Article Series

Pandemic Exposes Cracks in Retail Technology


Oct 5, 2020
   |   by 
Rick Boretsky

One of the many motivations for merging RIBA and AYDEPT is to help clients address the cracks in their system landscape that have been exposed by the Coronavirus pandemic. This blog asks the questions that most retailers must answer before they can effectively compete in the world where COVID-19 has radically altered consumer behavior and attitudes.

CRACK 1: What steps are needed to fully integrate your Order Management System with all steps in every channels’ order-fulfillment cycle?

Customers want you to be seamless across channels, to offer BOPIS, curbside pickup, frictionless customer service, and universal gift cards. They want to call one number, be on one web site, one app, and one Facebook page – all with a unified message and product offering. If you have any vestige of independent channel business units with independent product lines and customer missions, then it is time to get them under one roof with a common order process. If not, you are giving Amazon and their ilk permission to eviscerate you.

CRACK 2: How have you positioned yourself to leverage technology throughout your customers’ path to purchase?

The technology marketplace is ripe with point solutions designed to enhance customer engagement. Yet your pace of innovation is painfully slow, and the implementations are unnecessarily limited or expensive. Meanwhile, your competitors are winning digital loyalty through innovation. To fill this crack, progressive retailers are deploying key enterprise tables in the cloud. This is vital plumbing for pandemic retailers.

CRACK 3. What steps are you taking to build more flexibility and accountability into your supply chain workflow?

Retailers of all shapes and sizes were caught off guard when the pandemic completely disrupted supply and demand. Retailers learned the painful lesson that they must become much nimbler in their interactions with suppliers. This means taking a hard look at workflow throughout the life of purchase orders, both internally and with the various supply chain players.

CRACK 4. How have you assessed your ERP system’s fitness for retailing in the pandemic era?

One of the most important decisions any retailer makes is to replace its patchwork back-office systems with a state-of-the-art ERP solution. This requires a penetrating look at where the retailer’s legacy fails to meet its most urgent needs in pricing, customer engagement, supply chain, accounting, planning, distribution, and inventory management. Our consultants have been deeply involved in dozens of successful ERP replacement projects and know how to minimize costs and disruption while ensuring the best outcomes. We also are skillful in making the essential changes to extend the life of legacy ERPs.

CRACK 5. How have you tuned your Analytics to eliminate silos, measure and monitor what is now important, and reveal the opportunities that can no longer go undetected?

Most of the retailers we know take extraordinary measures to gain an enterprise view from siloed information held in Excel or other data marts. In doing so, they must resolve competing metric definitions and complex data integrity issues. Excel and other data marts are great in their place. But, as analytics platforms, they are exceptionally bad practice. They fly in the face of a “single version of the truth” and proliferate inaccuracies and various versions of your most important metrics. Even worse, these practices tie up your most gifted analysts in what has been called “Excel Hell.” Smart retailers are upgrading their analytics into the cloud, eliminating silos, revising metrics, and using the platform to gain essential insights into the Pandemic Consumer.

If any of these cracks sound familiar, you are operating at an extreme competitive disadvantage. The more cracks there are to fill, the more imperiled your business becomes – especially when your IT professional staff has been cut to the bone. This is why our next five blogs will delve into detail on how to address these cracks as sensibly and quickly as possible. Your future may depend on it.

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