Software is eating the world – and the retail industry is no exception. Increasingly, retailers need to make use of custom software for cash registers, accounting, inventory management, client services and for point of sale (POS) and electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems. What’s in store for the industry and how rapidly will it, too, be eaten by software?
Next stop: omnichannel systems
Custom, fully integrated software is allowing companies to create more personalized experiences for their customers. That’s why the new “omni channel systems” retail practice is becoming increasingly prevalent. Omnichannel aims to integrate in-store shopping and online shopping so that customers can review merchandise, compare one product to another, and buy a product whether they are in the store, outside on their smartphones, or browsing the website on their PCs at home. (Interestingly, Amazon has found a way to use the omnichannel idea in reverse by in turn opening physical stores – first store is planned to open in New York City this Christmas.)
The end goal of omnichannel is to make shopping easier and more convenient. It wants to meet the potential customer wherever they may be physically or online. Here’s more about the evolution of omnichannel systems.
What can retailers do with custom business software?
Chipotle, Crate & Barrel, and Starbucks all have one key trait in common: Each one attributes a large part of its success to the effective use of software for retail purposes. Here’s how they did it:
- Chipotle created a web link that lets users order online for in-store pickup; and additionally, a mobile-phone app for ordering on the go. Online users can additionally create personal accounts, with which they can track past orders and save their favorite ones to instantaneously order them again in the future. These accounts are accessible from either PCs or via smartphone.
- Crate & Barrel enables shoppers to easily access their wedding and gift registries in store, on a phone, or through a PC. Scan a barcode in the store, and it will automatically appear in the registry. A purchase in-store will likewise show in the registry the instant that it occurs.
- Starbucks upgraded its Starbucks card program—in-store debit cards that customers add money to and then use to purchase beverages and snacks—so that customers can now refill their Starbucks cards not only in-store, but also via their phones or online. They can withdraw from their card balance without the card, too—the barista can deduct the sale price from the customer’s account, after which the remaining balance will be instantly viewable on any phone or PC of the customer’s choosing.
Software and mobile apps are also giving the industry unprecedented way to gain control and satisfy demand. For example, the new app called “Shelfie” allows users to take pictures of out of stock items, which is then sent to the retailer to help avoid the problem in the future.
Custom apps and software…or else
The trend towards delivering a full omnichannel experience is projected to grow in the future – and with it the industry’s demand and reliance on software.
Software can enhance the customer experience, but it can also markedly improve company’s business processes. Other kinds of retail software are being used by store managers and employees. Retail inventory management software can track inventory and process sales transactions; the programs can store the Universal Product Codes for each item in a store’s inventory and facilitate transfers of merchandise from one retail outlet to another. Business analytics makes up yet another category of IT for retailers.
Companies that are not taking advantage of new technologies risk being left behind. According to the Platt Institute, the vast majority (48%) of retail companies are investing into mobile POS with payment technologies, while others are investing into loyalty program access (37%), geolocation (34%), and predictive analytics (34%). The majority of retail companies’ IT budgets have increased by 36%, with growing importance of IT projected in the future: retail IT spending is predicted to surpass $190 billion. This is all indicative of retailers taking advantage of the available technology – and trying to make omnichannel systems a reality. In fact, omnichannel retailing is soon to become the norm.
How to satisfy the growing demand for new technology?
With all of this demand for more technology to support retail activities, there are also a number of problems that arise. Where to find the right people for software development projects? How to make sure that customer data remains safe? Develop in-house or outsource to a more experienced third party?
As IT becomes an integral part of retail, it becomes imperative to pay attention to how technology is developed and what role it plays for company’s goals. Many companies choose to outsource their IT tasks, especially companies that are not interested in building or drastically expanding their own IT departments.
Images via Pixabay.