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Show Me a Great Technology Strategy and I'll Show You a Successful Retailer

By Rohan Penman, Global Head of Technology, T2 Tea

Rohan Penman, Global Head of Technology, T2 Tea

With e-commerce sales, at many successful retailers consistently growing in the very high double digits, why are we now seeing huge e-commerce entities, like Amazon, buying either physical stores, logistics companies or other unexpected solutions? Why does this tactic conflict so strongly with the media’s stories of doom and gloom around retail and the impending collapse of society’s traditional way of shopping? Did we think that physical shopping was becoming passé? Could it be that everything that goes around comes around? Or more importantly, why didn’t we expect “an Amazon” would buy physical retail locations and close another loop on its ever-expanding execution of strategy?

"The traditional approaches to customers may not work in the years to come or become niche in their acceptance"

With many examples of once highly successful retailers now just memories after the financial administrator’s hand has turned the lock for the last time, retailers need to take this as a reality check and remember you are only as good as your last period’s sales results. What is your strategy to create the next chapter in your retailer’s story?

Smart retailers have, some time ago, awoken from their slumber around the fact that technology is simply seen as a cost centre. Technology is the key enabler for every business. Technology is a key strategic partner and has a seat at the table. Technology has enabled your current growth and will keep you on target as you head toward a new frontier. Technology is now the strongest marketing solution you have. Technology is now the most likely first contact point to your existing and new customer base.

So, we must ask, “What are the next strategic steps for my business regarding technology?”

Having recently started my position at a somewhat young, but established retailer, I’ve been asked to take the reins and steer the business in a fresh and innovative direction. So where do I start?

Personally, I still believe you must start with the people. The right team is a creative bunch, who also sees a big picture, but get the job done. Your people are the support structure for any successful movement forward.

From this point you need, not just good, but excellent partnerships with your carefully selected supporting third parties. They are an extension of your team and they need to behave in that manner.

Once you have the team, you need to start asking the right questions. The traditional approaches to customers may not work in the years to come or become niche in their acceptance. The strategy must:

- Retain your existing customers
- Expand your customer base
- Grow your businesses income

Thought also needs to be put into a solid Return on Investment (ROI) plan to allow you to contain costs.

Now… understand your brand…

- What’s your brands story?
- What are you trying to sell?
- Do you compete on service and differentiation in your marketspace and not just price?
- What do your existing and future customers want?

Know who your customers are and perfect the business model to keep them loyal and engaged.

You should now have a series of questions. These questions will help you head toward the right technology for you.

- How are you trying to benefit your brand?
- What are you trying to implement?
- Are their challenges you’re specifically trying to solve
- Are you retaining your consumer centric mindset?
- Does this change still support the product and experience your customers want?
- What are your levers for success

• Trading floor space vs. brand experiential space
• Experience of the brand that enforces an action, and not just intent, to buy
• Are you enforcing your brand’s experience?

As a technology owner, you need to advise the business that you are heading in the right direction. Are you creating a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, or is there the normal technology cycles to travel through i.e. customer resistance, followed by acceptance and then the expectation of a technology’s existence from your customers?

We are now ready to address the technology. All the buzz words that everyone is so eager to use. I almost feel left out if I’m not using mobile, agile, omni-channel, analytical, and IoT – it’s all there. But before you get too fond of a solution, make sure it’s right for the future. I have a term I call “omni-tech-capable”, which is a way of reminding myself whether the solution is:

• omni-channel retail fit
• scalable for capacity and future features
• customer focused i.e. simple to use and adopt for either a consumer or retailer
• capable of global deployment

Now for a quick retail-based sanity check:

• What makes a sale?
• What does the customer want?

Last and certainly not least, something to end on. Remember that your strategy must be endless and ever evolving. If it has an end… so will your business. How will you close your next loop?

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