Technology for retail is a very big bandwagon, that is travelling at high speed.

It has become an integral part of financial controls and accounting, as well as warehouse operations and supply chain management. It is also transforming customer experience. On the high street, it is often viewed as the key to unlocking ways to tempt consumers back into physical stores. Retail executive search has swung firmly towards finding managers with the skills needed to understand and harness the sales potential of emerging retail tech.

The problem is, that retailers all have access to the same technology, and they are all fighting to fund new investments and find key skill sets. This could well mean that to gain a competitive advantage, it’s not what you’ve got that counts, it’s the way that you use it!

It could also be argued that the victors in the race to harness technology, could be the ones who already fully understand what they already have.

Updates and technical debt

There must be enough culture change in retail organisations to truly maximise on rapidly developing hardware, software and Cloud platforms, including a better grasp of how it impacts on all management roles. Investment alone does not buy automatic success. 

It has been referred to as a “technical debt”; finding capital for technology that is then misunderstood or only used in a limited way. Or, technology that stagnates.

An illustration of this is the imminent discontinuation of Windows 7, which is used as the operating system for a great deal of POS equipment bought for UK retail in recent years. Windows 7 has been scheduled to become obsolete since 2015 and will cease to be supported by Microsoft in January 2020.

How many retailers bought POS systems, then failed to keep pace with software upgrades? How many will be left with equipment that won’t run on Windows 10? There are potentially decision makers throughout the retail sector who have no idea what any of this entails and who hope the IT team are on the ball.

Data more valuable than whistles and bells

Failing to keep up to date – and lack of end-to-end responsibility for technology – can lead to the need for more large-scale spending to play “catch up”.

There is also the potential to seriously underestimate the power of data. Retail technology that uses Artificial Intelligence, and brings Virtual and Augmented Reality in store, is beguiling and exciting.

However, there is a serious risk that grasping new opportunities involves ignoring the bigger picture. The true value of technology to stabilise and grow retail businesses is the everyday data that can be generated, captured and analysed. True “digital transformation” comes from understanding the potency of data, and ensuring that all aspects of your business are fuelled by it. 

Data provides insights and control to a micro level, as well as the potential to use predictive analytics to limit risk, waste and lost opportunities. For the first time in history, retailers can really get to grips with the buying patterns, preferences and even intentions of their target customers.

That makes technology important for every single manager in the company. It makes it vital that everyone has “IT” somewhere in their job role; not just for retail executive recruitment but to up-skill existing decision makers too. For more details of our retail talent mapping services, and help to fill gaps, contact Anthony Gregg.