Expert Opinion: Phillip Moylan – Future Proofing Your Retail Systems

When looking at new retail, Epos or even e-commerce systems, it is important to make sure you select a future-proofed solution. However, it is sometimes easier said than done. You can’t know what the future holds, and with the best will in the world, our businesses don’t always move in the direction we expect.  But what all retailers can ensure is that the systems they use are sufficiently flexible and adaptable to cope with most eventualities.

A system that will grow with you

First of all, it is important to select a system that not only meets your requirements now, but that is scalable and will expand as your business grows. Look at what other retailers in your sector, particularly those that you aspire to be like, are using. Just because you only have one or two shops now, doesn’t mean that you won’t have 10 or 20 shops in five years’ time.

Live sales and live stocks are crucial as your e-commerce business grows and larger retailers use Estate Manager software to monitor, investigate and diagnose branch and web sales performance issues.

Many retailers purchase very expensive systems as the business grows and, as a consequence, their long-term costs rise as they expand their head office team. If you don’t derive direct business benefits including economies of scale, paying for bespoke development work on your current system could be a viable alternative.

It is also important to check if the system provider develops and supports the software and hardware. Many retail systems resellers do not have access to the software source code and are restricted in developing and fixing bugs in the software. Another thing to think about is that hardware support may be outsourced to reduce costs.

Easy integration will keep your options open

Ensuring that all your business systems speak to each other is crucial. It enables the fast flow of information enabling better analysis, improving commercial decisions. Your product and stock file is the lifeblood of your business, so make sure that whatever product you select that the Epos, stock control and retail management can easily interface with any other systems you use, for example your ERP manufacturing or wholesale system, e-commerce platform, planning, financials and warehouse logistics.

Taking this approach means that diversification or changes are much smoother because you already have one core system. This also enables retailers to reap the benefits of best of breed solutions for e-commerce, mail order, Epos, wholesale, manufacturing and finance because the development time is shorter and as a consequence costs are cheaper and software is both more up-to-date and feature rich.

Franchises and multi-lingual Epos

Selecting a system that is multi-lingual is a must if you plan to open stores abroad. Being able to use the same system across all your operations at home and overseas saves both time and expense and ensures that stock can be managed centrally and that information is available to support company wide strategic decision-making.

If you are considering having franchises, it is important to decide on the level of control. If you treat the franchise as a “wholesale customer” the franchise will buy products from you but you would have no visibility on how successful the products are as you could be reliant on piecemeal information coming back from the franchise. Waiting for them to rebuy each season is re-active rather than pro-active.

Retailers can be pro-active and have clear visibility on sales within that market by purchasing Epos tills on the franchises’ behalf with connectivity to your head-office solution. It may be possible to offset the cost by renting them to the franchise.

If the franchise already has a retail system, it would be advisable to generate company specific EAN codes and have an overnight product interface.

E-commerce and m-commerce

Having an online presence that has all the latest features is very important.  Not only does it help to provide all the facilities to your customer that they expect, keeping up with technology also gives your brand credibility, and will reassure the first time visitor. As the whole, retail experience is now a combination of your store and your website, shoppers expect to be able to flip between the two almost seamlessly. This goes for the device that they access your website from as well. It could be a desktop in their lunch hour, a smartphone while they are on the train and a tablet in the evening on the sofa. It is important your website is optimised to look good and work well on any device. Choosing an e-commerce platform that automatically adjusts to the device it is being viewed from will ensure that your customers continue to experience your brand as you intended.

Many retailers typically look to upgrade or refresh their e-commerce platform every couple of years to keep up with the latest look and feel. If you have your product information in an easily accessible format, changing your website doesn’t need to be a long drawn out and painful affair. Once you have agreed the design elements, it should be fairly quick to change.

So in summary, to future-proof your retail systems and get the most from your investment in technology, choose a system that does more than you think you will need. Keep your product information in a standard file format that is easily shared with other business systems. Select systems that are flexible, multi-lingual and multi-currency, and that can run on different types of device.

Phillip Moylan is sales and marketing manager for stock control and e-commerce specialist at Eurostop.

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