10 Ways to Ensure the Theatre of Online Retail

by Steve Barrett February 23, 2021 | 4 min read

In January, PagerDuty brought together retail executives in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) who wanted to better understand how technology can build an exciting future for retail in the wake of the pandemic.

Across three key themes—digital culture, customer experience, and community—Co-Founder of ASOS Ventures, Daniel Bobroff, detailed 10 ways retailers should use digital technology to guarantee “the theatre” of online retail and ensure consumers fall in love with shopping again.

Digital Culture

Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. As many retailers become technology companies, digital culture is now their foundation. This theme covers everything that makes best-in-class retail companies truly digital-first.

1. Distributed Engineering

With many professionals working remotely since last March, it’s enabled companies to find and recruit the best people from anywhere. This looks likely to stay, with the way forward favouring “a more distributed model that places engineering excellence over physical location”.

2. Cross-Functional Teams

A digital culture also requires cross-functional teams that are empowered to build, measure, and learn. “As part of these cross-functional teams, we must put the voice of the customer front and centre by enabling marketing and customer support teams to work alongside their colleagues in technology”.

3. Fail Fast

Organisations must learn from failure. “In a digital work realm, failure delivers learning, and this learning is our new unit of progress. We must build experimentation at scale with the mantra of ‘pivot or persevere’. For each test we run—and from the data we gain—we either validate our initial hypothesis or we fail fast and move on”.

4. Weaponise Speed

“For retail, a digital culture is about being brave, taking risks, and above all, weaponising speed. With the closure of physical stores, we entered uncharted territory, but we saw a considerable difference in the reaction times of different retailers”.

Customer Experience

A lot of the conversation about retail to date has been dominated by the physical shops; but now, with so many stores closed, the need for a digital customer experience has taken centre stage. One of retail’s greatest strengths has always been its ability to tell stories, and technology can take this to the next level with amazing, fully personalised online shopping experiences.

5. Storytellers

“Now, we can make the shoppers the central character in every story. And as digital storytellers, we can leverage technology to make our stories personal, moment-based, and customisable. The market of one is not some far-off concept, but something we’ll see take route in 2021”.

6. Gamification

Gamification techniques can help retailers to optimise experiences around what really motivates people. “By rethinking our shoppers’ interactions through the lens of play, we can stimulate loyalty through experiences that our customers feel compelled to repeat”.

7. Responsive Retail

“In 2021, our concept of omnichannel will be superseded by something we might better describe as responsive retail. This will go beyond merely connecting these various channels to having them actually interact with each other”.

8. Digital Filters

Visual and voice technologies are already used at scale, and this technology offers incredible, new possibilities for retail. “The numbers of retailers using augmented reality will also surge in 2021. This technology has reached the level of maturity that allows us to merchandise products in ways that are both highly personalised and truly interactive”.


Retail continues to grapple with just how much technology is changing the nature of community. While the strength of a retailer’s community remains one of the most important determinants of its success, the difference today is that the modern community is actually founded online.

9. Become an Enabler

“A retailer’s role within its community is increasingly that of an enabler. For us to achieve this, we must excel at integration and build bridges that connect with the technology ecosystems that surround us”.

10. Embrace Automation

“Trying to build every piece of our tech stack by hand today is like reinventing the wheel. To be an enabler at scale, we will increasingly need technology to automate the many inefficient manual processes within retail”.

PagerDuty works with nearly half of the Fortune 500 retailers on their digital transformation operations—all focused on engineering-led automation solutions to increase customer satisfaction.