Why customer demands require agile thinking

Of necessity, the retail sector has become incredibly agile over the last 2 years. We’ve seen rapid implementation of initiatives to help customers, including contactless payments, roll-outs of click & collect, curb-side pick-up and QR codes for ordering and paying for goods.

We’ve also experienced a rapid change in the physical store that effectively involved it catching up with what had become standard practice online. We see that the pure-plays have shown an ability to deliver new functionality every week or even every day. For them, the implementation of digital technology has been rapid and ongoing.

It’s fair to say websites make it incredibly easy for people to buy goods, but they are not particularly effective at selling. In complete contrast, physical stores are good at selling goods to shoppers but the process of actually buying is pretty clunky and friction-rich. But with the implementation of the new technologies during Covid-19 we have even seen the emergence of examples of completely friction-free stores.

Looking ahead and truly adopting new ways of working

So far so good, but retailers face a big challenge, and it involves not slipping back into old ways. Now they are largely back in the office they need to carry on with the speed and agility they employed during the pandemic to bring the best of the digital experience into stores. While doing this they need to also maintain what stores do best – great engagement with customers and providing a rich personal experience.

To ensure this happens IT departments need to re-engineer their whole approach. They need to think agile and deploy rapid delivery cycles. Retailers need to discard the old ways of big bang, rip and replace strategies, which have traditionally involved huge testing schedules, training, and cut-over cycles (when moving to a new platform).

This new way of working is underpinned by embracing de-coupled, API-led technology, which can be delivered alongside any incumbent solutions.

So why do retailers struggle with these new methodologies and ways of working?

It’s chiefly because most companies have become wedded to buying packages and this has led to them having insufficient expertise or structures in place to develop their own software. They simply do not have the infrastructure to be truly agile.

 

Speeding up feedback loops

Not everybody is in this camp of course, and there are smart retailers out there implementing new technologies rapidly alongside, and around, existing solutions. Fundamental to this is quick feedback, testing and learning, and bringing in colleagues during the entire implementation process.

Retailers are often understandably cautious of this test and learn approach - that could really be re-named 'failing and learning' - because of the impact it might have on the customer. But they should not be afraid. Covid-19 proved that consumers have a greater tolerance of quickly-released products than might have been expected. The test and learn approach is employed by all the big technology firms but other sectors are very much behind the curve with its adoption.

 

Removing dividing lines of responsibility

Bringing in such changes should not be seen as solely the responsibility of the IT function. Nobody should be insulated from change as it affects all parts of a retailers’ business. An agile approach to delivering technology requires the necessary business leadership and also for ‘business change’ to be recognised as a core aspect of an organisation.

Retailers do not need to fear this move to a new mind-set because help is at hand in the form of great service providers who can be critical to supporting this change by bringing in the required skills, processes, and experience. They can augment and work alongside the IT team within retail businesses.

There is no doubt that retailers have to embrace the agile mentality to software development; change is not only constant in the sector, it is accelerating.

Customers are increasingly demanding a personal experience in-store that is not uniform for every shopper.  The only way businesses can deliver on this ongoing imperative is to adopt a modular, decoupled API-led technology strategy that enables change to be delivered at the level of speed that is required in today’s incredibly competitive retail environment where customers are setting the pace.

Simon Curtis, Chief Commercial Officer, PMC Retail

As Chief Commercial Officer at PMC, Simon Curtis oversees Account Management, Sales and Marketing, and our Partnership program. Simon has worked extensively in the retail sector for many years. Holding previous leadership roles in the retail technology industry including; Head of Large Corporates at WorldPay, Commercial Director at YESpay, and Managing Director at ITIM. Prior to the retail software, Simon spent time at Price Waterhouse Consulting, where he advised clients on the selection and implementation of retail technology and process re-engineering.

Simon Curtis, Chief Commercial Officer, PMC Retail

As Chief Commercial Officer at PMC, Simon Curtis oversees Account Management, Sales and Marketing, and our Partnership program. Simon has worked extensively in the retail sector for many years. Holding previous leadership roles in the retail technology industry including; Head of Large Corporates at WorldPay, Commercial Director at YESpay, and Managing Director at ITIM. Prior to the retail software, Simon spent time at Price Waterhouse Consulting, where he advised clients on the selection and implementation of retail technology and process re-engineering.