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Monday, 19 September 2016

10 Things to look for while replacing your legacy retail systems

Today’s retail consumer is smarter, tech-savvier, and extremely demanding than ever. Not only is she shopping across online and offline channels, but they also expect to have a unified, splendid experience as they switch between channels. They expect retailers to offer the choicest deals on the finest products at the best prices and to fulfill orders in the speediest and the most affordable manner possible. Phew! Those are some very high, almost back-breaking expectations that most retailers cannot meet using their legacy retail systems. 

To fulfill the stringent demands of modern consumers, retailers need to equip their businesses with a new-age, robust retail solution that is scalable and dynamic enough to manage customers, inventory as well as valuable business data across multiple stores and touchpoints. It may seem like a difficult task at first; but with the right retail solutions replacing their conventional legacy systems, retailers can cakewalk themselves through this. 

Also, it is something retailers will need to achieve if they wish to stay in business.
Retailers need to bear in mind the following 10 things while replacing their legacy retail systems:

1.    Start with the customer
Focus on who you are overhauling your retail management system for - the customer. Discern their expectations from an ideal shopping experience; and then choose a system with features that can help deliver that experience.

2.    Solution mapping for business
Define the project/business objectives clearly. Map the deliverables of the new solution with the business needs and goals set. This will help in setting priorities right to successfully find and deploy the right solution for your business.

3.    Make it a gradual process
Break down the process into batches if the prospect of launching a new retail management system across the entire operation seems overwhelming. For instance, rolling out the new system to a few stores before moving on to other locations allows the enterprise to ease into the new solution and keeps the project from becoming overwhelming.

4.    Be wary of probable drawbacks
Before signing up for a shiny new system, think about how to transition users to the new solution. Is it easy to understand or would it be necessary to invest resources in training? Is it customizable? Would it be necessary to modify existing workflows? Can the new system integrate with other solutions that the business is already using? These are just some of the questions you should answer before deciding on a new system.

5.    Get organized
Replacing the legacy retail management system needs a process that is best fit for your business. Set up a procedure that can keep the implementation on track. 

6.    Bring in the specialist
Have in-house experts research, evaluate, and deploy a new retail management system, or consult with third party experts who can assist in all phases of the project. Tap into their technical knowledge and expertise to make smarter decisions throughout the process.

7.    Choose a system with robust inventory capabilities
Inventory is the building block of any retail business. It is also one of the most challenging aspects to manage at company-wide stock levels. The vast majority of multi-store retailers specifically look for cross-channel inventory management capabilities in their new POS to streamline inventory management.

8.    Embrace new technology with open arms
Try to find the most forward looking innovations in retail technology that are right for the business.

9.    List the “must haves”
Create a “must have” list of features and capabilities that are absolutely needed versus the “nice to haves,” to avoid ending up with a beast of a project.

10.    Test, test, test
Thoroughly test the retail management system to ensure that it works right for your business.

How long should the process take? Wood advises retailers to allocate six weeks to for the search as “this is the average length of time companies are able to find a replacement software in.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Why Invest in Omni-channel?

Meeting the complex expectations of the omni-channel shopper demands substantial investment in emerging and effective technologies. Let us look at the factors that are driving omni-channel growth before discussing the return on investment.

The number of smartphone subscriptions globally was 1.6 billion in 2013. According to a report produced by a leading mobile technology enterprise, this figure is expected to increase to 5.6 billion in 2019. 90% of the world’s population will then be able to access mobile Internet connections. This growth in Internet penetration and the immense increase in popularity of smartphones will only magnify omni-channel customer behavior exponentially. These trends point towards omni-channel being the only sustainable way of doing retail business in the future as ‘one-click shopping’ becomes a reality.

Innovation in technology is also driving the retailers’ interest in omni-channel retailing, supporting new capabilities in personalized consumer engagement. Advances in store digitization technologies, predictive logistics, virtual assistance, and customer recognition systems are game-changers. These new technologies have the potential to disrupt existing business models in the same way as e-Commerce disrupted traditional brick-and-mortar sales few years ago.

