The Executive Guide to Retail Software

Today, digital transformation is changing how retailers approach their operations. While forward-thinking leaders are investing in retail software solutions centered on unified commerce practices, others continue to rely on cobbled tech stacks that impede progress.

Over time, the disparity between these two approaches will continue to grow in the form of reduced efficiency, wasted time, and lost profits for legacy retailers.

Despite this bleak outlook, retailers across every segment continue to delay or forgo investing in unified retail software platforms. In some cases, they may be unaware of modern unified platform capabilities. Others may not be convinced that the newfound efficiencies are worth the perceived challenges associated with change.

As a result, they continue to lose ground to modern retailers who are willing to adapt. All the while, they are stunted by the training, integration, and maintenance bottlenecks associated with using a mix of retail software.

To help retailers improve the customer experience, optimize their internal operations, and gain actionable insight, we have assembled the following executive guide. Here, we compare the traditional approach (i.e., using a blend of retail software point solutions) with the modern, unified retail software approach.

Ultimately, the decisions you make today will yield a cumulative effect over time. Customer expectations have increased, real-time data has become integral to decision-making, and the retail landscape has grown hyper-competitive.

After reading our guide, you will have the strategic foresight necessary to grow and sustain your market share by selecting the right retail management approach for your needs.

The Evolution of Modern Retail

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In the wake of the global pandemic, change within the retail space has accelerated. As a result, retailers have largely shifted from pre-pandemic multichannel solutions toward omnichannel solutions. In essence, multichannel was the first step where retailers offered various purchasing avenues such as in-store, catalog, and online. Omnichannel goes one step further, integrating these siloed channels to provide a less disjointed user experience.

As the pandemic progressed, purchasing options such as BOPIS, curbside pickup, and local deliveries gained widespread adoption. Recognizing the newfound convenience, customer expectations soared, demanding faster and more flexible experiences with consistency across every channel.

Under immense pressure from customers and online competitors, retailers stepped up their efforts to integrate systems while facing supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and now, inflation.

Although decisions were made quickly out of necessity during the pandemic, retailers are reevaluating the long-term viability of these integrated, omnichannel software solutions while simultaneously exploring the potential of unified commerce platforms.

The Traditional Retail Software Approach

"But that's the way we've always done it…"

As you struggle with disjointed point solutions that weren't intended to work in harmony, this is the mindset your competitors want you to have. Meanwhile, unified commerce drives heightened cost effectiveness, streamlines employee workflows, and delivers more personalized customer experiences.

At the same time, there are circumstances when retailers may prefer to continue with the point solution approach as opposed to unifying. Below, we have considered both avenues.

Defining the Traditional Approach

Before weighing the pros and cons, let's define what the traditional approach actually means. In these situations, retailers bring a myriad of point solutions together over time, each of which was designed primarily for a single purpose, such as:

  • Category management
  • Catalog management
  • Customer loyalty
  • Data analytics
  • E-commerce
  • Email marketing
  • Inventory replenishment
  • Order management
  • Point-of-sale
  • Pricing
  • Self-checkout
  • Supply chain management
  • Warehouse management
  • And beyond

The list goes on and on. Some retailers with extensive IT departments opt to develop in-house solutions to address specific challenges. Others adopt multiple point solutions, sometimes provided by legacy retail ERP software vendors, hoping that the integrated systems will interface seamlessly. Unfortunately, these retailers are often left with siloed systems that work well alone but create a mosaic of technical and operational hurdles when combined.

For decades, the traditional approach described above has been "the way we've always done it." Now, it is at odds with evolving consumer expectations and the competitive retail landscape.

The Advantages of the Traditional Approach

Despite modern advancements, the traditional approach has the potential to benefit certain types of retailers. For example, point solutions may offer a deeper selection of features and functionalities within any given operational silo than unified solutions. Although regional and mid-market retailers generally do not have the resources to fully leverage these features while investing in ongoing integrations and maintenance, mega-retailers with huge IT budgets may choose to do so.

