This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2011 issue of InfoTECH
Technology is rewriting the playbook for the modern enterprise. To intelligently evolve and thrive in the new marketplace, retail enterprises must change to serve smarter customers. CIOs need insight into the next generation of enterprise mobility to enable that change and empower their workforce to provide excellence to customers, drive demand for products and services and impact the bottom line.
Today there is a fundamental shift of power from the retailer to the consumer for purchase decisions, impacting the retailer’s business proposition. Retailers must now find new ways to increase their value proposition to shoppers and regain influence on purchase decisions.
Advances in technology are forcing the way retailers do business, and all the while, the pace quickens. The traditional retail challenges of store operations, supply chain, marketing operations, regulatory compliance and information technology are now affected by trends that are shaping the future:
- Smart devices have taken over;
- Customers have more options;
- Social networks abound;
- Wireless data has exploded;
- Omni-channel shopping has developed;
- Machine-to-machine capabilities have expanded; and
- Context awareness has increased.
The biggest question CIOs must ask: Are we putting our business at risk by not accommodating our customers? A 2011 Motorola (News - Alert) Solutions survey found that retailers that aren't investing in technology to stay ahead of increasingly tech-savvy shoppers are hurting their own bottom line. Nearly three in 10 (28 percent) store visits ended with an average of $132 unspent due to abandoned purchases driven by deal-habituated behavior, out-of-stocks, limited store associate assistance and long check-out processes.
So how do you overcome these 21st century retail challenges?
When it comes to store operations, it is imperative to equip personnel to collaborate with shoppers, associates and vendors, enable consumer devices to connect to your network, and extend product availability and assortment beyond physical store inventory. In addition, you need to enable omni-channel capabilities, provide self-service solutions where needed and better manage tasks in the store.
By applying today’s technologies in new ways, store associates have all the tools they need to best serve your customers, right on the spot. With mobile computers, sales associates can: check their store and all other retail locations including the distribution center for a specific product; call for an item from the back room; check a price; complete a sale and more. Supply chain management must support the “I expect it now” culture, support direct consumer and private label supply chain challenges and enable/support omni-channel capabilities. You must also ensure frequent, more accurate updates to stock, optimize shelf schematics and compliance for better margin mix and ROI.
With marketing operations, it is important to exceed chief marketing officer demands for omni-channel brand environments, select technology designed to meet brand environment requirements, leverage the consumer device everywhere and recognize shoppers entering the store.
From an information technology standpoint, it is critical to manage a network for both associates and shoppers, manage the growing number of associate devices and types and meet the demands for voice, video and data on your network. Also, you need to balance the need for continuous innovation versus providing maintenance and support, and develop and manage applications for a broader suite of operating systems.
Turning Risk into Advantage
These challenges can also be opportunities for retailers to influence the path to purchase for shoppers and build loyalty at every step. An integrated voice and data computer allows store associates to perform whatever tasks are needed – without ever leaving the customer’s side. If a customer wants to see an item in a different size or color, associates can easily check inventory and find the exact location of the item in real-time – building better customer relationships that will drive future sales.
Retailers can influence the shopper’s choice by assuring that product assortment is optimized, shoppers are engaged at a personal level to create meaningful relationships, post-purchase offers and services are provided to keep them coming back, and shopper confidence is built in the brand experience provided.
It is also important to affirm the shopper’s choice and speed checkout through transactions that start from the moment shopping begins, checkout that occurs anywhere in the store, standard processes at point-of-purchase that are automated, and products that don’t have to be available in-store in order to capture the purchase.
In the end, it is imperative to balance business needs with company goals. IT can remain focused on strategy rather than day-to-day maintenance, associates are assured they have a fully-functional device at all times, and complete information on networks and devices are accessible in real time.
Jerry McNerney has had a series of leadership roles with Motorola Solutions in sales, marketing, product management and strategy following his time at AMR Research where he was a senior analyst driving enterprise business improvement with technology