Retailers must resolve to address the challenges and opportunities that have been presented this year from the consumer use of mobile technology in order to prepare and take advantage of the coming demands. We all know that technology does not stand still and this is doubly true of consumer embraced technology. I see the retail industry on the cusp of a major upheaval from mobile technology and the expansion of Internet connectivity and wireless network capabilities (the Internet of Things). This will require retailers to define and implement a strategy that provide a flexible foundation and the framework to experiment with technologies and capabilities at an increasing rate.
This in not an impossible or overwhelming requirement if taken in steps that focus on flexibility and collaboration across technology, partners, platforms and networks. In other words, the retailers must implement a flexible and robust continuous improvement program that is build on a flexible foundation of collaborative technology. That is quite a mouthful of multi-syllable words however it simply comes down to a strategy of continuous improvement building on a technical foundation that is easy to modify through configuration and bolt-on tools. While this is a simple concept to discuss and agree upon, it is also very difficult to implement for many retailers due to the level of legacy technology and applications supporting their business. This is especially difficult for large brick and mortar based retailers that have expanded into eCommerce in the last five to ten years.
It is not reasonable to expect retailers to replace their legacy systems and implement new state-of-the-art technology for two reason;
- The first is the prohibitive nature of the cost a major overhaul or replacement initiative.
- The second is the futility of replacing your business management ERP every time there is an improvement. This is especially true in older and more established retailers that may have heavily customized their legacy ERP software.
The winning strategy is one that manages utilizing a continuous improvement strategy that will support incremental improvements and software implementations on a regular basis to support new requirements. This requires implementing an integration layer that insulates the foundation business supporting ERP from the externally facing customer and eCommerce platforms. This strategy of insulating the base ERP and continuous improvement of the customer and eCommerce facing platforms will allow for the retailer to improve flexibility and capabilities to take advantage of new mobile and eCommerce technology as it develops.
It is important to develop this flexibility in the customer facing platforms because of the rate of change and the quickening of this change. Without this layer of flexibility allowing the retailer to turn on a dime, they would quickly be left behind as a result of the rate of change currently being driven by the technology.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?