Given that the time spent learning, updating, and maintaining these integrated tech stacks can surmount to thousands of personnel hours — hours that could be invested in value-adding projects — a thorough risk-benefit and trade-off analyses should be conducted beforehand.

Likewise, retailers seeking to diversify their revenue streams beyond merchandise sales alone may consider the viability of developing an in-house platform, then licensing the technology to other retailers. Between the significant up-front investment and ongoing upkeep costs, in-house platforms are generally more feasible for retailers with substantial technical support personnel and robust IT budgets.

However, even with a traditional approach, retailers still strive toward unifying their technology solutions. Most are finding that it's virtually impossible to integrate their way toward a unified commerce platform.

Where the Traditional Approach Falls Short

Retailers have fallen into the traditional approach over time, honing in on a specific functional area without fully considering how the point solution will integrate with their overarching workflow. For example, a retailer with frequent product shortages may begin researching inventory replenishment software as the solution. After narrowing their search down to a shortlist of options, reading reviews, seeing a product demo, and working with the vendor, they enlist the help of a systems integrator and begin the implementation process.

All the while, they underestimate the long-term impact on their other systems and overlook the importance of having data flow seamlessly throughout their various systems.

Over time, the costs associated with these ongoing integrations and upkeep can greatly outweigh any benefits, all while underdelivering the desired capabilities. Although the domain expertise offered through these disparate systems may work well for parts of their operation, the complexity and lack of harmonious systems limit the full breadth of capabilities available to the retailer.

With the traditional approach, central functions like catalog management are incredibly time-consuming for retailers. This is the source of significant frustration. Managing new products and keeping pricing up to date is a never-ending battle. Meanwhile, your chain's unique product catalog holds the key to substantial value for both you and your customers.

The world of unified commerce is different. You can offer products through a manufacturer or distributor even if they aren’t typically carried in your store, thereby enabling your customers to access those products. Conversely, the complexity of manual catalog data entry in traditional retail systems oftentimes prevents retailers from offering truly endless aisle solutions.

With multiple locations to manage, customers to support, and products to ship, retailers simply don't have time to access individual systems or conduct manual data entry. All the while, siloed e-commerce sites no longer live up to the increasing demands of modern retail. The only alternative is a costly and lengthy integration process riddled with unexpected bottlenecks and underperformance.

The Implications of Ongoing Point Solution Investments

The negative results of single point solutions are well understood. According to the PwC Digital Trends in Supply Chain Survey 2022, "80% of respondents say technology investments haven't fully delivered expected results." The answer isn't another vendor's software or a new systems integrator. These only lead to lengthy implementations, more complexity, and reduced agility. Unfortunately, that's precisely what many retailers resort to time and time again.

As best summarized by EY, "putting new and emerging technologies as bolt-ons to legacy infrastructure will only slow things down and make experiences worse. Too many retailers struggle with integrating new technologies with old systems." As the sunk costs of new systems pile up, the results are rarely positive. The high hopes retailers had for their new systems are quickly met with the inability to consolidate disparate data and gain real-time visibility across their operations.

Over time, retailers grow frustrated and disappointed in the unmet promises of their next new system.

Can retailers brute force their way through integrating their point solutions? Maybe, but not without extensive resources, deep budgets, and robust IT departments. For most regional and mid-market retailers, doing so simply isn't feasible. If your goal is to create a seamless customer experience while simplifying employee workflows, continuing to integrate disparate point solutions will only stifle your progress.

These challenges extend beyond the retail industry alone. However, today's retail environment demands agility and adaptability. Meanwhile, the traditional approach to retail software lacks the speed, flexibility, and functionality necessary to keep up.

Fortunately, advancements in modern technology empower mid-market retailers to fully leverage their advantages, outmaneuvering online retailers and global brands. Modern unified retail management systems make this possible.

