The desperate need for speed in retail today

Shopping, like most other things today, is expected to be efficient, personalised and stress-free. This is particularly true for tech-savvy shoppers and millennials who are accustomed to having everything at their fingertips.

For many retailers, the pivotal question now is how can they meet these demands at the lightning speed that customers expect?

Along with the challenge of delivering service at a great speed, there is also the challenge of staying ahead of the competition when it comes to deploying game-changing technology.

The imperative to offer an “unmatchable customer experience” is placing greater emphasis on speed-to-market as retailers use software to win, serve and retain customers.

>See also: Retail IT: why can’t you be more like Amazon?

In the current environment, information is freely shared and collaboration is no longer bound by physical or geographic limits. Retailers have to reinvent themselves to remain relevant to their customers and their ever-changing demands.

The only constant in the rapidly evolving world of retail is change. Constant change in customer demands comes with the need for flexibility, and retailers must be able to adapt in order to keep up with this evolving marketplace.

Busy shopping days like Black Friday generate opportunities for retailers, yet these peaks in demand also create a more pressurised environment. One-third of retailers surveyed in a report by BT and Ovum said pressure is increasing year-on-year as these promotional activities gain greater traction.

To manage sudden influxes of consumer activity from all sides, businesses require lightweight, agile and adaptable systems with in-built analytic capacities that are scalable on demand.

Yet in BT’s survey, 66% of retailers were still using on-premise systems that lack the necessary flexibility. More worryingly, 80% of the retailers said they devote their time to updating and maintaining these systems, with only 13% using their resources to actually transform applications for the digital age.

Furthermore, most existing systems offer little or no comprehensive customer insight across product and channel, inhibiting the retailer’s capacity to offer a personalised service.

Essentially, legacy systems are slowing retailers down, preventing them from delivering innovation. Retailers need to act now to meet the demands of the customer with the speed and efficiency that they expect.

So which technologies can retailers invest in to relieve the pressure on staff and have the greatest impact on customer experience, especially on busy shopping days?

Retailers need to invest in systems that offer a comprehensive view of the customer across product, department and channel. This will directly impact the retailers’ ability to offer a consistent, personalised and satisfying customer experience.

On-premise systems do not always have the agility required for today’s retail world. They require frequent updates, patches and fixes to ensure they are able to support rapidly evolving requirements.

Another major drawback of these orthodox systems is their ineffectiveness to offer functionalities that support strategic initiatives in a rapidly evolving business environment.

According to the Ovum report, most retailers consider their existing systems incapable of providing key functionalities to augment fast-paced changes needed.

>See also: Retailers are missing out on £6.6 billion a year by not being 'mobile first'

It is also increasingly obvious that technology is rapidly erasing the once sharp line between in-store retail and e-commerce. Retailers have to embrace sophisticated technology that can help predict demand, manage and move inventory, and provide customers with a seamless experience across channels.

In the process, they need to seek out and work with providers that can bring the right formula of technology skills, processes, and tools to enable this.

Retail is one of the most rapidly changing industries in the world. To keep up with it, it is imperative retailers embrace the technology that allows them to predict demand, manage inventories and provide customers with a seamless omnichannel experience.

Working with service providers and opting for cloud-enabled solutions could help retailers cut management costs, reduce pressure, and shift focus back to the customer.


Sourced from Mark Denton, head of retail propositions, BT Expedite

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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