Good IT Leaders find ways to use the tools that IT provides along with the skills that their teams have in order to help the company move faster and do more. Nowhere is this currently more visible than in the world of retail sales…
Do Retail Stores Even Still Exist?
After the past bruising few years, one might be forgiven for thinking that the world of retail was going away. Look around and you can probably see countless shuttered stores in your area. However, if you take a moment and look just a bit closer you’ll see something else: some stores are starting to wake up. The global recession drove a lot of firms out of business, but the ones that are left are eager to get back to work.
Their products haven’t really changed all that much, but they realize that they are going to have to work hard to change the shopping experience for their beaten-down customers. Making shopping easy is the goal and this is where IT Leaders can lend a helping hand.
The research firm IDC forecasted that worldwide retail IT spending was going to grow by 2.4% from $81B to $83 in 2009. On the flip side in the manufacturing sector, they forecasted that supply chain management spending was going to grow to $3B in 2009. Clearly retail firms are placing their bets for future growth in the hands of their IT departments.
What Can IT Leaders Do To Help Online Stores?
Being willing to help the company out is an important part of being an IT Leader in retail; however, often times the big question is just where that help is needed. The first thing to realize is that not all stores are created equal. Specifically, online stores are different from traditional bricks & mortar stores.
If you work for an online store, then you are going to want to be using your team’s IT talents to find ways to add more features to your web sites. These can include such things as: making purchasing easier to do, adding customer reviews, or even videos showing how to use your products.
Online stores are lucky (sorta) in that they have a great role model in their industry: Amazon.com Love ‘em or hate ‘em, everyone agrees that Amazon does a great job of presenting products and then selling them like there’s no tomorrow.
Following Amazon’s lead, IT Leaders need to work with their teams to find ways to simplify the online checkout process and incorporate recommendation engines that can help solve customer problems while up-selling additional products.
What Can IT Leaders Do To Help Offline Stores?
Traditional stores that were not “Internet only” stores were predicted to be going away now that the Internet has arrived. However, clearly that’s not happening. Instead, what’s going on is that traditional stores are using IT to reinvent themselves and make the shopping experience more enjoyable for their customers.
Moving the point-of-sale (POS) terminals to where the customers are is one way that IT Leaders and their teams can help out the rest of the business. In order to do this a whole series of IT challenges need to be overcome such as finding ways to wirelessly connect cash registers to the network and allow credit cards to be securely processed.
Inventory management and its cousin application supply chain management are also prime areas where IT can help traditional retailers to reduce costs and boost profits. Implementing or optimizing these applications allows a retailer to link their sales forecasts with their manufacturing or ordering processes and prevents over / under stocks.
What All Of This Means For You
If IT Leaders aren’t careful they can focus on the wrong things. They can spend too much time thinking about how to optimize what IT does, and not enough time thinking about how to make the rest of the business run better.
Online and offline retailers are different types of firms. IT can play a role in helping both types of companies be more successful by helping them to make the customer’s shopping experience more enjoyable.
IT lives to serve the rest of the business. This means that smart IT Leaders know that when it comes to supporting a retail business, it’s how they use IT that’s going to be the key to their success.
Question For You: Do you think online or offline retailers value their IT departments more highly?
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As IT Leaders, we should all be trying harder to find ways to use the talents of our teams to make our companies run smoother. Hmm, I wonder if there are any companies out there that could serve as an example for us? Good news – there is one: Avis rental cars.