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It’s decision time for Retail CIO’s

Retail technology leaders face massive challenges in an environment in which to do nothing is fatal. They must build a flexible and agile store estate but can’t do it using existing store technology. However, advances in edge technology built from the ground up for the store offer new options that change the art of the possible and allow IT leaders to deliver new levels of efficiency and innovation.

The store is at the center of the fundamental shift in the industry. The way consumers want to interact with stores is changing. Consumers don’t care about channel. They care about convenience, experience and value. However, there are fundamental differences on what strategies to adopt in this environment, and how the store — and store technology — needs to change to meet changing market conditions. And CIOs are finding themselves in the middle of a number of fundamental conflicts.

They face a conflict between efficiency and innovation, with CMO’s demanding innovative new in-store services, using everything from AI to VR, to revolutionize the customer experience, and COO’s demanding maximum efficiency in store operations to reduce costs.

And this is linked to strategic choice between service excellence and convenience. Do you opt for a strategy of ramping up service levels in store – using technology to support interactive customer engagements, or do you opt for a strategy of maximum convenience, getting customers in, serviced, and out of the store in the most efficient way possible?

Find out more about the challenges and solutions for the modern day CIO.

This conflict, and the never-ending trade off between long and short-term priorities, have a significant impact on the heart of the store experience — the point of sale check-out. Service excellence demands that store associates are freed from sitting behind the cash register, perhaps using mobile checkout tablets to roam the store and interact, checking out customers where it suits them, not just in the checkout line. And prioritizing efficiency also demands that the checkout process be made as frictionless, and perhaps as automated, as possible to save costs.

These challenges have been further highlighted by the advent of Amazon Go, which is challenging all CIO’s to respond. The common factor between these challenges is that they can’t be met with existing technology infrastructures. Legacy store technology is too inflexible to support rapid innovation, and cloud services offer promise but not in business-critical areas. A complete new approach is required.

In-store infrastructure, as it exists today, just isn’t up to the job. However, new edge-based technology is now available, offering new possibilities for in-store infrastructure. With edge technology, information processing, content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources of this information, and closer to customers and store operations. In retail terms, this means placing new IT capabilities in-store, but in a way that delivers the control and flexibility of cloud-based services. This requires advanced back and front office virtualization, centralized management and control, cloud integration, the intelligent automation of IT processes, all built specifically for the distributed retail IT environment.

It’s crunch time for CIOs and IT decision makers in the retail industry. They face a perfect storm of urgent business imperatives caused by the ongoing retail crisis. Technology is changing the art of the possible. In these circumstances, to do nothing is no longer an option.

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