Getting retail infrastructure right

As the Christmas period gets under way most of us will be thinking about that all-important Christmas shopping. Whether you choose to leave it until the very last minute and brave the in-store pandemonium late on Christmas Eve or whether you are brilliantly organised and bought all your presents months ago online, we cannot deny that when it comes to shopping we’ve got more choice of what we buy, how we buy and when we buy than ever before.

retail-image2Certainly for retailers this is the busiest time of year and with the vast number of changes in the retail industry over the past couple of years, expectations are sky-high. Not only that but confidence in delivery and click-and-collect services is such that traditional shopping habits are being abandoned. Alongside Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “Manic Monday” – the second Monday in December and the last day of guaranteed standard delivery for goods wanted before Christmas Day – has fallen into the mix of frenetic spending days in the run up to Christmas. Although Black Friday shall retain the crown as the biggest day in the retail calendar, with £810m spent this year, a staggering £470,000 was spent online every minute by British consumers on Manic Monday according to IMRG and Experian[i]. That’s £666m on the day as a whole, generated by a total of 149 million visits to UK retail websites, an increase in online traffic on the day by 24 per cent[ii].

Rising to the challenge of this phenomenon is imperative for retailers in our increasingly digital world. The growth of e-commerce, social media, data systems and mobile technology is rapidly shifting the expectations of consumers, meaning retailers must adapt quickly to ensure they succeed. As a result of this shift, the sector is seeing huge investment in technology as retailers battle to gain a competitive advantage – a recent report from IHL Group predicts worldwide retail IT spending will surpass $190billion in 2015[iii].

However, knowing which technology to buy and how best to implement it can be a challenge. Today’s connected consumers expect a positive and consistent experience whether in-store or online. This omnichannel model requires a more holistic approach that accounts for the interconnected nature of modern retail. This means deploying resilient, flexible IT systems that can be coupled with the latest technologies to deliver customer satisfaction across all channels. It is worth examining some of these systems in a little more detail:

Retail infrastructure

In addition to the traditional back-end infrastructure, retailers now require smaller, bespoke systems for individual in-store environmentsGetronics has a long and successful track record providing trusted IT services for both back office and sales branches. Customers include leading retail brands such as McDonald’s, Iceland and Superdrug. Additionally, for shoe retailer Clarks we created the Clarks Response Centre as a single point of contact for all branches which acted as a seamless extension of its internal retail IT team.

Online solutions

Almost every retailer now has an online presence and it is vital that any retail website is easy to use across a range of devices and software platforms, allowing customers to gain access whenever and wherever they want.

However, no matter how well a website is designed it also needs the right infrastructure to support it. Today, downtime can cost millions in potential sales revenue – up to $3.8million per hour for the largest web-based retailers[iv] – and significantly damage consumer confidence.

Retailers must ensure the data centres they use have the required levels of resilience, security and scalability to ensure digital channels are kept online.

Customer Analytics

The wealth of information generated by both in-store and online channels can be used by a retailer to differentiate themselves from the competition and improve customer experience.

For example, by recording data from a range of sources across all channels, retailers can:

  • measure how long a customer spends in-store to calculate the impact of promotions;
  • identify websites that shoppers spend most time on to better understand browsing habits;
  • use historical data to build customer profiles that enable personalisation through targeted ads and loyalty schemes

However to do all this retailers must have the right IT in place to collect, store and display data effectively, and have the correct analytical tools required to facilitate real-time insights.

Existing loyalty programmes can be built into this process, providing a host of data on preferences and customer satisfaction. Getronics helped to launch Iceland’s innovative loyalty scheme, a programme with eight million registered customers which it still maintains for the supermarket today.

POS Solutions

With most retailers now accepting contactless payments, and NFC technology, Point Of Sale (POS) is a far cry from the traditional cash register. Some brands are even looking to do away with fixed till points in favour of mobile payments, processed by shop assistants armed with tablets.

POS data is also proving to be a valuable resource to retailers. Used properly, it helps them to increase sales, improve profit and gain market share. For example, on the ops side of the business it can help with fraud detection and solving problems such as missing, damaged or excess stock.

Choosing the right partner

While it is good news that retail investment in IT is set to rise, ensuring these deployments deliver optimum value is a different challenge entirely. To do so, brands need to support their traditional areas of expertise with technical expertise and agility. As such, it is important to work closely with partners that understand the industry and can provide the end-to-end IT services needed to facilitate a truly omnichannel environment, both front and back of house.



[iii] IHL – WorldView IT Spend Forecast – August 2014