In future, diverse business models will be driven by the modern day consumer’s preferences. The point in case will be e-commerce giants who are trying to add physical presence to get closer to the customers. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar retailers are adding online stores and also reinventing the customer experience and the role of their stores (for example, by using stores as fulfillment centers for online orders).

Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful sales and marketing channel. Online companies sit on a goldmine of rich consumer data and they can easily use this to customize offers and target consumers more effectively. 

Thus today, technology enables consumers to be present anywhere and everywhere and to meet these consumers in their comfort zone, retailers need to be present wherever they are. For this, they need to invest in modern retail technologies that allows a seamless omni-channel customer experience. 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

ETP Blog - What retailers need to understand about the Omni-channel Customer Experience

Retail has undergone a major transformation in the digital age, and today customers demand better, quicker and seamless experiences. Therefore, brands need to provide omni-channel experiences that allow customers to engage from wherever they are – brick-and-mortar stores, mobile apps, online, kiosks, catalog and more.

However, simply operating multiple retail channels does not constitute an omni-channel strategy, unless done right. Today, customers may start in one channel and switch to another as they progress to a definite buying decision. Omni-channel implies making these complex ‘hand-offs’ between channels must be effortless for the customer.

Omni-channel is not just a mere buzzword. It is essentially a cluster of strategies that need to deliver results. So what do retailers need to know to create a superior omni-channel customer experience?

360° Omni-Channel customer view
Collecting customer information such as shopping preferences, demographics, buying history, preferred modes of payment and so on is absolutely vital for creating a single unified view of the customer no matter which they use to research and purchase. When acquired, consolidated and leveraged fittingly, this analysis can provide a roadmap for retailers to define and deploy more personalised and effective communication and promotions, eliminating much of the guesswork.

Offer consistent and continuous experiences
Today, consumers have instant access to an extensive range of buying options, they will not think twice while letting go of a brand in search of a superior experience. Even if one of the channels is lagging, the retailer will likely see a drop in customer loyalty. Hence, the value of a complete, continuous and consistency is priceless.

Leveraging emerging technologies
The right technology investment is vital to enabling an outstanding omni-channel customer experience. Retailers should equip their business operations with the right mix of emerging and effective technologies to fulfil consumers’ high expectations in this fast and frugal omni-channel age. Brands that can stay on the cutting edge of technology such as mobility, geo-targetting, smart devices for payments, augmented reality and many more are likely to emerge victorious.

While every retailer will bring a distinct omni-channel customer experience strategy to the table, brands will have to strive to provide a seamless, noteworthy customer experience across channels to meet consumer expectations.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

ETP Blog - Innovating retail business in the age of disruption

Disruption through technology has revolutionized many industries and one such industry, perhaps, where the impact has been most visible is retail. At the turn of the millennium, technology has brought about a huge shake-up in retail, in two ways:-
i) By bringing about a change in the perception of retailing and its customers,
ii) By adding more dimensions to the traditional methods of retailing

This disruption could very well prove to be a destruction of many retail businesses if they are unable to innovate and get it right. Every retailer has to think about getting better in a way that is different from the rest and work towards getting it right in this fast changing retail environment.

But what does innovation in retail really look like? Below are a few insightful perceptions;

-    Bridging the offline-online gap: Customers, frankly, don’t care if the retail business operates its brick-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce portal, separately or not. For them, it is only about getting their order fulfilled. It is up to the retailer to figure out the process to make sure they meet the customer expectations on time, budget and quality, no matter what channel they have used to make the purchase. 

-    Predicting the problems in advance: The importance of being proactive cannot be stressed upon more, considering the dynamics at play across the retail business. Retailers need to use the art and science of forecasting not only sales and profits, but also pain points that could surface in the future.

-    Data driven retailing: Any retail business can be successful if it has the required resources to track, collect, measure and analyze data. The outcome of the analysis would definitely equip retailers to take calculated risks rather than simply going by their intuitions. Greater the risk, better would be the returns.

-    Going beyond the customer experience: Great customer experience is no more the ‘be all and end all’ of retailing. It should be a relationship that every customer has with their preferred brand or product, and thus other entities involved. Of course, the service and experience will help build and strengthen this relationship. Hence retailers need to provide a better and distinguishing experience for customers to get hooked on and stay loyal.