News Feature | July 19, 2017

4 Questions Retailers Should Ask Before Making Technical Investments

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Report Helps Retailers Evaluate Their Digital initiatives to improve their bottom line.

As retailers like Nike are establishing direct-to-consumer options on Amazon and traditional brick-and-mortar stores like Macy’s are investing in digital strategies both in-store and online, there is an emerging  need for retailers to evaluate how to approach their digital initiatives in a way that will truly benefit their bottom line.

Though the retail industry has a much more established digital framework than many industries, retailers are still learning how to prioritize tech that provides value to customers, rather than implementing flashy, “cool” tech. In fact, just 35 percent of retailers strongly agree that their users can move easily and seamlessly across devices, making it difficult to properly service customer needs.

To help address this need, PointSource’s Retail Digital Transformation Report highlights the areas retailers need to focus in order to successfully implement digital strategies that meet customer expectations. In addition to weighing routine factors like budget, retailers should think critically about the following questions before making technical investments:

  • Does this support and/or enhance the ideal customer journey? While certain technologies are popular with customers or competitors, retailers must assess whether or not they are actually valuable to their own customers and business.
  • Is this technology easy to use and sustainable long term? The report notes that 80 percent of retailers are currently unsatisfied with one or more of the systems their organization relies upon. To make proper use of third-party integrations and partnerships, retailers need to update their existing digital infrastructure to be compatible with outsourced assistance.
  • Does this solution help deliver on brand promises? The report asserts, “Retailers should make technology investments with the goal of complementing their core brand promises and value propositions, not just for the sake of having a tech offering.”
  • Is this investment a champion of omnichannel commerce? Omnichannel is here to stay, and retailers need to be able to address the specific needs across all platforms, even though less than half of retailers currently report that they are able to do so.

The report concludes that the deficiencies revealed by the answers to these questions point to the need for cloud-based solutions, which make collaboration and integration easy but also offer the agility to execute updates quickly or pursue changes across many business units simultaneously.  And, the report states, “Cloud-based solutions ensure a consistent experience for customers no matter where they interact with a retailer, and are now essential to all areas of business.”

According to the report, “There’s no magic formula for retail success. Profit comes from implementing internal processes and mindsets that respond to quick market changes, powered by technologies that can adapt and scale just as fast.” And retailers need to insure that the proper supports and systems are in place to keep pace with shoppers; without these, retailers are forced into reactive rather than proactive activity.

From a macro perspective, retail must address the pressing issue of the existing gap between user expectations and retailers’ current digital capabilities. From a micro perspective, retailers are struggling to find internal alignment and to invest in solutions that provide long-term value and flexibility, the report concludes.

One particular challenge, the report finds, is that “Although retailers understand the importance of innovation, many prioritize the sexier side of their industry (UX and design) over architectural and developmental technology needs that create scalable businesses and relationships.”