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Tech offers infinite opportunity to retailers

By GARETH HAWKEY, CEO redPanda Group

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Although the local economy is creating a tough operating environment for South African retailers, technology is providing near-infinite opportunities for savvy retailers to drive sales and bottom-line growth. From seamless online shop fronts to digitally enabled payment systems, the right technology – underpinned by the most suitable retail software – can transform small retailers into global players, and established retailers into innovators and trailblazers within their vertical. Understandably, however, many decision-makers within retail are daunted by the question of what technology and software to employ within their environment. Retail technology, and technology in general, is fast changing…and it is nearly impossible to stay abreast of the changes and developments when you are immersed in your core business (i.e. retail).

This naturally creates the question: how does one approach the challenge of technology implementation and software rollouts within one’s retail environment, and particularly within a specialised environment – such as furniture, or credit? All too often, the answer to this question is to simply do nothing, and keep pressing ahead with operations as usual. Indeed, when margins are tight and consumer and business confidence is low, this can seem like the safer option for retail decision-makers who are first and foremost focused on survival.

The bad news? When it comes to technology in today’s digital-first era, doing nothing is equivalent to going backwards. Today, success in retail is undoubtedly defined by the consumer experience, which is being shaped and driven by world-class back-end software and innovative technology. In short, every retail player, no matter their specialisation or vertical, has to be taking definitive steps forward to implement new technology that is underpinned by agile, tailored and responsive software. For savvy retail decision-makers, the best way to ensure success in a specialised retail environment is to find an experienced and innovative software or technology partner to develop a highly tailored strategy for the technology rollout.

Key insights into local retail challenges

Given the complexities of today’s fast-evolving enterprise technology landscape, retailers need to look for a technology partner that has demonstrated knowledge and expertise within the local retail sector. This deep experience within retail is absolutely vital – as it enables the software partner to develop a solution that is finely tailored to your specific retail environment (and the challenges and opportunities currently shaping it). In addition, an immersive understanding of the local retail context also enables this partner to include elements in the technology strategy that speak to unique local pain points: for example, in South Africa there is a high demand for quick and accessible in-store credit.

Independent & uniquely experienced

Importantly, as retailers embark on a technology journey with a trusted partner, it is increasingly beneficial to work with a software specialist who has extensive experience in building bespoke solutions and customizing packaged solutions. By being completely independent as both a technology advisor and solution provider, this partner is then able to give the retailer advice and options that are highly suited to their specific environment and phase of technology development. More often than not, being solution agnostic enables such a partner to provide retailers with a tailored mix of technology solutions that allow the retailer in question to remain responsive and adaptive to the fast-changing needs of customers. In essence, the retailer is not contractually bound to expensive products or software that lock the business in for many years (making the retailer less able to respond to changing consumer trends).

Efficiency where it matters the most

Given the current financial constraints that many local retailers are facing, new technology and software rollouts have to be implemented in such a way that retailers still retain close control over their retail environment and can tailor the business rules to speak to specific in-store demands and pressures. Such control requires the presence of a trusted, transparent and responsive software partner that has teams who are experienced in specific retail verticals. These teams can ensure quick response times, as well as immediate support should it be required – preventing any risk of downtime or inefficiencies when it really matters. The highly responsive nature of such a partner also ensures the speedy release of updates or changes to the software environment, which ultimately translates into a more responsive and efficient consumer experience on the shop floor.

Looking ahead, although the outlook may be challenging for South African retailers, they can undoubtedly achieve quick efficiency wins (coupled with valuable, long term benefits) by choosing an experienced and specialised local retail technology partner…

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