April 26, 2021 | As told to TEKsystems by Megan Cohill and Travis Salazar
Utilize data analytics and insights to navigate disruption in retail and exceed customer expectations
- Why a data strategy is mission-critical and helps evaluate customer behavior and inform business decisions
- How technology drives business for retailers—it’s no longer a cost center or back-end reporting function
- How the right partner can help organizations create their technology roadmap
- What the post-pandemic retail experience will look like
Over the last year, the way consumers shop has forever changed. Now more than ever, customers have high expectations of their favorite retailers. Companies that were further along in their digital transformation journey were able to pivot quickly during the pandemic. Others were slow to respond. Now, as we look forward to the post-pandemic world of retail, our experts remain optimistic and share their advice for retailers looking to get it right.
Data is queen—get a data strategy
“Data is queen. It really can transform how a retailer drives sales,” explains Megan Cohill, director of strategic accounts and head of retail at TEKsystems. She explains that companies with a retail sales data strategy could more immediately react to challenges caused by the pandemic. They could address supply chain issues and deliver for their customer because they prioritized and accelerated their transformative initiatives around retail data analytics and insights.
Data has evolved into a mission-critical asset that can drive tremendous value throughout an organization. Retailers need to look past data and technology as just a supporter of business decisions. Travis Salazar, regional director, enterprise cloud applications and data analytics and insights at TEKsystems, recommends that if you don’t have one already, retailers need to establish a data strategy—and review it regularly. A robust data strategy not only paves the way to more informed decision-making and successful business outcomes but also positions your organization to thrive, even during major disruptions like the current pandemic.
Questions retailers need to consider when creating a data strategy:
- What are your business goals?
- How well do you know your customers and what they expect?
- What data do you currently have access to?
- What data do you need?
- What key insights are you looking for from your data?
- What tools are you using?
- Where are there bottlenecks?
- What problems or business challenges lie within the individual lines of your supply chain?
- What challenges are there within your suppliers’ supply chain?
- How are you monitoring and optimizing warehouse inventory?
These are just a small set of a much longer list of questions retailers need to be asking themselves.
Technology drives sales—We can prove it
Years ago, technology was a cost center for retail businesses, serving as a reactive reporting function. But now, technology drives sales. Technology investments can be very easily and directly tied to revenue. In our research for the 2021 State of Digital Transformation report, we found that 40% of companies in the retail sector are focused on more defensive strategic priorities of resilience, productivity and efficiency, while 41% are focused on more offensive strategic priorities, investing in ways to take market share with new business models powered by technology.
But if retailers are finding it difficult to get that business buy-in for technology, we recommend that you identify quick wins (or quick failures). To help our customers do this, we work with technology partners, like Snowflake, whose data cloud can be implemented in a case-by-case scenario to quickly extrapolate revenue-generating opportunities—perhaps ones that are tied to personalization or marketing campaigns.
Meg says, “As an avid shopper myself, I am a sucker for personalization, and I always snicker knowing I’ve been had by my data. Or maybe flattered that someone knows me so well?” Either way, she, like many shoppers, clicks and completes those transactions.
And a large budget isn’t necessary to yield those quick results. Once you identify the use cases that provide a quick win, it’s important to voice that success. When your business decision-makers see and engage with these wins, you demonstrate value and build momentum as well as grow and advance your goals—and your budget.
Don't go at it alone—choose the right partners for your analytic solutions
Customers’ needs, appetites and attention spans are always changing. It’s essential to choose the right partners who can rethink, readjust and address all aspects of retail, including enterprise applications, data analytics and insights, workplace and store support, cybersecurity and automation / AI / machine learning.
Retailers need exceptional ways to engage with customers and meet their ever-increasing expectations. From the time a customer decides to make a purchase, to managing aspects of the supply chain and delivery to the customer, retailers need modern streamlined data strategies and initiatives.
"At TEKsystems, we’re obsessed with our customers, and we’re obsessed with our customers' customers," says Travis. "We really set out to understand our customer’s business. What are their problems, their challenges, their pain points, their goals? We want to be a true business partner to them—a consultative, transformative business partner."
He explains that one customer, a large global fashion retailer with several flagship brands, was on a modernization journey. They recognized an opportunity to optimize their supply chain systems and create an omnichannel experience for their customers. They needed to overhaul their legacy order management systems to fuel an omnichannel management system across various brand supply chains. Some big problems existed—disparate data silos and large amounts of valuable consumer data across brands, such as store/POS data, online data and phone inquiries. They could not access data in a unified way. And there was a lack of visibility to accurate inventory levels that negatively impacted sales, resulting in poor product life cycles and bad customer experiences.
We helped them build their technology roadmap to have better access to and understanding of their data. This helped make supply chain improvements to empower omnichannel access, create greater visibility into inventory and make their data available to their customers in real time.
With the help of TEKsystems, they were able to:
- Create a modern order management system tied into a big data solution that enabled the organization to track orders through delivery
- Reduce inventory and supply chain cost by turning their brick-and-mortar storefronts into micro warehouses
- Increase revenues by generating more sales through real-time accurate inventory counts, as well as better insights into their customers and the ability to recommend products
About the Authors
With 20 years in the industry, Meg works alongside her customers to activate and build technology solutions. She helps them navigate the complex technology ecosystem to maximize their investments in digital, cloud and data. As a mom and avid consumer, she truly understands her customers’ customers.
Travis found his passion for technology early on and brings that passion and know-how to every customer. At TEKsystems for 10 years, he supports the company’s fastest growing divisions and helps customers create new opportunities through data analytics and insights. A devoted DIYer, he tailors his approach based on the customer, so they can better understand their consumers’ behaviors and buying habits.
Predictions for the post-pandemic retail experience—listen now
According to our research, retailers are focused on efficiency in 2021—likely due to the supply chain challenges created by the pandemic—and about half are trying to improve the customer experience and bring new products to market. Wherever your focus, make your customer the center of your plans to prepare for the post-pandemic retail experience.
So, what will the post-pandemic retail experience look like? If you haven’t already, listen to Meg and Travis on the Total Retail Tech Insights podcast for their predictions and more insights for retailers.