Getting the basics right in retail means transparent pricing, understandable offers, good service and product availability. Most retailers have these down by now and are consistent across the web or the store. That’s not an issue.
But competition — and today that’s around Big Data and analytics — never lets us rest on our laurels for very long. In retail, the new battle is over the use of technology to take the game to the next level. So brand after brand is investing in rapidly increasing amounts in technology, mostly around the promises of customer experience management.
The Path Behind Us
Technology, however, can be a roll of the dice. The path behind us is littered with so-called game changers that never met their promises to revolutionize an industry. Companies throughout the age of computerization have wasted significant money in software that took too long to roll out and recoup their costs and in the end, was inflexible and needed to be replaced too soon.
No one doubts that today’s retail (Big Data, analytics, customer experience and loyalty-driven) requires significant investment in technology, but how does a brand choose wisely and avoid wasting precious time and money?
Brands need a strategy flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions, changing data sources, and changing technologies. The single best approach is to run short trials based on hypotheses where an idea is killed quickly if it doesn’t work or is rolled out quickly if it does. Technology needs to support this by being flexible to sources of data and to have baked-in capabilities to analyze data, create a hypothesis, and then run continuous cycles of testing and learning. In today’s software world, necessity is the mother of iteration.
Technology that falls short of this capability will join history’s trash heap.