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Taming 'retail chaos'


Emerging technology disruptors continue to cause “retail chaos,” making it harder for retailers to achieve true unified commerce, according to Kevin Connor, director of product strategy for Retail Pro International. Chain Store Age recently spoke with Connor, who discussed how brands must define their business needs — and the solutions that will help them achieve their goals — if they want to succeed in an ever-changing marketplace.

What are retailers’ priorities when it comes to unified commerce?

Consumer experience is the top priority in today’s unification of commerce. Building a durable, multifaceted relationship with the consumer, one that goes beyond a transaction, is paramount.

The incredible pace of unified commerce is changing the retail landscape. Knowing your customers should always be a priority — it serves as the pillar with which you can build the rest of your operation.

What role do technology disruptors play in unified commerce?

Disruptors play a huge role in two ways. First, they create just enough chaos to shake up the retail world and generate new demands where technology can be leveraged. Meanwhile, the same pool of disruptors create solutions for these new demands, and bridge together all commerce channels. It’s the yin-and-yang of unified commerce.

What do you mean by the power of ‘chaos’ in the marketplace?

What we call “retail chaos” is caused by trends that current solutions do not support. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by the barrage of companies that claim they can solve “the” problems you face. Unfortunately, this claim causes even more chaos and uncertainty for retailers. They find themselves in a constant change management cycle, spending valuable resources in time, money and staff to invoke the latest in vogue solutions — just to find that they need to regroup, rethink and restart addressing “the” problem.

Focusing on what matters is the solution. Albeit a simple one, it is not so simple to adhere to with retail chaos flying around at the speed of change. Slowing down and keeping an eye to what is truly needed to move to the next level will be the retailer’s key to success.

Where do retailers struggle most?

Identifying the path forward is definitely one of the biggest challenges for retailers. There is no one unified commerce journey, and the path varies from retailer to retailer. Identifying what matters —and what doesn’t — and ultimately implementing solutions that will keep the retailer relevant in the consumer’s eyes is the key to navigating their journey.

How are customizations playing a role in dealing with retail chaos?

Customizations are an interesting solution for today’s retail challenges. On one hand, they allow a retailer to be nimble without having to ‘rip and replace’ the entire technology stack. Yet, customizations also have the potential to keep a retailer from adopting new technology from the very same disruptors they are talking with to help them adapt. Choosing the right areas in their business to customize will make retailers most successful.

How can Retail Pro help retailers on their journey?

One of Retail Pro’s biggest strengths is the role it plays in being a hub for consumer and retail data. Being a primary connection point between the consumer and the retailer’s channels gives retailers a platform they can depend upon. They know exactly what returning consumers have been done, while still leveraging that knowledge and experiences of new consumers in their stores.

How can retailers transition from chaos into the ‘retail reality?’

Know what you are aiming to do, and know why you want to do it. This will help anyone build — and stick — to a strategy. At the end of the day, technology will continue to change. If we are continually trying to keep up with the chaos that is created by the shifts in trends and technology — without keeping some level of clarity and focus on why we started in retail to begin with — we will constantly lose our way.

Those suffering from retail chaos need to start with the basics. Identify what is needed and wanted in our space, and be honest about this one. It may not always be overtly apparent. Once we have that, move on to identifying what are the viable options out there to address those needs and wants. Analysis of what will work in our space may take some time. Realize this and don’t panic if the solution is not manifested before the next round of chaos comes knocking. If we do this, what we want for our retail reality will happen, and it will happen with the least number of headaches.

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