The Modern Retail Software Approach

For forward-thinking retailers, technology is not synonymous with frustration. Instead, they are discovering newfound efficiency, growth, and profitability by replacing cobbled tech stacks with unified retail software platforms. In turn, they are delivering capabilities once exclusive to global retailers with seemingly unlimited resources. Although this shift requires visionary leadership and high-level buy-in, the immediate and ongoing impact is worth the pivot.

FieldStack is a large part of our growth story. Any retailer looking to get the most out of their technology investment should absolutely look at FieldStack.
Shawn McGhee, CEO - Hollywood Feed

Take, for example, Hollywood Feed, a pet specialty retail chain with nearly 200 stores and counting. Here's what Hollywood Feed's CEO, Shawn McGhee, had to say after implementing FieldStack. "FieldStack is a large part of our growth story. Any retailer looking to get the most out of their technology investment should absolutely look at FieldStack." As a unified platform, FieldStack supports accelerated growth without the typical headaches and limitations associated with cross-platform integrations.

Taking a Customer-Centric Approach

In his bestselling book Remarkable Retail, the 30-year retail veteran Steve Dennis states that "the customer is the channel." Dennis pinpoints one of the most critical concepts for modern retailers to understand with just five words. Today's customers expect every aspect of the retail experience to flow seamlessly, from browsing to purchasing to delivery to returns. Not to mention, they expect the products they need with instantaneous, adaptive interactions and personalized support.

With heightened demands, your team needs the right tools to keep up. Time-latent human interactions, inaccurate data, and clunky integrations can quickly dissuade repeat business, positive reviews, and referrals to friends and family. Although it's the people that will drive progress in the retail space, automation and data-driven technologies are vital in freeing up people to focus on what matters most: their customers.

How FieldStack Outperforms the Traditional Approach

By embracing a unified commerce platform like FieldStack, savvy retailers gain a major advantage over their legacy competitors. Here's how. At every touchpoint, customer, inventory, and operational data is collected in real-time. The data is then accessible instantly throughout your entire system, an automated process that requires zero integrations, zero data mapping, and minimal human oversight. From there, customers and employees alike can seamlessly access the information they need, when they need it. This enables more informed decisions to keep up with customer demands while avoiding unnecessary workarounds.

FieldStack's unified retail software platform features the end-to-end capabilities that retailers need in a single, unified platform that elevates customer satisfaction while driving ROI.

To help brick-and-mortar retailers leverage their inherent advantages, today's point-of-sale systems need to go well beyond the traditional channel-specific functions of the past. FieldStack Store, a complete retail POS system, supports your team's ability to carry out daily operations while providing exceptional customer service across every channel.

FieldStack Store features point-of-sale functions such as payment processing, self-checkout, coupon management, and BOPIS support. That's in addition to handling store operations through labor scheduling, payroll integration, loss prevention analysis, and more. In turn, employees focus less on learning how to use various tools and more on productive, customer-facing activities throughout your entire store, not just behind the counter. That's because FieldStack Store is also supported on mobile.

As customer preferences continue to evolve, FieldStack Omni keeps your business ready for the future. Between your website, Amazon presence, and brick-and-mortar stores, this omnichannel retail software handles order management, flexible fulfillment, and local deliveries all through a stunning e-commerce website. Likewise, the Amazon marketplace integrations monitor activity, automatically update inventory, and provide pricing flexibility.

Meanwhile, FieldStack Fans ensures the highest possible loyalty and engagement from customers, weaving in value-adding loyalty programs, gift card integrations, customer profiles, email management, and more.

Within its unified platform, FieldStack Supply operates as a holistic retail inventory software solution, weaving in key features such as inventory replenishment, shipping, EDI integrations, warehouse management, and vendor management to cover 360° of your supply chain.

