4 tough questions to ask yourself about your retail technology
Posted on by cassie
If there is one thing the events of the last year have crystallised for retailers it’s the importance of being able to react and respond to dramatic market changes in the market. And while doing this, not only surviving as a business, but potentially even creating new business models and opportunities. In a digital-first world, this means asking some hard questions about your retail technology strategy.
#1. Does your retail technology allow you to make the right pivot when you need to?
The only certainty is uncertainty – and we can’t anticipate what might change demand. It may be a large scale disruption, such as we are living through at the moment, or maybe it’s something more mundane but equally unexpected – a celebrity has endorsed one of your products. Whatever it is, do you have access to accurate and current information about your whole business, and then are you able to make the rapid changes you may need to?
Good decision making relies on having anytime, anywhere access to current and accurate information about your business – including your inventory, its location, the performance of your stores and online sales channels across different geographies and where the profit and loss areas of your business are. Decision making relies on technology that gives instant, accurate insight into your business – it needs to draw from multiple sources – not just your POS platform – it needs to tap into your a vast array of data- including your supply side, eCom, marketplaces, social media, and CRM, not to mention external sites such as supplier portals.
When you have that information, you need to be able to adapt quickly. It could mean scaling your response, changing your fulfilment model to click-and-collect, changing staff roles, selling harder in different digital and physical locations, or adding new online sales channels. This means a fluid, connected retail technology ecosystem with seamless connection.
#2. What do your sales staff think of your technology?
Have you asked your store staff what they think of your technology? Are there any particular pain-points? Maybe they are unable to quickly and easily serve customers from anywhere in store or answer customer product questions; or maybe they can’t locate stock in their own or other stores or online ; or perhaps its difficult or impossible to handle a return of an item bought online.
Giving your sales people the in-store tools they need will benefit everyone. They are the human face of your business and their ability to give an excellent experience will ensure more sales, and more customers returning to your business.
#3. What do your customers think of the experience they have across your channels?
Customer loyalty isn’t what it was – you can no longer count on customers to stay forever loyal to your brand. As the number of sales channels increases online increases, your customers expect the same service across all these channels. They don’t, and shouldn’t, care about what it takes to deliver this seamless omni-commerce experience behind the scenes.
You might offer an engaging social media post, but when they order an item online, delivery is slow, it’s the wrong size, and they can’t return it the way they want – frustration rises. Or, they prefer to purchase via a favourite marketplace but your products aren’t there, or it’s missing the rich brand information you offer on your eCom site. Or maybe they want to be able to pick up an item quickly from your store, but your click and collect process is limited in some way. With heightened expectations, and more touch points, there are more potential points of disappointment for customers, which will certainly impact their loyalty, and may mean lost opportunities for sales, or abandoned carts.
#4. Does your technology give you what you need across the board – from design concept-to-distribution-to-stock management-to-sales-to-customer experience?
With customers driving the way you do business, you need to be looking at your entire end-to-end retail processes. Does your technology provide unified commerce so that designers can react quickly to trends, source materials, can you get your products to the right distribution centres (including stores) to satisfy demand. In store, are your staff able to quickly and expertly serve customers with insight into all your inventory. Can you add channels as you need, and can you ensure that your customer touchpoints all work well, and reflect your brand uniformly?
How retailers are responding to these questions
There is no arguing that this is an incredibly challenging landscape for retailers. Retail has undergone seismic shifts in the last few years, due to a number of factors – heightened customer expectations in terms of service, quality not to mention sustainability; the impact of globalization; dramatic changes in technology – including the ongoing rise of social media and the internet; and recently, profound world-wide disruption.
It’s clear to us all that the retailers over the last year who have done best have been able to accelerate their digital capabilities across the board.
When considering how to go forward from here, as a retail business you need to seriously look at how your technology is supporting your future needs. Retail relies on a wide range of systems and technology – e-Comm & marketplaces, social media, order management, POS, analytics as well as supply side entities such as ERP, warehouse management and product lifecycle management. It’s not wise, or even possible to invest in technology that will “do it all” from one vendor – be wary if that is the promise.
The shift in paradigm for retailers is clearly to leverage an ecosystem of best-of-breed technology solutions. This has two key benefits. Firstly it enables seamless integration to all the other parts of that system. It also means that you can quickly focus on the specific areas you need to pay attention to, allowing you to prioritize while also reducing risk. This is what gives the true holy grail of unified commerce. It will give much better ROI, as well as giving you adaptability, scalability and flexibility.
You can’t predict what will come, but you can make smart choices about the type of technology you choose to meet this unpredictability.
If you need to understand more about connecting your retail systems or what are the right solutions to help you achieve unified commerce, then contact us for a conversation.