Huw Thomas, Managing Director at PMC, talks about what's currently hot in retail.

So at last the weather is starting to get hot and it looks like summer is finally upon us. This will hopefully have a positive influence on the fashion retailer’s summer season sales but will undoubtedly drive varying results in the High Street.

As the weather hots up, I thought this would be an ideal time to review what is hot in retail IT from our perspective. In our engagement with a wide range of High Street retailers we get good visibility of what is driving retailer’s IT agenda’s, both from our own engagements but also in terms of our retailer’s engagements with other service and product providers.

So what appears to be hot at the moment?

Selection and implementation of new IT systems. There appears to be a resurgence of activity in this space. The 2008-9 recession put the brakes on most capital IT projects in retail, the past few years have seen retailers catching up on the pent up demand on replacing aging systems. Interestingly the reasons for change seem more varied at the moment. There seems to be more IT system selection activities driven by a desire to get retail organizations IT systems in a better state to maximize value as part of a sale strategy. Merchandise Planning and PoS system replacements are popular currently.

Mobile continues to be a hot topic. Many retailers are still wrestling with how to implement effective mobile technology for store staff use on the shop floor. Complexity of aging back end systems and the prior separation up of differing sales channels technology makes bringing this back to a unified system and process more complex, time consuming and costly activity than it should be. Deployment of multi-channel mobile solutions for store staff use is still way behind where it needs to be.

Often linked to Mobile strategies, is the whole process of clientelling. Many retailers, particularly in the fashion and electrical segments are working hard at how to engage with their customers in a more effective and consistent way across all of the varying channels. Consistency of approach, look and feel is a great way of reaffirming brand identity and if provided well, a potential way of driving customer loyalty.

Payments is a very hot topic. Many retailers are reviewing moving to a PSP (Payment Service Provider) in order to reduce the PCIDSS risk and also to give them more flexibility in the future to move or add banking provisions. Also, many retailers are assessing how they can reduce the number of payment providers they have across their varying regions and sales channels. Surprisingly in today’s ubiquitous payments market there is still not a single player that can manage all of this globally. However, having different providers across regions and channels means that many retailers are still unable to sell in one channel or region and return in another.

CRM is back with a vengeance. It’s normally addressed under a different tag line; customer engagement, targeted promotions, loyalty, etc. Fundamentally the drive to gather high quality customer information and to use it consistently across all channels to understand the complete customer shopping behaviour and drive loyalty appears to be in train almost everywhere.

Awareness of the data security and protection requirements is becoming more acute given the desire to collect and manipulate ever increasing amounts of customer data. The new EU General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) which comes in to force on 25th May 2018 brings with it potential fines up to €20 million or 4% of a retailer’s annual turnover plus the associated brand damage for serious data breaches.

Brexit – the result of the vote a couple of weeks ago - has had an interesting impact on capital projects. The devaluation of the pound has literally turned off some projects overnight. As an example, the cost of opening new stores in overseas regions increased by 20%+ in the few days following. For some retailers that scale of change may be enough that the business case for foreign investment no longer stacks up. Although the FTSE has rallied the pound is still seriously deflated, so there may be the potential for reallocation of capital in some retailers to local projects. Hopefully this will not result in a general constraint on capital projects overall as that could start to have more serious implications.

So from our viewpoint retail IT is in a healthy and very active state. I remain to be optimistic that the Brexit situation will not have a short term detrimental impact on retailer’s desires to keep enabling enhancement of their business, supported by the implementation of effective technology solutions.

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please contact us on enquiries@pmcretail.com

 

 

Tweet, tweet!