February 7, 2020 - It’s a challenging time to be guiding a retailer. That’s probably an eternal truism, but it’s more appropriate than ever, with shrinking budgets, pressure from digital retailing, evolving customer expectations, and an explosion of (sometimes competing) technologies offering to change the customer experience and improve retail operations.
The target isn’t just moving, it’s got caffeine jitters. But as the saying goes, another word for crisis is opportunity. And with the right strategy, you can leverage these challenges into success for you and the business – as long as you are able to effectively manage change.
The Internet of Things has opened the floodgates on new technologies and use cases designed to improve retail operations. But it’s clear that your business can’t adopt all the technologies vying for your attention – from new analytics tools to smart shelves to beacons and tracking systems, there are more solutions than any budget can accommodate.
Know the challenges
Rather than pumping the brakes, however, find ways to work with passionate technology advocates within your organization to implement the best solutions for the business. An important and often overlooked adage: Not every solution needs to be fast-tracked, and there are many pitfalls to deploying multiple use cases simultaneously and “failing fast.”
In addition, some promising technologies have significant dependencies on technology or logistics that you don’t already have in place or are too challenging to deploy all at once.
It makes sense to deploy a foundation – like an IoT platform – on which targeted solutions can then be tested against the most promising use cases.
Understand the scenarios
And which use cases are those? It’s essential to understand which scenarios are most likely to pay back the business, whether they be projects designed to automate back-of-store operations, streamline inventorying, or improving the customer experience.
Choosing the first test cases carefully, with the right scope and potential return, can make a huge difference to your long-term success. Be realistic about the timeframe you need to measure meaningful results, and be prepared to advocate common sense approaches to other decision makers.
After all, many technologies take longer to recoup their investment than it first seems, but that doesn’t make them bad investments. According to a McKinsey study, a business’s first 15 or so IoT use cases typically have a modest payback. Keep that in mind and be wary of loading tech initiatives with too many organizational expectations.
Shorter deployment cycles
With that in mind, one way to help your business reach its goals is to bake a continuous delivery model into your development workflow.
The shorter your deployment cycles, the more readily you can put new systems into the hands of people who need them the most – be it sales staff on the retail floor, inventory or purchasing managers, or marketing pros who need better data to understand the customer and build campaigns.
This requires being able to upgrade core systems without significant downtime and making sure that the folks building the tech understand their customer’s needs.
But more than anything else, stay agile. That means keeping the organization poised for continuous improvement and deploying technology that supports the needs of the business, whether that’s leaning into AI-powered fraud prevention tools, or embarking on a revolutionary transformation, like implementing an Amazon Go-style queueless checkout system.