Technology has been one of the key drivers of U.S economic growth for over 60+ years. From the late 1940s to the present, two-fifths of U.S. economic growth can be attributed to technological advances. Technology has dramatically transformed industries such as: Print Media, Television, Travel... Retail has not been spared, as technological advances are changing the industry in ways that would not have been possible a few years ago. By the end of 2015, digital technology will influence .64 Cents out of every dollar spent in U.S. retail stores. However, we must remember that technology does not work in a vacuum. When thinking about technology in the B2B context, we must take into consideration the human factor in order for adoption to be successful.
Technology and Organizations
In prior blogs we discussed how technology gave rise to the connected consumer, which drove retailers towards omni-channel strategies that make the user experience seamless to customers across all touch points. In retail it is crucial to intimately understand the end-consumer, since the business is built one sale at a time.
Often we associate technology with software and hardware, while forgetting that – People - will dictate the success or failure of a given technology. Therefore, when striving for omni-channel nirvana, retailers must remember to consider both the technological and organizational sides of the equation. Technological implementations in retail organizations solve a pain point, but just as importantly must take into consideration organizational change, process integration and the alignment of behaviors towards a goal on the back-end.
When thinking about the success of any solution retailers must consider the underlying barriers that may hinder success (i) organizational structure (ii) organizational coordination. On average, large retailers have fragmented touch points that need coordination.
Legacy retail companies were not originally organized to capture consumer data in a single repository, synchronize it and have a single-view of their customers at the back-end. Over time they evolved and added layers upon layers of IT systems and processes. As retailers evolved the Silo mentality crept in. Without a single-view internally, it made it difficult to have a single-view externally for the connected consumer. This is why the consumer retail brand experience is sometimes disjointed at the front-end.
The silos make it complex for retailers to have continuous retail time data and provide a seamless experience for end-consumers. Given this context, coordination within retailers needs to take hold in order to have a unified front. This implies that new processes need to take place within the organization, as a natural outcome of coordination. The natural question to this is – ‘What needs to occur in order for a technological solution to become successful in a retail environment?’
The success of a given retail technology takes work. Below are some key items to consider when making a new solution part of the existing business process.
- Manage Expectations – Management must help stakeholders understand how the new retail solution will specifically aid the organization. Moreover, Management needs to articulate the benefits to the team and also explain how individual responsibilities might evolve. This will bring transparency to the process and make the transition easier, so that adoption is successful.
- Training – Education is another important component. The team should be comfortable with the new tool and process. They can see for themselves that technology need not be a black box. The more comfortable the team is, the greater the trust of the new system. The greater the trust, the higher the likelihood that the solution becomes an organic part of the process.
- Continuous Engagement – There is nothing better than first hand insights and feedback from end users. Feedback can be used to better adapt the solution to a particular organization, which will help the solution become sticky. Additionally, engagement creates a sense of ownership
In order for technological adoption to be successful senior management must consider the organizational side, even if the solutions for are not always clear and simple. Moreover, by facilitating the integration process they will champion changes that will best serve their customers.