13 years, 8 months ago

Retail Technology Emerging Themes

Link: http://eamitabh.blogspot.com/2010/09/retail-technology-emerging-themes.html

I recently attended a Retail Technology Summit here in London where a healthy mix of CIOs, CTOs, and business leaders exchanged, shared and debated the emerging trends of IT in the Retail sector. With technology and business leaders from retail players such as M&S, Argos, Game, New Look, Boots, ASOS, Aurora and Comet coming together under one roof, I walked in with some expectations regarding the quality and content of the conference. And I am glad to report that I was not disappointed at all. Here are the highlights and major themes I gathered from this conference.

• Buying behaviour, buyer’s age, preferences, access channels, quality, value and delivery expectations are changing fast and the technology partners (internal and external) need to evolve with the speed of business. IT strategy needs to match the business rhythm.

• One of the major IT challenges for Retail is legacy merchandising systems which support highly customised business operations. IT should be fit for business and IT leaders need to resist temptation to make it complicated or complex.

• IT needs to respond with equal focus on people, process and systems. Focussing on one or two will tilt the balance and ignore at least one critical aspect of business.

• Impact of technology varies on business model and this needs to be anticipated and strategies need to be defined to in response to this variation. For example; IT plays a vital role and is an essential component in bringing products to market for major online retailers such as ASOS and PhotoBox. Whereas for New Look it is an enabler.

• When everyone in the Retail sector is competing with similar ideas, getting funds from business to something different and risky is the challenge but it needs to be managed with a Portfolio approach towards IT management.

• Social media is fast emerging as THE channel to listen to customers who are expressing themselves and demanding new trends with best value of money.

• Loyalty and CRM still makes sense and knowing your customers, knowing their shopping preferences and rewarding them for repeat business is vital to growing business and tapping in repeat business segment.

• The eCommerce ownership should stay with business or marketing. IT organisations should act as an enabler and/or driver depending on the business model but in all cases, the business, commercial, financial aspects should drive eCommerce evolution.

• Partnership with other (non-competing) retailers and technology providers is key to optimise resources and benefit from research and technology advances without committing to major capital expenditure.

• Technology vendors need to help stores get smarter, innovative and effective.

• Quote of the conference for me came from Adrian Thompson of New Look when he said that, “One can have fancy taps in the bathroom but it still needs plumbing. The retail sector was hot on POS systems yesterday, ePOS systems today and multi-channel systems tomorrow but enabling technology is still the key to success.”