Lessons from the World Cup - Reducing Retail Friction with Technology Teamwork

By : Murali Patnam

July 18, 2018 12:00 PM

Sports fans around the globe have been swept along in the excitement of the 2018 World Cup during the past few weeks. Living rooms, cafés, and office break rooms have become gathering spaces for people to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat together. As I’ve caught snippets of several matches with my colleagues at NCR’s global headquarters, I can’t help but see things we can apply to our clients’ businesses to help them remove the friction and frustration from their stores.


It’s a team sport


No matter how talented the star of a particular match or a particular team may be, he can’t win a World Cup match on his own. It takes the skillful, practiced, coordinated effort of an entire team to defend against the competitors, execute a game plan and score a goal. Similarly, to win in business, you need an ecosystem of technologies that are all working together.


An ecosystem approach to your technology stack means every piece of your system works as part of something larger than itself or its function, enabling and amplifying the impact of each other. As technology “stars” have risen over the past several years -- from eCommerce to mobile to wearables and beyond -- many retailers have rushed to implement solutions without fully assessing the implications for the overall ecosystem. Having an open ecosystem to enable easy integration of applications, having flexibility for emerging and future technologies, and data-sharing across the enterprise are key. This approach helps in staying ahead of the curve rather than playing a constant game of catch-up as new innovations emerge. Hence, It is important to have a holistic perspective towards the technology strategy and invest in the eco-system enablers to bring disparate technologies together. 


Deliver for your fans


Even the biggest retail brand loyalists don’t typically show their devotion with face paint, flags or costumes - unlike sports fans, but they do show it in their purchase behavior. How can retailers earn this loyalty? By meeting the needs and expectations of consumers and delivering experiences that make them want to come back for more.


Some easy ways to deliver these exceptional experiences are:


  • Manage checkout queues to reduce wait times (often cited as shoppers’ biggest complaint about the retail experience)
  • Offer flexible and consistent options for buying and fulfilling across digital and physical channels
  • Gain a 360 degree understanding of your customers and communicate with your customers as individuals. Personalize their experience with your brand. 


Keep an eye on the goal


The focus and drive required of any world-class athlete undeniable. On the soccer field, the culmination of that focus and drive translates into winning games. The same is true for retailers who want to achieve specific business goals. It’s critical to establish the business goals to form a decisive strategy for your business as well as to frequently frame decisions against that strategy. Are you looking to increase convenience and speed of service? Do you need to build more customer satisfaction, loyalty and market share? Do operational inefficiencies need more attention so you can protect margins and boost revenues? Strategically addressing friction points throughout the customer experience keeps you from diluting resources and helps you deliver the best returns against your activities.


Though the World Cup is over for another four years, the business of training won’t stop for these athletes, and the business of creating superior retail experiences won’t stop for you.


To learn where you are in the path to frictionless commerce, take this short quiz to access a full report on areas you should explore as you plan for the future.

Murali Patnam

General Manager, Food, Drug & Mass Merchandise Solutions

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Murali joined NCR in 2017 and is responsible for the overall strategy and priorities for the FDMM segment to drive innovative and best-in-class solutions to market. Prior to NCR, he served in leadership positions in product development, program management, and engineering at Nielsen and GE.