How to keep IT in retail lean, mean and focused on added value

The margins in retail are notoriously tight and historically there has been a tendency for retailers to be reluctant to invest heavily in IT infrastructure because the retailer would prefer to invest in the shop floor or product development.

Now that there is an undeniable shift towards Omni-channel retail opportunities for retail brands to use social media outlets for direct sales and improve access to product range.  Retailers are looking to increase mobile sales and the growth of in-store tablet sales to increase product range to face-to-face customer.

So now IT investment can be justified in terms of direct sales opportunity as well as supporting other departments in accessing business intelligence data for better customer insight.

This has led to a fundamental shift in the types of expertise that is needed in IT within the Retail industry:

Retail is a notoriously lean business focused very firmly on profit margins and that goes for my department too and I just cannot afford to have the level of expertise and experience, provided by data integrators like KETL, in-house.  The flexibility of the relationship that we have with KETL means that we have support on tap to mitigate single issues, to maintain platform stability, whilst being able to buy-in extra help from KETL at times of transition and development.  When you are a company driving change, this kind of flexibility is invaluable to help you to manage peaks and troughs in development, and that is when I need KETL to take our department’s levels of expertise and experience up a notch.

Pete Byrne, former Head of IT at Monsoon Accessorize

Customer insight no longer limited to just improving sales

Store planning and growth strategies can now be informed via predictive customer analytics. By linking geographic data to store sales and product data retailers can see where they need to locate new stores. Using beacon technology for example, product development and product pricing can be informed quickly with customer feedback, before being rolled out or withdrawn.

In-store retail strategy better informed

Finding out what makes stores the best destination for off-line shoppers is another area where technology is really starting to develop the importance of customer analytics. Again, using beacon technology, stores can gather data about whether particular kinds of in-store refreshment outlets or extra customer assistants have an impact on sales.

Big data needs infrastructure

But all of this information does need to be stored, managed and accessed securely and at speed. This is where the systems in place to store and extract data between sources become essential to the basic functioning of the retail business not just ‘nice to have’.

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