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Three new year's resolutions for retailers

16th Jan 2017
CTO Red Ant
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Retail resolutions for 2017

Following what can safely be called an ‘interesting’ 2016, it’s time to start building the future. For retailers, this means committing to a roadmap for renewal and innovation.

Out with the old, in with the new

Of course, every business is different and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ process, but here are three key resolutions which should resonate with most retailers:

Resolution 1 - feel the fear and do it anyway

First and foremost, it’s essential to break out of the ‘no decision is better than the wrong decision’ mindset which has frozen the progress of some retailers in the past. New technologies and new ways to use them are happening all the time – waiting to see which one is best to invest in is like trying to place a bet when the race is already run. Agile processes and lean development cycles have made it possible to try out new technologies without investing a fortune, so there’s really no excuse for inaction. This means:

  • taking practical steps to remove any remaining barriers between customer journeys – many retailers say they want to break down silos, but surprisingly few have actually done so. Connecting online with offline should be your first move – the very least a customer expects is getting the same service whether they’re on your website or in-store
  • having a well-defined strategy for innovation based on customer need rather than retail trends, and making sure it involves the whole company
  • having the confidence to try out innovative approaches, from click-and-collect to more adventurous projects such as virtual assistants or cognitive sales tools. If an initiative doesn’t work, resolve to allow yourself to ditch it and move on – it’s the only way to keep pace with tech and find out if it’s right for your customers.

Resolution 2 - sort out your data

According to global research experts IDC, we will be generating 44 zettabytes of data by 2020 – that’s nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. Just how to handle the management and security of this huge and ever-growing amount of data is proving to be something of a headache across every industry. For retailers, being clever with data means not only safeguarding the privacy and security of customers but also increasing opportunities for business, which is why resolution number two should be a commitment to ‘doing something about it’.

It’s a significant challenge, but it needs to be faced head-on because it’s not going to get any easier – once the IoT takes hold, data management will become a lot more complicated. This means:

  • identifying and prioritising your primary concerns across the whole business - security, privacy, customer profiling etc
  • carrying out a cost/benefit analysis to quantify the real cost to your business of having/not having a solid strategy for data
  • getting expert advice on how best to deal with it for your business, from using the right platform to marshall and mine your data to adopting appropriate security measures to prevent misuse and inspire customer confidence

Resolution 3 – invest in your sales colleagues

You can’t deliver a great customer experience without great sales colleagues. And you won’t get great performance from your sales colleagues if they feel insecure, underinformed or dispassionate about their work. In an industry where change has become a permanent feature from working practices to technology, your final resolution for 2017 should be to make sure this change is seen as not only positive but inspiring. This means:

  • taking time to find out how your sales colleagues really feel and identify their pain points – do they have access to all the information they need, for example, and do they have the right tools to do their job well?
  • acting on your findings – carrying out a satisfaction survey and shelving the results can be more demoralising than doing nothing at all
  • making sure your sales colleagues have at least the same level of technology as the customers they’re expected to serve – according to Sungard, 33% of UK workers say they would be ‘embarrassed’ to work for a company without the latest digital tools, and 21% have actually left a company because they didn’t have the right tech tools to remain competitive

While the ever-increasing pace of tech development is by no means the only challenge facing the retail industry, it’s at the heart of a number of its key revenue-generating activities. Committing to these three resolutions will at the very least provide a foundation for what’s to come, and at best enable you to initiate innovations to match your competitors, inspire your sales colleagues and impress your customers.

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