New technology can be one of the best investments you make in your retail business. The right solutions can improve your bottom line, your employee productivity and your customer satisfaction. On the other hand, implementing the wrong technology for your needs can hinder your profits, waste your employees’ time and lead to customer frustration.
How can you make sure you choose wisely? Keep these important points in mind as you pursue any new technology for your business to ensure you’re setting your enterprise up for success.
- Clearly define your business problem.
What pain is your business experiencing? Why does the problem need to be addressed? What’s the end goal of implementing a new technology to address it? Figuring out what you’re looking to improve and how that improvement fits into your overall strategy can provide clear direction on which solutions to implement.
- Decide who needs to be involved.
If the technology you’re considering will touch groups like operations, loss prevention or treasury, it’s a good idea to involve them in the discussion early. Once you’ve determined the stakeholders who will be most affected by a new implementation, consider the people you need to actually make it happen – your IT team. In a 2015 survey of retail execs, 47 percent cited IT issues as the key internal factor challenging their business goals. Often, this challenge could be avoided by including IT in your technology discussions from the beginning and allowing them to allocate resources and assist in strategizing implementation.
- Develop user stories.
As you’re selecting new technology, put yourself in an end user’s shoes. Write out scenarios to help you keep in mind how specific types of users will interact with the software, as well as the end goal of that interaction. Carefully considering how different types of users in your business will use the technology will keep you from being drawn into solutions that aren’t going to solve your business problem or offer features that won't be used.
- Decide whether you should build or buy.
Many retail operations have been tempted into the allure of having their own IT teams build a custom solution internally. After all, wouldn’t that be cheaper, easier and more customized? Don’t count on it. It also might be more time-consuming, less supported and less integrated with your other solutions. And while your team is building a new technology, what else aren’t they doing? In the 2015 survey mentioned earlier, only 13 percent of retail execs said they preferred in-house solutions.
- Understand the level of POS integration.
POS integration is crucial to many retail technologies, but the level of integration can vary based on the technology and the vendor. Ensure you know which features will be included and how developed the integration will be.
- Stay flexible on the budget.
Take care not to immediately dismiss solutions that fall outside your budget. If a solution addresses your problem thoroughly, it might bring additional savings and unconsidered benefits that will make it a better value in the end.
- Define the results you expect.
If you can’t predict an implementation’s performance and results, your purchasing team likely won’t approve the spend on new technology. To get a better idea of what you’ll get from your investment, ask about a no-commitment pilot period. Many vendors will allow a short trial in a handful of your stores to get a sample of the projected results or savings.
New technology is a big deal for your business – for the people who will use it, for the customers who will benefit from it directly or indirectly, and for your bottom line. Make the transition as smooth as possible by choosing the most appropriate solution for your needs. If you’re considering implementing a new solution in 2017 or 2018, check out this expanded guide for a more detailed version of these seven tips on selecting a new technology.