Two Key Pillars Will Define Success for Modern Retailers

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Two Key Pillars Will Define Success for Modern Retailers

By Bill Schwebel - 11/01/2018

While the news may shine a gloomy light on the state of the retail industry, statistics reveal a more positive outlook. With e-commerce figures climbing year-over-year and retailers reporting a more engaged, communicative customer base, the industry is in transition - rather than turmoil, as the model evolves to better serve consumers and customers.

We have seen countless cases of rejuvenation and reinvention, as retailers of all shapes and sizes tackle the challenges created by evolving consumer needs and a fluctuating industry landscape. Whether it’s modernizing their technology solutions, or simply making a few tweaks to operations or strategy, investing in the following pillars of modern retailing can lead to a profitable, connected future.

Perfecting Inventory Accuracy

Online or in-store, stock management is at the epicenter of every retailers’ world. Efficiency in the stockroom reduces friction along the entire supply chain, and the technology implemented can have a measurable impact on the bottom line. This is true for both independent stores and big-box retailers with advanced distribution networks.

A manual approach is no longer a viable option. To be competitive, retailers need to offer shoppers a superior shopping experience, reliable service and real-time visibility into stock and pricing. Today’s online-buying, smartphone-wielding consumers expect a seamless, faster and smarter purchasing journey, and brick and mortar retailers are faced with a growing challenge to meet omnichannel excellence. According to a recent Zebra Technologies study, North American manufacturers, retailers and logistics firms estimated their current inventories as 74% accurate, and said they must reach 83% accuracy to handle the rise of omnichannel logistics.

Achieving a single, cohesive view of inventory can be challenging for retailers and those that lack inventory accuracy, add extra labor and costs to fulfill items and risk losing sales. It’s essential to embrace platforms and solutions that transform real-time, visibility-driven data throughout the supply chain into actionable insights.

Meeting shoppers’ omnichannel product delivery and fulfillment expectations calls for a digital transformation of the supply chain that addresses key pain points. At the top of the wish list for retailers looking to digitize and manage front- and back-end stock in real time should be radio frequency identification technology (RFID). Where the use of outdated pen and paper systems or fragile, underpowered consumer devices has been prevalent, RFID can quickly and efficiently overhaul processes and link up all aspects of the retail journey. RFID-enabled software, hardware and tagging solutions offer up-to-the minute, item-level inventory lookup, heightening inventory accuracy while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors. These types of investments empower staff to quickly and accurately access information from anywhere to add value to the shoppers’ experience.

Becoming a Data-Driven Business

Data, when correctly used, is essential to a mutually-beneficial experience for both shoppers and retailers. Data capture and analytics unlock innovative experiences that exceed customer expectations and deliver a competitive advantage. Data-driven technology provides visibility into every corner of operations. It furnishes retailers with customer insights and intelligence to grow the bottom line and maximize efficiencies, while at the same time, offering customers a personalized, satisfying experience.

Retailers are investing in IoT technologies — from beacons that send shoppers customized coupons to RFID tags that track inventory — to simplify, enliven and customize the shopping experience, generate revenue, and reduce costs. For retailers, there has never been a more pertinent time to embrace IoT platforms and transform real-time, visibility-driven data throughout the supply chain into actionable insights, and providing that best next action to take.

A Customer-First Approach Wins

Being a successful retailer in 2018 will come down to how much you care about your customers. Obtaining customer-related data will provide retailers with deep insight into how to improve the overall experience. From the first touchpoint with a retailer, the customer journey must be simple and easy. Physical and digital touchpoints alike must function seamlessly without sacrificing quality.

As retailers continue to evolve their operations to support a more cohesive commerce strategy, they must provide a modern, engaging customer experience for the modern shopper. A  Zebra study conducted by IHL Group, predicts retail technology budgets will rise significantly over the next few years. The study states that retail leaders are investing two-to-three times more than the average retailer in IT transformation and associate training and tools, with a focus on increasing inventory visibility and lowering supply chain costs. Technology is evolving at a rapid rate and retailers investing in their business and the shopper experience will be the ones to win the race.  

For more information about Zebra’s retail solutions, please click here.

-Bill Schwebel, General Manager & Vice President of Enterprise Software, Zebra Technologies