And, FieldStack Intelligence makes use of the valuable data collected throughout the platform. This robust retail analytics software guides strategic decisions while transforming insight into action. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), data visualization dashboards, forecasting, and exportable reports, you can remediate inefficiencies while strengthening 360° of your value chain.

Overall, FieldStack provides the full spectrum of functionalities that retailers need to save countless personnel hours, drive a truly personalized customer experience, optimize their operations, and hone their competitive advantage. With an accelerated implementation timeline, retailers can say goodbye to the endless cycle of point solution adoption, filled with costly delays and complexities. All the while, FieldStack offers an intuitive user experience that new hires and leaders alike can get behind. These are just a few of the reasons why retailers trust FieldStack as the cornerstone of their winning strategy.

The Future of Retail

Throughout the pandemic, e-commerce shopping surged by over 30%, according to McKinsey. In turn, leaders reassessed their existing omnichannel solutions. Now, they are realizing that retail software is too important to be this complicated.

Meanwhile, POS software solutions have evolved. Per Gartner, "POS solutions now have become the anchor in the unified commerce platforms in which they are included. These solutions are now centralized to facilitate key unified commerce activities. These activities include endless aisle, click and collect, store fulfillment of online orders, clienteling, and loyalty, as well as other functions that allow customers to search, transact, acquire and consume products across a retailer's ecosystem."

With constant integrations and extensive research required for new software adoptions, retailers are now accepting the simple fact that they are not technologists. Innovation and simplification can co-exist. Unfortunately, retailers anticipate facing the challenges of retiring legacy systems, integrating applications, unifying commerce, and consolidating channeled silos for the next three years, according to the 32nd RIS Technology Study.

The clear way forward is unified commerce through modern advancements like FieldStack's unified lean retail platform. In fact, studies by Gartner reveal that organizations embracing unified commerce will experience a 20% uplift in total revenue by 2025. These developments have presented a unique opportunity for mid-market retailers. Although online giants and mega-retailers are making substantial technology investments, mid-market retailers can outmaneuver these organizations by implementing a unified commerce platform and leveraging their natural advantages.

Unified commerce SaaS platforms like FieldStack offer several advantages beyond the technology itself. As pointed out by EY, these advantages can make the difference between success and failure; "Relationships between retailers and their technology partners must shift from transactional installments to service-led support, to enable their systems to outpace obsolescence".

Retail Has Changed. Should You?

Within retail, there are no one-size-fits-all strategies. The right retail software approach is the one that aligns with your goals, enriches the customer experience, and drives your ROI. While a lean retail approach may be advantageous for mid-market retailers, a traditional approach may be feasible for mega-retailers with extensive financial and personnel resources. With substantial ongoing investment, retailers can integrate their way toward the capabilities that a unified platform provides, but they simply can’t integrate their way to unified.

To make the most informed decision possible for your organization, we recommend asking the following questions:

  • Have our previous point solutions lived up to our expectations?
  • What obstacles have we faced as we attempt to integrate our way toward unified?
  • Are our employees and operations performing as efficiently as possible?
  • Has our cobbled tech stack impeded our internal efficiency?
  • Is our customer journey as seamless as possible?
  • How much market share have we lost to our competitors?

As a retailer relying on the traditional approach, are your answers on track with your long-term goals? If not, you might consider making the switch to a unified commerce solution. Designed for retailers across every segment, FieldStack delivers a unified solution with a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

Before signing up for another point solution demo, we invite you to enjoy our free online Lean Retail Web Class. In turn, you can experience the full benefit of the platform firsthand. Our dedicated team can configure the FieldStack platform for your organization, completing the implementation process before the end of the next quarter.

All the while, our success is based on your results. We stick with you throughout the entire process and beyond, providing guidance, answering your questions, conducting training, enhancing our platform, and providing support where and when you need it most.

Thank You For Reading

We wish you the best of luck with your retail operations and invite you to explore FieldStack as your unified commerce platform. For questions, we encourage you to reach out or schedule a call. We look forward to working with you.

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