The consistent level of hype around new technologies and how each one represents the next significant wave of customer engagement usually has one of two effects. Either it promotes a kind of FOMO-inspired panic, resulting in the purchase of lots of shiny new devices with nothing to plug them in to from a data perspective, or it stimulates a resistance to making any kind of investment through fear of \u2018backing the wrong horse\u2019, resulting in a growing gap between customer expectations and customer experience.\nIt's an uncomfortable truth, backed by Forrester research, that most retailers are only just starting down the road to digital transformation \u2013 as part of their Digital Store Playbook for 2018, they found that the majority of US retailers are still in the \u2018building tech foundations\u2019 or \u2018creating operational efficiencies\u2019 stages of the digital store maturity journey.\nSpoiled for choice?\nPart of the problem is the vast range of hardware and software solutions on offer, regularly touted as the panacea to cure all CIOs\u2019 strategic ills. Too much choice can stall a strategy just as efficiently as having no choice at all \u2013 it\u2019s not surprising that a lot of businesses have opted to maintain the status quo rather than spend precious IT budget on something that may be superseded in a few months\u2019 time. But the fact remains that customers are digital consumers with a high level of expectation \u2013 according to Forrester, 40% check out what they\u2019re going to buy online before deciding if it\u2019s worth going to the store, and 55% use their smartphones in-store to look up products and services before making a final decision about buying. While this isn\u2019t news to most CIOs, digital expectations can no longer be ignored if retailers want to remain relevant, and they\u2019re not going to get any less demanding as time passes.\nBrick by brick\nIf the issue is complexity and choice, the solution has to be simplicity and sincerity. It all comes down to one question: \u201cwhat can I do to make it easier for customers to get what they want?\u201d It\u2019s the cornerstone for any market strategy \u2013 if your store\u2019s too difficult for customers to navigate either online or on the high street, look for ways to make it simpler. If the IT department is finding it hard to free up data to make business analysis useful, commit to breaking down the barriers. And if shoppers are using their smartphones for \u2018live\u2019 in-store lookups or even ordering out-of-stock items, embrace the fact by giving sales associates at least the same kind of information and shopping power available to the people they\u2019re trying to serve.\nBecause, while customers may be using increasingly sophisticated tech-enhanced methods to get there, their goal remains the same \u2013 an experience that feels good and just works, no unnecessary questions asked. Right here is where you should start building your digital foundations \u2013 with an honest look at what\u2019s driving your customers to keep coming back, or what\u2019s keeping them away.\nIn most cases it will come down to these four \u2018walls\u2019 that keep the roof up:\n\nEstablish your digital bedrock \u2013 no amount of slick technology or cleverly-designed consumer apps will make a difference if you haven\u2019t got a platform of useable data and good in-store WiFi to deliver it to customers and sales associates. It\u2019s a fundamental place to start, yet a surprising number of businesses overlook the obvious in their rush to \u2018keep up with the John Lewises\u2019.\nGive your sales associates what they need \u2013 as hygiene aspects of customer service become increasingly automated, sales staff will have to step up and become trusted advisors to shoppers wanting more than just a transactional experience. They can\u2019t possibly fill this more demanding role if they don\u2019t have everything from customer profiles to inventory both online and in-store at their fingertips, coupled with the power to actually do something to meet real-time customer needs\nMaximise store space and inventory \u2013 space, warehousing and logistics are expensive, so it makes business sense to invest in technology to make it work harder. As Forrester says, \u2018to optimize store space and merchandising, retailers must analyse myriad technologies\u2019 - audit your requirements and assess whether advances in areas such as POS systems, RFID for inventory management and mobile self-checkout can deliver efficiencies\nMake better use of customer data so that it\u2019s easy for them to browse, buy, order and return goods from wherever they choose \u2013 we\u2019re at a post-channel stage where it\u2019s entirely possible to harmonise and mobilise every detail from past purchases to payment methods - there\u2019s no excuse for barriers in either the physical or digital realm.\n\nIf you build it, they will come\nForrester sums it up nicely: \u201ctoday's customers look for and buy experiences, not simply products.\u201d Building those experiences will inevitably involve tech elements that go beyond handing out tablets or offering the latest VR experience if they\u2019re going to have a lasting impact, and this is where CIOs need to start \u2013 with a commitment to laying solid digital foundations.