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On-Demand Multi-Channel Retail Management Solutions

Keeping your competitive advantage in today’s multi-channel retail marketplace

Written By: Chris Martin

It takes guts to be an independent retailer in today’s competitive retail market. Let’s face it; they compete against much larger big-box stores for the retail dollars of increasingly value conscious and demanding consumers. They’re constantly focused on the key drivers of success: How well do I know my customers? Is my service superior to the chains? Are they effectively managing their operations and controlling their inventory?  As entrepreneurs, they’ve accepted and even relish the challenge of building and maintaining a loyal and profitable customer base in the backyard of big-box retailers. That’s gutsy.

Unless they’re able to leverage new technologies such as the internet – faster and more efficiently than the competition – to meet consumers heightened expectations for a seamless, efficient and satisfying shopping experience across sales channels, they are taking big risks with their customer base, not to mention your business. That’s not gutsy – it’s foolish.

Well heeled big box retailers have integrated their legacy retail systems and adopted best-in-breed technologies to better protect their customer base and attack yours. Most SMR’S (small to mid-size retailers) lack the technical know-how, financial resources, or both, to assemble such systems.

Changing face of retailing

Retailers today face a complex sales environment with an ever-growing number of sales channels (retail, ecommerce, call center, catalog) to manage.  Consumers are demanding more information, better service and more control over the shopping experience. Concurrently, consumers continue to exhibit heightened expectations for a seamless, efficient and satisfying shopping experience across all channels. For example, a consumer may go to the web to research product choices, then call-in to the retailer to place an order, then may go to the retailer’s brick and mortar store to pick up the merchandise. 

This shift has caused retailers to augment the traditional in-store retail channel with online sales channels, cross-channel service capabilities and advanced customer service and marketing tools. In order to remain competitive retailers must also be able to orchestrate successful cross-channel sales initiatives—they have to be there for their customers no matter when, where, or how they would like to interact with the retailer. With multiple brick-n-mortar and ecommerce competitive alternatives in the marketplace, retailers can ill afford to provide anything but a delightful customer experience.

Traditional Software Model for Retail Industry

Large retailers have historically; the retail industry has had to rely on a variety of “on-premise” or installed and licensed “shrink-wrap” software solutions to meet its needs for the management of back office operations, ecommerce and point of sale.

Specialized “best of breed” enterprise solutions for business intelligence, customer relationship management, call centers, accounting, marketing, ecommerce, inventory management, purchasing, ordering and point of sale would be integrated to provide the retailer with the capabilities required for its business operations.

On-premise enterprise software application can be expensive to purchase/license, with the cost further ballooning when needs for customization, maintenance and support are added to the equation.  When the task of integrating multiple disparate applications across the organization is accounted for, the costs and IT resources can be substantial—often beyond the means of SMRs.

Where a larger retailer can afford to stitch together best of breed software systems and automation to support its business processes, SMRs are forced to rely to a large degree on human capital and manual and redundant processes to bridge the gap between what the software solutions they can afford are capable of and what their business needs are.

Historically, access to a fully integrated end-to-end multi-channel retail management system capable of delivering a great customer experience was affordable only to larger big-box retailers. SMRs simply didn’t have the technical know how or financial resources to evaluate and integrate such a system. The introduction of on-demand retail management solutions has closed this gap.  

On-Demand Retail Management Solutions

The introduction of on-demand retail management solutions has closed this gap.  “On-Demand” software is a business model based on the delivery of software functionality through a web-based application hosted by the software provider.  Retailers do not purchase the software itself, or install anything on-premise, but rather pay for the use of the software through a web client.

A superior on-demand solution provides SMR’S with everything they need for achieving to be successful in today’s retail marketplace:

  • A single application that streamlines day-to-day operations, provides a real-time, 360-degree view of customers and business processes and delivers an unparalleled ability to grow in-store and on-line sales.
  • A Retail Ecosystem, a partner program that provides our customers with timely, cost effective and pre-integrated access to best-in-class channels, fulfillment and retail technology solutions. 
  • An on-demand delivery model that enables SMRs to compete with the same tools and in the same channels as big-box retailers.

As can be seen, an on-demand solution can provide SMR’S with a fully integrated retail management system with the features and functions they need to compete and win in today’s competitive and demanding retail marketplace — and in a delivery model that fits their business and budget.
Other benefits of an on-demand solution include:

Great return on your investment

An on-demand solutions all-in-one application design and transaction-based pricing minimizes their on-going maintenance expenses and upfront investment.  An on-demand solution is delivered over the web and maintained by the software provider meaning the retailer doesn’t have to worry about maintaining servers or upgrading software and their IT staff can focus on creating value for the business. A transaction based pricing model means they can re-invest their profits back into their business and not into IT equipment and support. 

Gain immediate access to the latest technology

With traditional on-premise, licensed software, retailers have to wait and pay for each release to get new features. Often times they need to upgrade operating systems or hardware or software, or hardware obsolescence forces you to your upgrade software. An on-demand solution, they benefit from new features and integration with 3rd party applications or services on an ongoing basis and never have to worry about installing upgrades again.

Deploy and use with confidence

An on-demand solution offers a level of reliability, security and support that is well beyond the reach of most SMR’S. The software is hosted in network-neutral data center and interconnection services. These data centers typically offer 99.9999% availability delivering unparalleled performance, reliability and scalability.

The software provider, not a third-party reseller, takes full ownership for ensuring the implementation phase goes smoothly, the retailer’s staff is completely trained and their system is available 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Customer and business data is safeguarded using the latest software, system and physical level security techniques and equipment ensuring adherence to all industry standards, such as PCI (payment card industry) compliance requirements.

Expand and integrate easily

With an on-demand solution, new stores, ecommerce sites, merchandise, staff, customers and increases in sales can easily be accommodated without any degradation in performance or reliability and without ever buying new software or servers. It is also possible to integrate with financial or other applications, and customize the solution to meet unique business requirements.

Keeps you connected and on top of the game 

Exceeding the expectations of today’s savvy consumer requires retailers to constantly look out for, evaluate and take advantage of leading edge retail channels and marketing and management applications. Most SMRs lack the time, money or expertise to evaluate and integrate the wide array of solutions available in the market place. Through on-demand ecosystems, typically a key component of any on-demand solution, SMR’S can leverage the collective knowledge of the software provider’s entire customer base and in-house retail experts to access and deploy best-in-breed retail supply chain,  channels, payment processors, ecommerce technology, and other solutions.

Summary

In today’s complex multi-channel retail environment, SMR’S must be able to deliver the seamless and integrated shopping experience customers demand across all sales channels.  The retailer that relies solely on a single channel or disparate retail management systems will be outflanked by larger, more nimble and efficient competitors.

The on-demand model provides SMRs with a cost effective means for them to extend their business across key retail channels.  On-demand affordability and performance helps SMRs to achieve a tight integration between POS, ecommerce, inventory, order fulfillment, CRM, merchandising, business intelligence and distribution.  The integration of these functions delivers efficiency, service quality, performance, scalability, and a customer-centric view of the business that fuels growth for the SMR.

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