This new normal is fundamentally changing retail, with the drive for automation and frictionless shopping accelerating at warp speed. As a retailer, you’ll need to deploy more technologies, manage higher workloads and process and analyze more data in real time while squeezing better performance from IT resources with lower latency and higher efficiency.
If that weren’t enough, you also have to figure out how to do it all on a lower cost curve – and faster than ever before. Although the surge in contact-free pickup and delivery is tied to the current pandemic, it’s likely they'll remain popular well after the crisis subsides. So you’ll need to maintain these services while keeping a tight rein on labor, operational and systems integration costs.
Achieving this is no simple task if you, like many retailers, face an underlying problem: legacy store infrastructure that can’t keep up with the pace of the market, particularly during a time of unprecedented change. IT infrastructure for many retailers is not only outdated—it’s too complex, too patched, too expensive to maintain. This is because the majority of retail store technology is device-based, or “thick” deployed, meaning that there is a software application and operating system installed on every individual terminal or touchpoint throughout the store.
Any time you need to change or update something, or add a new store, you need an entirely new installation of both the application and OS...on every single device. This means you likely have an unwieldly proliferation of in-store IT hardware and software, skyrocketing your maintenance costs and creating a support nightmare.
Say you want to roll out an upgrade or new application across hundreds or thousands of stores. The time and cost needed to install, maintain, integrate and manage the deployment—with dedicated IT staff that have to visit every site—could be so expensive and complex that you, like many retailers, might abandon the deployment entirely. This cripples your ability to innovate and compete, especially at such a disruptive time when speed to market is critical and travel is restricted.
And speed of deployment is just one issue. Take, for example, mobile POS tablets. Many convenience and fuel retailers are adding mobile POS so associates can provide frictionless checkout outside the store—providing a memorable, differentiating experience. But the cost of these new devices, delivery and staff training can become significant. Plus, the process of integrating the mobile POS tablets with legacy POS systems and peripherals—and ensuring they meet PCI-DSS compliance standards and security protocols—isn't simple. Couple that with the increased cost of technician site visits for device maintenance or replacement due to over-zealous cleaning and you start to get the picture.
Online orders coupled with home delivery are another example of today’s must-have fulfillment options. And, again, the inflexibility of legacy infrastructure can stand in the way. Third-party integration with the likes of UberEats, DoorDash, Go Puff and others all come with dedicated tablet devices, leaving associates to juggle multiple devices on the counter just to fulfill orders...and they’re all on disparate systems. This can lead to inefficiency, lost or delayed orders and general confusion for your front and back of house operations, not to mention additional hardware maintenance and cleaning requirements.