From The Editor | July 6, 2009

Is Your Retail Software Packed To Go Global?

Without A Queue

By John Roach, Editor, Retail Solutions Online

New Raymark president Marc Chriqui proudly proclaims his Montreal-based company "world-ready." The privately held retail software vendor has offices in Canada, France, and China, as well as a core product developed specifically to support retail globalization.

Raymark's suite of retail management software programs has multicurrency, multilingual, and multitax capabilities to ease and speed retailers' entrance into new global markets. It also provides retailers worldwide with a range of applications, including POS, merchandising and CRM, planning and analysis, automated replenishment, and mobile retail.

Chriqui took over as Raymark president on June 10, succeeding his father Claude, who will continue as CEO and chairman of the board. Prior to joining Raymark in 2007, Chriqui spent more than a decade as a software architect and tech consultant for numerous industries, including retail. I recently spoke with him about retailers' expectations from software vendors, the growth of globalization and mobile retail, and the pain points facing retailers today.

What factors should retailers consider when evaluating retail management software vendors?

Retailers' bottom lines are completely affected by how much stock they turn over, so the cornerstones they should consider are: Will they achieve ROI with the solution? Is there a fit between their business model and the vendor? Does the vendor's offering coincide with what they want to accomplish today and in the future?

In other words, they should select a vendor who thinks like a retailer?

Exactly. Our employees have specialized retail experience — we talk retail, and we're focused exclusively on it. While our customers are pretty evenly distributed across roughly five major verticals — apparel, jewelry, footwear, specialty retail, and cosmetics — we're adaptable to many verticals.

Plus, because we think like a retailer, our products are completely customer-driven. We don't pretend to know more about the retailer's business model than they do. We include our retail customers in product development, so they help us build a specific application to solve a retail business problem.

We understand that margins are typically difficult to achieve in retail. We know that spending needs to be streamlined. We know that retailers need predictable costs. There are horror stories out there of retailers going bankrupt on huge implementations that just didn't work out for them. From our perspective, that's a sin. We've seen a lot of cycles in retail and we want retailers to know we understand what they're going through.

A big problem facing retailers today is the need for quicker ROI. How are you responding to that?

Our deployment and our approach is one of speed, flexibility, and adaptability. We don't roll out in three years for $3 million. We pride ourselves on rapid, affordable rollouts, which lead to a quick ROI for the customer — and that's what helps in this economy. And our customers tell us they love our approach; one customer called us "the best-kept secret in retail."

What are some of the other key customer needs and pain points you're seeing in the retail market?

One huge pain point is customer acquisition and retention. Retailers are first concerned about getting customers through the door, and then they want to raise their sales conversion ratio. That's what it's all about. So once the retailer has achieved that, and there's enough customer retention, then it's all about the pillars of retail: customers, inventory, and productivity. Our goal is to deliver the tools to make sure retailers deliver on those pillars.

We also want to help retailers build better "front doors" for customers. Traditionally the front door has been brick-and-mortar, but we're enhancing our multichannel offering to enable retailers to reach out to customers wherever they are. [Click here for a related story.] Two types of mobility are in play here: customers with texting, iPhones, etc.; and retailers with mobile POS, mobile CRM, and mobile inventory management. Mobile POS is huge; that's going to be very important for us in the future.

While we're looking ahead, how do you envision retail software evolving over the next five years?

I think the software has to adapt to globalization. As a retail software vendor, we must provide solutions that enable retailers quickly to do business in different regions of the world, because retailers are going to have to adapt to the speed of a changing market. It's important for them to be able to open a store in Madrid as quickly as they can open one in Helsinki or Shanghai, if they're going to keep up with the competitive landscape.

We're a world-ready, end-to-end vendor. By that, I mean we're multilingual and we're currently installed in 38 countries. We've been international from day one; that's our edge. We're the vendor you should go with when you quickly need to diversify your business into other regions, especially due to these difficult economic times.

Aside from globalization, what are the other emerging trends in retail software design?

There is a strong push towards niche functionality. Retailers are often searching for specific functions that will allow them to accomplish a particular task or help them differentiate themselves. The software has to have the ability to adapt quickly to these niche scenarios. Multidevice and multichannel capabilities, as well as CRM capabilities, are also crucial as retailers struggle to find new ways of understanding and reaching their customers.

How does the economy change how retailers look for a software vendor?

The down economy is a challenge for everyone. But it also forces everyone to find value and to only spend on value, not on other factors such as the vendor's overhead, which is attributed to the cost of business optimization. We're doing well because we specialize in retail. Retail software vendors need to be adaptable and to have a constant focus on service, something that can be lost when vendors consolidate and forget about the personal touch. A proven track record, nimbleness, special attentiveness, and respect for the retailer — that will take you a long way in this economy.

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