As retailers work to merge the digital world with the physical retail experience they're likely to be in for a big shock, according to a new report, which reveals outdated technologies such as phone, fax and email are still the dominant ways to interact with supply chain partners.

The "massive disconnect" that exists between current realities and the expectations of how supply chains will evolve in over the next five years, is highlighted in research by Capgemini Consulting, GT Nexus and Infor.

The study, 'The Current and Future State of Digital Supply Chain Transformation,' is thought to be the first to explore digital transformation between organisations and all of their partners across the extended value chain.

Bringing together the views of 337 executives from some of the largest global manufacturing and retail firms across Europe and North America, it found that while customers expect retail employees to be able to check store inventory in real time, just 15% of retailers have access to the data collected across their supply chains.

And just 23% of those that have access, actually analyse this data for decision making purposes.

In five years, these numbers are expected to jump to 54% and 68% respectively.

While 70% of respondents say they have started a formal digital supply chain transformation effort, around 30% are "dissatisfied" with progress so far. And almost half admit that right now "traditional" methods such as phone, fax, email are still the main ways they interact with supply chain partners.

However, five years from now, 95% of respondents expect more processes with suppliers to be automated; and 94% expect to receive more real-time status updates from across the entire supply chain.

Key technology enablers have been identified, but are not widely used yet, including supply chain visibility platforms/tools (94%), big data analytics (90%), simulation tools (81%) and cloud (80%).

The expected benefits of a truly digital supply chain include cost reductions for logistics, inventory and maintenance, improvements in customer service and higher overall equipment effectiveness.

Perhaps more importantly, it is expected to dramatically improve an organisation's agility to respond to changing market conditions, to new market entrants that can threaten existing business models or to unexpected supply chain disruptions.

"In today's globalised and outsourced world, Digital Transformation can only be successful if companies approach it with a holistic view of their entire value chain," says Mathieu Dougados, senior vice president, Capgemini Consulting.

"That value chain can include hundreds of partners. So connectivity between partners, cross-company access to data, and the use network-wide analytics become the key focus areas."

Kurt Cavano, vice chairman and chief strategy officer at GT Nexus, adds: "Supply chain transformation is a massive undertaking that requires leadership and vision at the C-level, and a holistic transformation approach that fosters automation, connectivity, data sharing and collaboration across the entire value chain.

"This survey showed that manufacturers and retailers clearly have an idea of where they need to be and what digital technologies will get them there in the next five years.

"But it's going to be a real sprint given the current reliance on outdated, analogue technologies such as phone, fax and email to collaborate and execute in the global supply chain. Meanwhile, risk of supply chain disruptions runs high, with an expensive cost to pay."