Tech Trends in Retail
Retail is a cutthroat industry, and success depends on how well your firm does against the competition. To stay ahead of the game, managers are using technology to get better results.
It's in every retail professional's best interest to become familiar with retail technology. Whether you work on the sales floor or behind the scenes, mastering retail technologies will help you stay marketable.
If your career plans are in retail, you'll want to learn the ins and outs of these high tech tools.
Technology in Retail
According to Jim Dion, a Chicago-based retail technology consultant, high tech innovations help retailers stay competitive in four key categories: convenience, price, size and speed.
In stores and on the sales floor, high tech tools help balance inventory assortments, manage ordering and track pricing. Customer tracking tools increase customer satisfaction and promote loyalty by enhancing shoppers' in-store experience.
On the executive level, technology improves planning and decision making. Various data-mining software help make stocking, pricing and marketing decisions, as well as improve product design and development.
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): Direct computer-to-computer transactions from the store to the vendors' databases and ordering systems.
- Wireless hand-held inventory units: Take inventory and download the data to a database at headquarters.
- Universal Product Code (UPC): Product identification system using bar code and unique numbering.
- Automatic replenishment: Manages restocking of what's been sold.
- Virtual shelves: Intranets between retailers and vendors that expedite communication and on-time replenishment.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software: Allows retailers to track customers.
- CD-ROMs at the register: Let sales associates make special orders on the spot. Also deliver sales training to sales associates on the floor.
- In-store interactive kiosks: Provide customers with product details.
- Smart registers/point-of-sale (POS) terminals: Print coupons and reports, calculate frequent shopper discounts, capture customer profile information, schedule work hours and serve as store-to-headquarters email terminals.
- Signature-capture technology: Used at the POS terminal for credit card transactions. Receipts are retained electronically.
- E-commerce technology: Helps retailers and shoppers interact any time, anywhere.
- Executive Information Systems (EIS): Produce graphs of complex data that help retail executives make business decisions.
Become Tech Savvy
If you're in school, take courses to develop your computer literacy. Learn to use spreadsheets, databases and word-processing software. If you're already working in retail, much technology training happens on the job. Don't avoid training opportunities; jump at them. Stay abreast of events by reading trade magazines and business periodicals and attending retail trade shows.
Using technology does not guarantee a retailer's success; it is just one piece of the puzzle. As RIS News, a retail technology publication, points out, a retailer may use technology to manage merchandise flow, but if it stocks merchandise customers don't want, its business suffers. So learn to combine tech know-how with common sense, interpersonal skills, problem-solving savvy and enthusiasm
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