By Garry Church, Inmar
Retailer buying decisions on technology are
all too often influenced by the latest trends and reflect the “flavor of the
month.” While that’s understandable, it’s critical to remember that retail is
all about people. The customers who spend their hard-earned income with them
should be a retailer’s North Star when assessing retail technology options.
Here are three questions to ask yourself that
will help keep the decision-making process simple and ultimately help you
retain existing customers as well as acquire new ones.
the “plumbing” running smoothly?
If you’re bolting together a bunch of tech
that doesn’t communicate effectively, interact smoothly or measure results then
you have your first priority set immediately. This kind of approach increases
the probability of a negative customer experience and can be a recipe for
Some major retailers like Lowe’s have, in the
past, struggled with connectivity and other technology issues. Now, however,
the company appears to have started to turn the corner. Ideally addressing less
than optimal interaction between their POS system and their MyLowesCard, Lowe’s
is investing in a new tech hub to enable greater data sharing
throughout the organization and enable more effective decision making and
improved customer support.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are gaining
ground on retailers but too often they lose customers before a full conversion
because halfway through the purchase process the links don’t work, the PayPal
experience isn’t cleanly integrated for example, and ultimately carts are
Convenience stores don’t get a lot of Internet
airplay or national media love but have you been to a QuikTrip lately? They
“get it.” The associate handling checkout is often operating two registers at
the same time and they’re still getting people out the door quickly. They can
do this because they have invested wisely in maximizing the speed of their POS.
(Not to mention having well-trained associates!)
Cashierless is great for many retailers but
there are too many age-restricted items in c-stores for this channel to solve
for that just yet. This optimized throughput increases the probability of a
repeat trip since speed is a big decision-driver for consumers when they’re
choosing a c-store.
your technology reducing friction and allowing customers to do more with less? (Are you providing convenience, saving time and enabling
Rarely do you hear references to “big brother”
anymore as consumers have become comfortable with providers appropriately
leveraging their data to create personalized experiences. Their expectations
have increased exponentially.
It’s about more than simply maximizing the
return on customer spend — retail tech investments should make shopping faster,
more convenient and help make customers’ lives easier. The examples below are
technology investments aimed at improving the shopper experience:
Scan & Go at Sam’s Club
Go at Giant Eagle
your tech stack arming your business with valuable customer data? (Does the data deliver actionable insights that you can easily
disseminate throughout the organization to drive business decisions?)
Retailers don’t have the resources to
interpret data at the speed and scale of individual teams and departments. In
the age of IT sprints, limited resources and consistently stretched goals,
retailers have to arm all departments with the data they need to be successful.
Retailers need technology partners that do
more than provide snazzy dashboards. They need partners who can make actionable
recommendations for increasing profitability and/or reducing costs. They don’t
outsource for gnarly graphics; they outsource for partners to support their
strategic objectives and solve their challenges.
We’re in a period when private equity
funding is high and, as a result, goals can be aggressive. It’s easy to make
short-sighted decisions that fit nicely into a pitchbook story to drive up a
multiple. But, keep in mind, whether you’re a retailer (or a vendor supporting
retailers) you must maintain a customer-centric mindset. Ask yourself these
three questions, use the answers to guide your tech investment decisions and
you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor in the form of customers who are not only
willing to spend their money with you — but are also happy to share their
positive experiences with friends.
Garry Church, VP of Enterprise Retail
at Inmar, is passionate about driving
growth in retail. His background consists of leadership roles in a broad
spectrum of organizations ranging from startup to Fortune 50; most of which
have been owned by private equity. A combination of retail experience at Lowe’s
Home Improvement and CPG turnaround success with Rug Doctor has imbued Church with
a unique lens through which to view retail. He remains a student of the
industry and versatile leader that has consistently demonstrated success in
retail-centric solutions of tech-enabled services, supply chain, healthcare and
marketing. When he’s not reading about,
listening to or writing about retail, you’ll find him competing in triathlons
around the retail mecca of Northwest Arkansas.