everything that was slow, error-prone, and based on intuition can now be replaced with automation and data-driven prediction.

Not only does an agile approach to merchandising generate value for retail organizations, it also has major implications in terms of sustainability.

Predicting demand means not having to overstock just in case. And by not overstocking and being proactive about allocation and distribution, retailers avoid leftovers which usually translate into waste. Eventually, this knowledge feeds back up into the supply chain, and has the potential to better inform initial production decisions and reduce textile waste.

Not only does an agile approach to merchandising generate value for retail organizations, it also has major implications in terms of sustainability.

At the same time, the ability to optimize stock movements while considering any number of specific business constraints means that retailers are also able to be more responsible in terms of transport and resources, all while continuing to profit.