When we’re working on retail IT rollouts, there are four main considerations that help to guide us to the right outcome. Whether a few sites in a small area, or hundreds around Australia, the right knowledge goes a long way.
Even though we have a lot of experience in multi-site rollouts, we always learn a lot about customers from the retailers we work with. Of course, the best retailers have always had a focus on customer service, but today’s customers are changing. Customer trends are both driven by, and driving, retail technology.
Thanks to analytics, we can learn more about consumers and communities than ever before, to the extent that retailers can pinpoint with astonishing accuracy what products are needed in what volume at what time.
This deeper understanding can be a boon to those trying to get a customer-eye perspective on their purchasing experience. That knowledge has been fed into product design by Toshiba, leading to point-of-sale (POS) technology that makes the customer connect better with retailers. It led to the ‘aha’ moment that brought about the big-screen checkouts, and touch technology, that as customers helps us to play a more active part in our shopping experience.
Sure, in an ideal world, everyone would have generous budgets that don’t leave them making tough decisions. The reality, though, is that ever-tighter margins mean retailers have to make every cent count. Just because IT can lead to competitive advantage doesn’t mean a book of blank cheques.
There are a few culprits that lead to overspend … and if you multiply that by, say, fifty sites, they can be painfully expensive. Skimping on planning and training is a no-no if you want to avoid budget blow-out. A single problem can cause a ripple effect, and when you have technicians booked from Sydney to Broome, rescheduling can be nightmarish. Especially when the technicians are located in capital cities, and there are limited flights to regional centres.
The right technology choices come into play here too. The immediate spend is important, of course, but consider also which products are an investment that is versatile enough to withstand changes in your store environment. We’ve been impressed with Toshiba on this score too – it is positive to see a technology giant put solid resources into the retail sector.
The underlying networking technology matters when it comes to cost. Consolidation of networks and security devices is something we’re liking from Fortinet. Fortinet allows customers to reduce the cost of providing adaptive and comprehensive security services across the network.
Perhaps the biggest change of all is the sheer number of customer touchpoints, partner and supplier transactions and corporate applications. Choices that are easily rolled out and managed are a cost and sanity saver. Our friends at Fortinet say that complexity is the enemy of security, and they are right. They converge security and network platforms, so instead of wrestling with individual point products, you get a single, overarching security fabric. Simple and effective.
Ease of use for staff is also important. The more intuitive Toshiba POS systems, for example, are as easy to use as a smartphone. Aside from the obvious benefits in reduced training burden, the experience as a customer is far more enjoyable when the staff member is not distracted by complicated tasks. Confidence is compelling, and better supported sales people inevitably sell more items to happier customers.
Not surprisingly, retail is one of the most targeted industry sectors. As technology has become more pervasive, there are more potential entry points for cyber-criminals, so it pays to get smart about security.
We hosted some events with Fortinet, who really get the retail environment. Their experts are rightly focused on automated, advanced threat protection. Gone are the days when it was possible to rely on systems that deal with known problems; these days, with a mass of new risks emerging daily, you could spend all your time performing updates and still always be behind the cyber-criminals.
Security breaches have immense impact on customer confidence, so mitigating risks by identifying them early is key.
What we like best, though, is that you get to leverage Fortinet’s technology at store level – not only keeping the business running, but presenting some opportunities to attract and retain customers. The secure, smart network technologies now available are very much designed to get you ahead in the online shopping era, and we’re enjoying seeing our retail customers go from strength to strength in this arena.
As some of the world’s biggest names in retail disappear, the technology-savvy retailers are best positioned to see this era of transformation and international competition as an opportunity. With the right partner, Australian retailers can take on the world with confidence.
For more about powerful retail IT solutions, contact the experts at Computer Merchants.