Burgeoning retailers must consider technology investments
The retail industry is thriving. While competition remains fierce and individual retail chains may feel pressured by the fact that customers have more options than ever, the sector as a whole is on the up and up.
The 2015 Retail Outlook conducted by Harris Poll and CIT Group made the upward trajectory of the retail industry very apparent. As many as 8 in 10 retailers offered up a positive view of their company’s current financial situation reporting their companies are incredibly healthy, even more so than in 2014. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they expect at least a 6 percent increase in total sales for the year.
“Despite challenges related to technology adoption and the ability to buy anything anywhere, retailers are embracing change,” the report added. “They are making new investments in products, expanding their digital strategy and becoming more comfortable with social media as a tool for multiple facets of their business.”
Unlocking growth with the right tools
While many merchants may have been uneasy investing in the future when coming out of the economic recession, the fact of the matter is that people are spending more money and merchants that are not forward thinking run the risk of falling behind. One of the biggest facilitators of growth is technology investments – modern eCommerce solutions play a pivotal role in helping merchants accomplish more with fewer resources.
The challenge many sellers have encountered, however, is that their existing technology does not fit the bill anymore. Perhaps they have shifted in new directions, added new channels, entered new target markets, refined their offerings to a niche or taken one of any many approaches to their business – just as a merchant’s goals and objectives are always changing and evolving, so too do their tech requirements and demands.
Unfortunately, technology is expensive. This leads to retailers hanging on to systems and trying to make them work for far too long, which actually may hinder growth at some point. They wind up getting bogged down trying to make their systems work instead of realizing that it may just be better to replace these legacy systems with new tools and solutions that meet their current and future needs, rather than the requirements of the past.
If retailers hope to achieve growth, 2015 may be the best time to take a long, hard look at the solutions they are currently using and reconsidering their options.
Knowing when to move on
Investing in new technology is a major expense, but in the long run, it often pays off, whether it is by improving transparency, bolstering operations, automating laborious tasks or making other critical moves. Many merchants have been in the position where they realize they need to make changes to their technology, and doing so allows them to unlock future growth.
National Roper’s Supply, a multichannel Western lifestyle retailer, is a great example of a retailer that needed to significantly overhaul its technology solutions to capitalize on new opportunities. The company has grown significantly over the last 25 years, opening new brick-and-mortar locations as well as a thriving eCommerce site and catalog channel. After expanding to so many different avenues, the retailer noted its current solutions no longer gave it the cross-channel visibility needed to capitalize on various opportunities. Additionally, the legacy system did not give NRS the robust capabilities need to manage a robust eCommerce empire, requiring many tasks to be done manually.
“We had outgrown our existing retail management system, plain and simple,” Kerrie Thornton, purchasing manager at NRS, told Retail Solutions Online. “The system we had been using was designed for a business much smaller than ours. It was an efficient tool for the company when we were of a certain size, but the business had grown to the point where we exceeded the tool’s capacity.”
Making key upgrades allowed the retailer to tie together brick-and-mortar locations, warehouses, Web channels and call centers in a quick and effective manner. Operations across all channels could be synchronized smoothly and effectively, allowing the seller to capitalize on new opportunities as they presented themselves.
NRS is only one example of how merchants can utilize new technology to capitalize on growth potential. With the industry as a whole on the rise, merchants need to take a critical look at the tools they are currently using and carefully evaluate whether they meet their current requirements, or perhaps even the needs of tomorrow. If they do not, merchants may wind up falling behind competitors, which is never where they want to be in such a bustling sector.