How innovation driven by consumer insight is helping retail businesses compete and grow


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As the Oxford Economics research SMEs: Equipped to Compete indicates, SME retailers are dealing with the same shifting customer expectations as their larger competitors. So how are SMEs equipped to face new challenges in the retail sector and are they competing on a more level playing field? As a result of increased access to information and choice, power has shifted from the merchant to the consumers.

In addition, consumers expect to be able to interact with retailers on multiple channels with ever-shorter response times. All of which is motivating SMEs to innovate and invest in technology. Of the 2,100 SMEs in 21 countries who responded, almost two-thirds (64%) believe technology is central to their transformation initiatives. And they think technology is critical to sustainable growth and long-term viability. In other words, it’s become a necessity in order to compete globally. One of the ways retail businesses are addressing shifting expectations is through a global, channel-agnostic – or omni-channel – supply chain. This technology makes a more efficient use of inventory across all channels and regions, creates richer interaction with suppliers to reduce costs, and enables consumers to transact whenever and wherever they want. So the order of the day for retailers is to be more proactive, to anticipate behaviours and predict trends.

Interviewed as part of the Oxford Economics study, Hibbett Sports CEO Jeff Rosenthal emphasises the need for technologies that make a more sophisticated use of data – it’s a critical move for maintaining this retailer’s ambitious growth trajectory. Given the volume and velocity of today’s data, in-memory computing can enable new supply chain processes as well as improving the quality of actions ultimately taken. Real-time analytics means decision-making cuts down any lag in decision making. What used to take days now happens in seconds – making post-event analysis a thing of the past. This new-found analytical power translates into greater agility and the ability to innovate ahead of competitors. And the cumulative insight is invaluable when refining a shopper-centric view of merchandising capabilities. It also drives co-ordinated planning and optimises the assortment of space, price and promotions – all from a single, real-time, actionable intelligence platform.

SME retailers now have the opportunity to move away from the old management adage “you can’t improve what you don’t measure”. In a dynamic and hyper-competitive business environment, technologies make it possible to measure and benchmark the performance of everything – supply chain, competition and customer sentiment.

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