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7 resolutions retail CIOs need to keep in 2016

Sharon Goldman | Jan. 6, 2016
As online shopping begins to overtake in-store spending, customer demand for a seamless, predictable shopping experience means there’s more at stake for the retail CIO than ever before.

4. I will take a louder, more influential voice at the table. 

Given that successful retail operations are predicated on innovative and agile technology, well beyond the back office and in the hands of associates and consumers, retail CIOs should take on a louder, more influential voice in 2016, says Rob Garf, vice president of Industry Strategy and Insights at Demandware. “Retail CIOs were often viewed as techies that were tasked with ‘keeping the lights on’, but they are increasingly seen as leaders who are chartered with continually enabling innovative business operations,” he says. Historically, it was general merchandise managers who had the biggest voice because the business was all about the product. Now, product, consumer, and technology are deeply intertwined, making the CIO critical to strategic planning. 

5. I will break out of my technology comfort zone. 

Rapid changes in retail mean CIOs must meet new market demands by testing and adapting to new technology. But how do you break out of your technology comfort zone without taking on too much risk? Focus on software applications and deploy pilots targeted to specific business challenges, says Kim Warne at Tyco Retail Solutions. “It can be difficult for IT teams to make the changes they want due to limited resources and competing priorities,” she says. “Focus on areas with low barriers to entry and can deliver against a defined business use case — and make sure your investment is modular and scalable across the business so you can add functionality and expand as it makes sense.” 

6. I will tackle BOPIS fulfillment failures. 

More and more customers expect that their favorite retailer will offer BOPIS, or the option to buy online and pick up in the store. But according to Cognizant’s 2015 Shopper Experience Study, 60 percent of shoppers reported some sort of service failure when picking up their BOPIS purchase, says Cognizant’s Skinner. “This is a glaring issue that should be on the list for every CIO to check once and check twice going into Christmas 2016,” he says. Issues can range from store associates that pick out the wrong color to delivering to the store on time. “There are a whole host of process, inventory and supply chain management issues that go into the creation of a world-class BOPIS model,” he says. 

7. I will use more big data analytics instead of relying on gut instincts. 

Retailers are being hit with a data explosion beyond just transactional data, brought on by the rise of omnichannel, social and mobile, as well as new data on location, preferences, and interactions, says Sudhir Holla, senior vice president with retail analytics provider Ugam. “Retail CIOs need to not only manage all of this data, but also providing merchants and marketing teams with the ability to derive insights,” he says. One client, he explains, improved margins significantly not by touching price, but by selectively improving product descriptions and images based on a Big Data analysis. Another leveraged product reviews and Google search trends to allow merchants to directly view what the consumers want, as opposed to looking at historical sales data or going with gut decisions. “This led to a complete revamp of their assortment,” he says.


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