When it comes to operating a successful retail business, traditional wisdom dictates that there's nothing more important than completing a sale. But amid ongoing discount wars, retail security breaches, and the rapid evolution of ecommerce and the digital retail world, retailers are learning that the strength and flexibility of their IT infrastructure may now be of paramount concern. Consumers are more powerful than ever, with innumerable shopping options and limitless information at their fingertips. Although ecommerce accounts for only 10% of retail sales, the competition for customers' attention depends on complex digital applications and tools that know the customer, anticipate their needs, and embed in their lifestyle.
To drive traffic at physical locations, stores are turning more towards in-store pick-up, returns, and concierge services. Internet of Things devices and unlimited internet accessibility bridge the gap between the personal and commercial. Fresh content and custom interactions blur the line between online and in-store experiences and motivate successful engagement. Digital and physical payment processing must be secure, convenient, and yes: always able to complete the transaction. The industry leaders will be those who can best exceed expectations to provide their customers a seamless, omnichannel, next-level shopping experience. But how can retailers keep up with these new demands on their IT infrastructure while dealing with the day-to-day struggles and keeping costs down?
As customers demand more from retailers, innovative retail CIOs have an opportunity to provide the digital vision for their business and leverage technology for new growth opportunities. According to a recent Chain Store Age survey of 308 retail IT decision makers in the U.S. and U.K., almost all of the respondents would like to roll out new applications and services, but large percentages claimed budget, consistency, expertise, and scalability as major impediments to their efforts.
That's where IT infrastructure services step in. The right IT infrastructure partner supports the growth and needs of retail organizations by providing the following five benefits:
- Liberated business operations. By aligning the retailer's infrastructure with the CEO's corporate and customer goals, IT leaders can drive efficiency and value throughout the organization. This refined partnership provides not just cost savings to the CFO, but flexibility to the CIO. With right IT partner designing, installing, and administering their infrastructure, CIOs have the opportunity to focus more resources on innovation and business demands, and fewer resources on maintaining infrastructure.
- Lower total cost of ownership. Cost optimization and reduction are goals CIOs are constantly challenged to achieve, but the ways to achieve them are limited. New approaches to IT infrastructure can help significantly though, reducing soft costs like labor and maintenance alongside price and responsibility. By partnering with IT infrastructure utilities that offer new, all-in consumption models, retailers can enjoy greater reliability while escaping the nickel and diming that comes from multiple, single-serving vendors.
- Secure infrastructure and increased availability. You've worked hard to build trust with your customers. Are you sure you'll be able to keep it? Your customers expect you to keep their data safe and your CEO expects you to keep your company safe. New customer engagement applications, such as POS devices, interactive stores, and customer collaboration apps, are critical for creating positive modern customer experiences, but place high demands on IT infrastructure and increase network vulnerabilities. The right partner understands that the reliability of those capabilities is of paramount concern and should use solid state devices to ensure fewer defects, greater security, and minimal surface attack areas.
- Up-to-date technology. The right IT infrastructure partner provides proactive technology refreshes and upgrades so retailers can enjoy next generation equipment every 48-60 months. With new IT utility consumption models, retailers should never have to sweat their assets or worry about defects and challenges that arise as a result of technology debt.
- Resilient WiFi. The applications that are driving the digital retail world require resilient and robust internet bandwidth and access. Higher quality WiFi enables customers to constantly communicate in stores so they feel connected to the outside world and have an improved overall customer experience.
Whether they like it or not, retailers are becoming data and technology companies. AI-enabled, seamlessly merged physical and virtual customer experiences drive new convenience standards alongside expectations of fulfillment flexibility and simplified returns. Brick and mortar stores remain an asset, but it's less about the size of the store and more about how you use it to drive new customer engagement and service models.
While IT leaders in retail face many challenges, infrastructure maintenance doesn't have to be one of them. The Digital Age has introduced a wide array of innovations and IT infrastructure consumption models have changed to support them. Success or failure could depend on keeping the points above in mind when exploring a technology solution. In today's competitive retail space, the most successful organizations are going to be those who find IT partners who enable them to focus on the new technology and tools that will transform their business.
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