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Retail tech is selling dreams it cannot always deliver

Chris Field
Chris Field

Never before has it been so important for tech companies to work together to meet retailers’ biggest challenges. However, never before have tech companies been so challenged in doing so.

The evidence lies in the growing gap between the hype and the reality; between the warm words around collaboration, trust and shared risk and reward, and the harsh words around compliance, oversight and KPIs.

You need both! I’m sure you are saying – just as US poet Robert Frost talked about good fences making good neighbours. That’s true, but it doesn’t explain the way vendors I see operate, particularly around shared opportunities and projects.

Retailers are great ones for changing their minds, so I can understand why vendors try to make sure the scope phase is tight. But the working reality is that many vendors will engage in a frenzy of planning and the commensurate billing, and things often start badly.

It is then easy to see how things are going to go bad later on, as they so often do. Rescuing a drifting project is hard, but not impossible. It depends on the strength of both the working relationship between the retailer and its partners, and among the partners themselves.

For true, successful collaboration from start to finish, we need a better way for retailers and technology vendors to work together. 

With technology now in possession of almost all the tools retailers need for transformation, it is important that the IT industry steps up. But who will do this? A handful of industry associations exist only to serve technology’s selfish aims, while the retail bodies are unwilling or unable to cross the divide.

As any psychoanalyst will tell you, to change, first you have to recognise the problem. And as long as tech companies work only to their individual ends, then that problem will not be addressed. As a result, retailing will see its dreams delayed.

To help your tech business configure the way it works around retailers’ needs, you need to understand how retail technology buying priorities have changed. Read our How Retailers Choose Technology – and How to Get Them to Choose You report for further insight. 

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