Finding digital solutions in the retail sector can be a challenge. It can be all too easy for managers to focus on the business of shifting products from shelves. This risks losing sight of the bigger picture as to which products are making the best returns and what is working to attract customers into the store.

There are a number of reasons as to why retailers struggle to see this big picture and many of them are related to systems.

Lack of integration

One of the biggest problems, especially for larger businesses, is that legacy systems can be difficult to integrate with newer additions. This holds back digital transformation projects since it is harder to exchange data with suppliers and other systems.

The modern world demands greater levels of integration and of technical transparency. But this needs to be achieved without the commitment to costly and time-consuming development projects. This is why many businesses are turning to the use of APIs to allow more streamlined integration between systems.

Of course, data needs to be usable across the entire business. Stores vary in size and location which means that their needs differ. Churning out standard centralised reports, therefore, will not be relevant to all of them. Systems need to be flexible enough to tailor information to the needs of individual stores.

Development projects

Retailing is inherently a physical business. This means that there can be a disconnect between the people at the sharp end and the development teams putting together systems. If retail systems are to be effective, then it’s vital to work closely with developers and system providers to ensure that solutions deliver.

It’s important, too, to take the time to trial systems in a smaller scale environment so that, if they do fail it happens in a controlled way and at minimal cost to the business.

Digital integration

The buzz in many industries, not least retail, at the moment is around digital integration, bringing together systems both in-house and with suppliers to smooth the flow of data. And, of course, data is the key to understanding the business. It can tell you which products sell best and which bring customers into the store.

Data on its own, however, is of little use unless you are able to analyse it effectively and draw meaningful insights. Working with a supplier such as Smarter Integration can help retailers to bring together systems and make sense of the data they provide. Smarter Integration has expertise in delivering integration and working with solutions from many of the leading providers of retail solutions.

The online world is in a constant state of flux, changes happen quickly and businesses must react to changes in market conditions. In the physical world, it’s harder to do this, but that’s no reason to remain static.

Change is an important factor in remaining competitive and without embracing the opportunities offered by digital integration and the use of data, retailers risk being left behind in a rapidly evolving world.

Competition in retail has always been fierce. However, it’s become ever more intense since the internet revolutionised the entire concept of marketing. Post-dotcom, bricks-and-mortar businesses struggled to compete with their online counterparts.