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Sunday Soundbite

One big reason retail tech fails

Chris Field
Chris Field

Spare a thought for the embattled tech vendor who can only deliver success if the retailer agrees to do their bit, specifically, change the processes and allocate the people to enable the tech to work.

Retail needs better people, processes and systems and you need all three, and they all have to support each other. Delivering the trinity, however, depends on partnership, a word that is crying out for a redefinition.

People who sell to retail have given themselves a pretty tough job over the last 10 years. In the old days, you could just sell technology to retailers and you didn’t have to worry about a lack of processes or its impact on people. Or you could go for process redesign, but ignore technology.

And lastly, you could train people without worrying about equipping them with the right processes and technology. Whoops, that still goes on, so what’s the problem?

Who’s looking after processes and people?

Today, we are in a much more exciting place in terms of the value that tech now delivers to the business, but one that is also much harder to get right, because you need all three elements working together to achieve a result. And the truth is, that many technology companies are simply pitching the tech without regard to the processes and people. Sure, they talk about the need for good people and good processes, but most leave it up to the retailer.

No wonder retailers are confused. They are receiving mixed messages from the tech industry, which must be one of the reasons why retailers are not investing in the right way in people. In fact, some vendors have given up selling tech to the people side of the business, because they can see that there is simply no investment being made by the retailers, no matter how much they both agree on the need for good people, equipped with the right systems and processes.

This is a tough one to solve, because clearly the vendors need to use thought leadership in order to start the conversation about the need to equip people with better tech. And the retailers need to do their bit to enable the tech to be fully effective.

Build certainty through partnerships

The journey has started. If you consider the number of staff that are now equipped with iPads to enable clienteling, but this is barely the start. Look at how many retailers have implemented click and collect into their stores but staff are simply not able to manage the processes efficiently, or have the tech on the point of sale or handheld to manage the journey. If customers collect in store simply because they wanted to save the cost of delivery, then they are all certainly getting punished in store for their decision.

Partnership – that overused word, needs to mean something. Retailers define it best – they want vendors that are prepared to go on the journey with them, facing the inevitable potholes and blizzards together, and prepared to embrace the uncertainty.

If that sounds like any relationship, then that’s really the point, which is why, ideally, we all want to work with people we like, respect and admire. When you like the people you work with, there’s nothing that cannot be achieved.

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