As the autumn air turns crisp and the leaves fall, retailers around the country are gearing up for what they hope is a highly profitable holiday season. But besides making sure they’re fully stocked with the holiday gifts customers want, they are also taking stock of everything they learned in 2015 – so they can up their game after the New Year rolls around.
This is particularly true in the realm of sophisticated technology tools, which can now be found in every nook and cranny of today’s leading retail organizations – from up and down the supply chain and every corner of the store, across marketing departments, and, of course, at the very core of ecommerce and mobile. Savvy retailers know that in order to compete in a fast-paced landscape of demanding customers looking for shopping Nirvana through smartphones and social media, they need to keep up with constantly evolving technology at every turn.
These are seven big lessons retailers learned in 2015, with an eye towards 2016 success:
1. Sales associates need to be tech-empowered
In 2015, retailers learned that sales associates can no longer be focused on the details of just one location, but have insight into available inventory across the brand’s full network, as well as an understanding of customer preferences and transaction histories,” says Vikas Aron, director at Manhattan Associates, a supply chain software provider. “Essentially, they are selling the enterprise, not just the stock of one location, and as such they must act as enterprise sales associates.” That means retailers must focus on training their associates to use and understand technology tools not only to serve in-store customers, but pick, pack and ship inventory and handle omnichannel orders and questions.
2. Omnichannel is not a choice
Retailers spent 2015 embracing the notion of omnichannel – that is, streamlining and improving the use of multiple channels along a shopper’s journey, from researching online and checking prices on mobile phones to buying in-store – because customers are demanding it, says Oliver Guy, retail practice head at digital business platform Software AG. “Omnichannel is no longer a choice,” he says. “It has to be an integral part of a retailer’s overall transformation strategy to meet growing customer needs and expectations,” he says. The challenge for 2016 will be to leap over serious technology hurdles, he adds. “Existing systems and processes are optimized for a single-channel world and retailers must introduce new processes, increased levels of visibility and increased automation to deal with the additional complexity of omnichannel.”
3. Cyber-crime isn’t going anywhere
EMV, encryption and tokenization technologies, meant to prevent fraud, have been adopted by more US retailers than ever, thanks to October’s EMV compliance deadline and liability shift. But in 2015 retailers learned that cyber-crime – especially the type associated with POS malware attacks – would not decline, says Jay Townsend, senior associate in Booz Allen’s retail business. “The operational urgency of POS malware attacks will only increase and could be more ambitious against major retailers as criminals attempt to gain access and take advantage of existing vulnerabilities,” he says. As a result, he explains, in 2015 many top retailers began to implement more sophisticated cyber security operations centers to integrate cyber threat intelligence, threat defense operations, and vulnerability management capabilities.
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