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By Kate Bassett, Head of Delivery, Wales at BJSS
Retail has always been a challenging industry. Margins are notoriously low, so volume is king. And the associated network of retail outlets and supply chain can be large, complex and capital intensive.
The sector became even more cutthroat when eCommerce channels were introduced. That, along with ‘value player’ competition, price deflation, and an expanding global sourcing market has led to growing challenges for retailers to contend with.
The ability to make quick and correct decisions, and to implement rapid change has become even more imperative for retailers.
While Information Technology has the ability to solve many of these challenges, the plethora of options and aggressive marketing have made decisions in themselves more difficult. All industry sectors are different. They have their own challenges, opportunities and threats. But retailers can reuse the approach taken by other sectors to deal with their pain points.
Here in the UK, the banking and finance, and more recently the Public Sector, have created nimble and Agile IT functions that use low-cost hypothesis testing before implementing production systems. Often they use Open Source frameworks and Cloud capability – not only to benefit from the lower cost but also to reduce their time to market. Also - digital and analytics should be integral in any retailers playbook. They help to define and deliver strategies, and crucially – they play an important role in building market share. So techniques that utilise Continuous Delivery, Automated Testing, Public Cloud and Data Scientists are fundamentally important.
To remain competitive, retailers must be able to carry out variant AB testing with automated rollout/rollback depending on automated KPI monitoring. They must also have real-time monitoring of supply chain deliveries at all points, and real-time intelligence of sales data by branch.
Technology has moved quickly. The idea, to insight, to action, using data formats and volumes, was inconceivable just a few years ago. But now they can be implemented in days or weeks rather than months or years. These are "must have’s” of retail.