At first glance, “organizational agility” may seem like a buzzword that doesn’t actually mean anything. In reality, it’s the most important characteristic a business can have in a changing market and economy.
The term refers to a company’s nimbleness in the face of change. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance. When quarantining kept consumers at home and caused stores to shut down, businesses that had failed to digitally transform were left with no way to sell or connect with customers. Those that practiced organizational agility, however, were able to quickly pivot to online sales, direct-to-consumer (D2C) selling and even alternative manufacturing that addressed a societal need (e.g., apparel brands producing masks).
What industry-changing event could come next? No one knows, making it crucial to stay organizationally agile for market changes big and small.
What Is Organizational Agility?
Organizational agility is a company’s ability to react and move quickly when the market changes. These changes can include everything from economic distress and emerging competition to new technology and shifting consumer behavior.
The reason agility is so important is because failure to adapt can leave brands and retailers without the proper tools to do business, resulting in a loss of customers and revenue. Exercising organizational agility requires three key components:
- Foresight to predict and anticipate changes instead of letting them take you by surprise
- Preparedness with the right tools and plan in place to pivot quickly
- Flexibility to move with changing times instead of holding on to “the way it’s always been done”
What Are the Risks of Failing to Stay Agile?
Organizational agility isn’t just about staying trendy or “keeping up with the times.” It’s about safeguarding your company to meet the changing needs of your customers and employees while staying resilient against factors that could derail your business — new competitors, changing legislation (e.g., General Data Protection Regulation) or economic downturns.
Failure to adapt to industry and environmental changes results in:
- Decreased efficiency and security. Manual processes, workarounds and outdated policies lead to human error and slowed productivity. Worse, failure to automate operations or conduct regular check-ups on your business processes can lead to compliance issues and security breaches.
- Lost customers. Modern consumers demand savvy experiences — and they’re more than willing to jump ship if they don’t get them. Don’t have a mobile website? The 85% of US consumers who own a smartphone won’t be able to browse your products on the go. Companies that are hard to get in touch with also risk frustrated customers and the opportunity to build long-term loyalty.
- Less revenue. No customers? No sales. New brands and retailers are joining the industry daily — all of whom were born in the digital age, making them that much more resilient. If customers can receive a better experience with a more modern brand, they will, eliminating your sales and resulting in poor reviews.
- Employee shortages. Studies show that employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years in their jobs if they feel they have technology that supports them at work. Employees who are stuck making do with outdated technology or strategies that don’t account for industry changes risk losing talented employees to savvier competitors.
What Are the Benefits of Organizational Agility?
It’s impossible to predict coming market changes, and there are a number of factors that can lead to a company’s demise. But organizational agility puts brands a step ahead of lagging competitors, resulting in a number of benefits beyond simply staying in business.
Increase productivity and innovation
Preparing for changes that may come your way means you’re not reacting in the moment. When economic downturns occur or consumer behavior changes, you’ll be ready, freeing your team up to focus on other activities like customer experience or product innovation. Plus, with digital transformation and automation, your teams can reduce manual work, increasing productivity and operational efficiency.
Win more customers
More than ever, consumers care about who they buy from and what they stand for. Demonstrating organizational agility in the midst of change shows customers you’re dedicated to serving their needs even when the environment is less than ideal. Offering tools like an app or expanding to channels where they shop most allows you to meet customers where they are and capture new audiences.
Staying agile also allows you to bypass stagnant competitors and even win over their customers. When changes in the industry occur, organizational agility can mean the difference between thriving and merely surviving.
Improve employee engagement
Agile brands empower their employees to look ahead, make modifications and prepare for change early and often. Plus, reliable e-commerce tech reduces daily frustrations, keeps employees connected and helps teams meet their goals more often.
How Can Brands and Retailers Become More Agile?
Increasing your organizational agility is not an exact science. What it takes to become resilient differs across industries and companies. But in general, you can improve your nimbleness if you:
- Embrace change and disruption. Don’t fear change. Some of the cornerstones of commerce have come as a result of change: industrialization, e-commerce, social media and retail media networks, to name a few. Research shows organizations that embrace change face fewer obstacles during disruptions and even experience 15% more benefits.
- Automate e-commerce. You won’t be ready for unplanned disruptions if you’re manually monitoring prices, updating listings or keeping spreadsheets of metrics. Automation and centralization is the modern marketer’s best friend, making it easy to meet the requirements of merchandising, marketing and advertising without constant upkeep.
- Keep data at the ready. Data is absolutely critical to monitoring trends and anticipating changes. Without it, you’re stuck making guesses and hunches about your business position and next steps. Even spreadsheets and disparate metrics from each platform you sell on won’t cut it. Deep brand analytics give you increased visibility across your entire portfolio to grow sales, protect your brand’s reputation and manage your digital shelf presence.
- Have expert guidance in your corner. Not sure how to navigate the waters of change? You’re not alone. It helps to have guidance from those who have been there before. Look for e-commerce experts with decades of experience who can help you predict trends, protect against interruption and put a plan in place for realistic growth.
Rithum Keeps Your E-Commerce Business Ready for Anything
At Rithum, we know the effects market change can have on brands and retailers because we witness it every day on the front lines of the industry. Our e-commerce platform gives you a complete multichannel solution to automate listings across channels, glean brand analytics, market against competitors and execute flawlessly on the digital shelf — all from a centralized solution.
When COVID-19 hit, our customers, like Candleberry, myGoods and PureFormulas, were able to adapt to changing demand and protect their market position. Now, in the face of economic instability, we’re giving customers tools to stay resilient and increase their e-commerce execution.