Let's say your company is ahead of the technology curve, employing mobile point-of-sale (POS) systems, customer relationship management software, the latest financial reporting software, e- and m-commerce applications and supply chain tracking. Great! But what sort of exposure are you looking at when the performance of that technology fails to meet organizational or, far worse, customer expectations?
Thanks to a recent survey conducted by Intellitrends on behalf of Compuware that sheds light on how tech performance is impacting business across industries, we have a pretty good idea. The survey looked at four broad segments: manufacturing; healthcare/pharmaceutical; financial services; and retail, which evidenced some unique vulnerabilities.
While the average short-term financial impact across product recalls and sales was low (relative to other industries assessed), two areas of long-term risk cited by respondents from the retail industry were more negatively impacted: loss of brand equity and loss of market share - two sides of the same coin.
As with financial services, information technology in retail is far closer to the end user than in the other industries. In contrast to financial services, however, retail relies in large part on a seasonal workforce and year-round employs a large number of high school and college-aged associates. Boil that down and you've got scenarios where part-time seasonal employees with minimal academic or professional experience are on the other side of the counter creating brand impressions as they wrestle with the POS system, inventory management system and more. Our marketing people repeat the mantra that "every employee is a brand ambassador," a concept that our survey participants from retail certainly seem to grasp.
Bottom line, there's negligible barrier to switching in the vast majority of retail environs. Customers can drive up the street to your competitor or, more likely, pull out their smartphones and relegate your operation to a showroom as they make transactions online right in front of your very eyes. And all indications are that once they leave the store, they're not coming back.