It’s been a testing time for brick and mortar retailers. With physical stores open one week, then closed the next, the uncertainty has made creating a consistent and differentiated shopping experience a big challenge, whether in fashion retail, general or specialist stores. Retailers and customers are turning to retail technology in their droves in search of creating a truly great retail customer experience as we re-open and COVID recedes.
However, the reality is, many retailers are grappling with legacy IT which is holding them back from an envisioned unified commerce solution and ultimately creating the perfect customer experience by streamlining processes to be as efficient, reliable, and cost-effective as possible.
Here, as we dive into a theme from the Unifying Commerce podcast series, which brings together retail industry insights and thought leadership from Adyen, Deloitte, New Black and Scandit, we consider the effect of legacy IT and how best to facilitate a consistent customer experience across a dynamic mix of online and offline touchpoints.
The legacy IT aka: Frankenstack challenge
Delivering a consistent customer experience requires harmonious co-ordination between all moving parts of the retail ecosystem, a co-ordination that many retailers struggle with. Each IT component whether developed in-house or purchased externally is often a ‘beautiful’ part in its own right. But just like Frankenstein’s creation, when all parts are combined, the result is a monstrous and dysfunctional whole – such retail IT legacy is aptly known as the Frankenstack.
Unified commerce solution suites that have been cobbled together are ultimately a collection of parts which may work optimally individually but without the right architecture to bind them together, systems become isolated, and silos emerge.
There are two fundamental questions a retailer should ask itself in addressing the Frankenstack challenge: Why does your IT landscape exist? and Are the tools you use fulfilling your needs?
The end goal of any unified commerce system is not just to fix a single pain point but to create a high-functioning ecosystem that both enhances the experience of your brand and guarantees sustainable profitability.
Unifying the IT landscape is key
Retail operations need to avoid patchwork architecture and ensure that the systems used are communicating and connected effectively with each other, using tools that are robust enough to move with the fast pace of the retail market.
Short-term fixes take a narrow view, missing out on the wider opportunity for a more effective solution and only delay the fallout, when what is actually called for is an entirely different approach.
To improve customer experience, a retailer’s IT landscape requires end-to-end management or application-specific solutions. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a more complicated system without fulfilling the original need.
What’s needed is one integrated digital engine – “the nerve pathway and beating heart of your system” – rather than using middleware or integration applications. The best way to do this is to apply existing or developing retail technology to new processes, rather than trying to adapt software to new applications.
A unified commerce platform is best natively designed to create that necessary level of system connectivity, delivering real-time data in a holistic way to aid decision-making which retailer leaders of today need to stay ahead. It effortlessly adopts the latest back-end applications, front-end frameworks, or innovative solutions with no requirement for patches.
How can unified commerce be mobilized?
According to Moore’s Law, mobile device technology doubles in speed and capacity every year, while also halving in cost.
Scandit’s computer vision exploits this rapidly changing landscape by bringing the physical and virtual worlds together on mobile devices. For example, simply by pointing a Scandit-enabled device at physical objects like groceries, garments or products, customers can shop safely, learn about a product or complete routine tasks in seconds. Scandit technology is unrivaled in the market and by working closely with the strongest mobile device manufacturers in the market, are able to ensure the technology works on over 20,000 different models.
Instead of cobbling an app together which connects to an outdated frankenstack including outdated scanning hardware, retailers and their customers can seamlessly scan on Android and iOS devices and get performance that allows a retailer to run operations at a fraction of the total cost, improve data insight and give customers a better experience.
Why should software & technology precede processes?
The path taken by many retail operations who first define their commercial framework and then seek out additional software is not necessarily the best way to respond to the rapidly changing and complex retail landscape. Rather than applying new technologies and innovations to existing frameworks, forward-thinkers are increasingly considering what new possibilities these innovations hold and how they might help them to pivot to more effective processes.
Despite using the greatest tools, knowledge, and feats of innovation, artificially putting them together yields a monstrosity of disparate architects and not the holistic approach retailers need to deliver superior customer services. For example, when POS systems communicate minimally with order management systems and when vendor managed inventory software is highly developed for planning but cut off from execution, order management cannot be optimized within a high-functioning ecosystem.
The question is, are you prepared to continue cobble unified commerce solutions, but continue to work in silos or are you one of the forward thinkers who opt for those that are natively built and optimize the value of technological innovations and design the processes around them? One would argue the latter are much more likely to stand out in a competitive world for the foreseeable future.
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