Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the retail and merchant industry was going through a period of unprecedented change. From fluctuating customer demands to the closure of brick-and-mortar businesses, retailers have faced turbulence for years, and much of this has to do with digital transformation.
Since its inception, digital transformation has moved from a nice-to-have concept to a business essential, with companies in all sectors having to adapt to changing market conditions. And for retailers and merchants, this pace of change has been faster than almost any other sector, with fierce competition and changing customer demands placing huge pressure on both high street and online stores.
In order to make a success of digital transformation – and ultimately ensure long-term business continuity – one thing has become evident: retail and merchant businesses must invest in the right software and technologies to stay afloat in these changing times. But which tools and platforms should retailers look to? And how can business leaders be sure the tech they choose is right for their operations?
In this guide, we’re exploring the prevalent technologies which have helped support retail businesses through periods of digital transformation.
- ECommerce Solution
- Marketing Automation Software
- CRM System
- Business Intelligence Solution
- ERP Software
5 Tools Retailers Need to Manage Digital Transformation
With the right tools in place, your business can not only survive in a changing market landscape, but thrive. Here, we look at five solutions that every retailer should consider when adapting for digital transformation.
If you’ve gone from running a traditional brick-and-mortar store to setting up online, it’s vital that you invest in an appropriate eCommerce solution. Many businesses are now working on a hybrid sales model (with one portion of sales from a physical store and another from online), and so an eCommerce tool can help to support and maintain sales growth when a store is no longer your sole source of custom.
While a majority of retail businesses had already invested in eCommerce before the pandemic, others were caught short, meaning they’ve been left playing catchup as their customer base heads online. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that you invest heavily in your eCommerce capability, ensuring that it’s strong enough to maintain optimal sales volumes regardless of the current market conditions.
When it comes to choosing an eCommerce solution, you can either opt for a standalone option (with zero integration with your ERP system) or utilise the eCommerce facility offered as part of your ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. Choose the latter, and you’ll obviously benefit from a centralised database that can make eCommerce management and automation simpler, while also supporting functionality in other areas of your operations.
If you’re not quite ready to get fully online but still want to encourage repeat ordering from your B2B customers, offering a self-service online customer account management and b2b ordering portal is a great option. Fully integrated with your ERP system, it’s a quicker and easier route to selling online.
More than ever, customers want to buy from businesses they trust, and build relationships with brands that they return to again and again. As the retail sector has grown, competition has never been fiercer, but we are seeing customers returning to the same brands – particularly those that offer an exceptional level of service and instil consumer confidence.
Marketing automation software such as HubSpot, Campaign Monitor, MailChimp, can make it easier to build and maintain relationships with new and existing customers. By automating key marketing channels, you can ensure consistent engagement and communication with your customer base, making it easier to drive sales and earn repeat custom in the long term.
Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have relied on marketing automation more than ever as a means of keeping in contact with their customers. Whether through email, social media, or blog posts and updates – automating marketing channels can bring significant value-add benefit to your eCommerce offering.
Something also worth considering is whether your choice of marketing automation software can be integrated with your ERP software. This will ensure your whole business can effectively share data around sales history, shipping orders, project orders and other areas where both front and back offices interact. After all, every business houses powerful marketing data that often remains untapped inside their own ERP systems so it’s a great way to never miss an opportunity.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is, in our view, among the most valuable technology assets to invest in as a growth-seeking business. Allowing you to track all customer interactions and gain insights from the data, a CRM system presents a powerful way to extract maximum value from customer online and offline visits and interactions – helping to boost revenue and increase engagement across the board.
From a business leadership perspective, CRM software is ideal for attaining a state-of-play overview into how effectively the business is managing customer transactions, interactions, enquiries, and engagement. From there, you can introduce changes that improve the customer experience, reducing bottlenecks and pain points which help to transport more potential customers along the sales funnel.
As with other technologies on this list, CRM software is available as a standalone system or can be used in conjunction with ERP or CRM may be offered as a built-in solution within your ERP system. This brings the added benefit of increased functionality, centralised data resources, and enhanced automation, allowing you to capture more customer data and analyse it effectively.
Investing in business intelligence solutions can offer an effective way to make better use of your data, allowing you to track and analyse vast quantities of data without labour-intensive manual processes. Helping to consolidate, and bring value to your data, business intelligence tools are vital for brands that want to drive growth and better understand their commercial position.
And with new market challenges arising all the time, the increase demand for out-of-the-box business metrics that provide meaningful data wherever you are in your system is evident – who wouldn’t want to know they’re losing margin on a customer and want to investigate further?
So, whether you want to analyse buying patterns, customer purchasing behaviour, or have key metrics available where you need them in your system; business intelligence tools help bring more insights to day-to-day operations. And, used in conjunction with an ERP system, they can inform other areas of your business too, from stock control to inventory management and logistics.
For those new to ERP technology, it’s best to think of it as a multifunctional management tool, offering a range of capabilities within a single system with one easy-to-use interface. Modern ERP software can take care of many of the solutions listed above and more, making it an invaluable partner for businesses looking to plan for future growth.
Many ERP solutions also include a fully integrated POS solution. While some businesses continue to rely on standalone POS systems, there are huge benefits to be gained in using a fully integrated POS; namely access to live up to date data such as valuable sales and stock information, working from and maintaining a single database and of course, better customer service when customer-facing staff can deal with queries on the spot.
The great thing about ERP software in general is its multifunctionality. Business leaders don’t have to choose between digital transformation tools; an ERP system offers the core functionality you need to navigate your changing industry landscape, with optional modules and scalable integrations that align with your business requirements and key long-term objectives.
Automation, integration, and control – these are the primary attributes of a modern ERP solution. By investing in this type of all-encompassing technology, you can easily adapt to market changes and trends, utilising the latest tools and applications to better meet the needs of your customers.
We understand that the broad range of tools available to support digital transformation can be confusing. If you have any doubts about your current software setup, the expert team at Intact can advise on the best software and solutions to suit your requirements. For more information and to learn about our future-aligned ERP and business management software solutions, visit the homepage or get in touch today.