The biggest challenge, and also the biggest opportunity, is simply the accelerating rate of change. Traditionally the retail sector was more of a fast adopter of technology, but as the consumer becomes more technically savvy, and especially in light of the power of mobility (smart phones, tablets, wearable watches), the retail sector has to either adapt or get left behind. Retailers can now leapfrog other retailers through technology for a competitive advantage. With mobility one faces the buzzword of the year, omni-channel, and the obstacles that presents. The consumer expects seamless access to their purchases over multiple channels, most notably both web and in-store. A disparate POS system from web systems from kiosk systems doesn’t cut it. Just like retailers who adapt quickly and break down silos have a competitive advantage, vendors that can provide integrated solutions across these mediums have a competitive advantage. Apple has redefined the consumer experience. I look forward to the maturity of mobile solutions that enable retailers to offer this integrated, seamless experience to the consumer.
Thoughts on integrating data across retail enterprises
Data integration across a retail enterprise is difficult enough, but couple that in a franchise organization where each franchise group has their own disparate customer database, and data integration, especially to provide a 360-degree view of the customer, is absolutely daunting. Customer Name, or Customer Number, is not a unique field when spread throughout a retail enterprise, especially a franchise organization. Yet without a consolidation process, it would be near impossible to provide this 360-degree view. In order to bridge the gap, common fields of information must be leveraged. Typically the most common piece of information used to be a customer’s phone number, although more often that information is now a customer’s e-mail address. Applications can be implemented to allow a customer to link together multiple phone numbers or multiple e-mail addresses. Once linked, a more complete view of the customer can be obtained and/or presented. I have heard of some companies linking together credit card information, but caution needs to be exercised with that sensitive information. With a foundation to link a customer’s accounts together, applications can be modified to leverage this central linkage, which typically means tying together in-store POS history with on-line web history.