You’re a retailer, and you’re good at what you do – selling to your customers. But do you sometimes feel more like accountant, marketer, IT support, HR department and receptionist rolled into one? All the other essential parts of running a retail business make demands on your time, taking your attention away from the stuff that makes you a profit, and that you enjoy – selling. The answer to your problem could be outsourcing. You’re likely to already be outsourcing some elements of your business – accountancy or payroll, for example. But there are many other outsourcing options that a retailer can use to increase efficiency.
The benefits of outsourcing go beyond freeing up your time. Outsourcing allows you to tap in on resources and expertise that might not exist within your business. Outsourcing companies are highly specialised, offering you knowledge and bringing innovation and fresh thinking into your business.
IT Systems Outsourcing
Managing your IT systems can be a headache for a small or medium-sized retailer without a dedicated IT department. Most retail companies today will have a website and possibly an online ordering system, and may offer other IT-based services to customers, as well as their store infrastructure relying on IT.
Keeping up to date with technology, trouble-shooting problems and delivering an efficient service to customers takes time and money. The more complex your IT systems become, the more money it takes to keep them working.
Outsourcing your IT systems can reduce the time you waste fire-fighting problems, but more importantly it can quickly and drastically increasing your business’s technological capability while keeping related costs to a minimum.
Companies who specialise in retail IT are keeping up to date with the latest retail technology, and as your outsourcing partner they will be able to advise you on the latest systems, potentially boosting your efficiency.
Retail IT specialists will also offer shared service IT platforms, giving you access to technology you might not have the budget for as an individual business.
Apps and Mobility
Imagine greeting your customer and alerting them to an in-store offer as they arrive in your car park, or communicating with them through interactive displays instore. Modern retail is being reshaped by mobile technology and offering app functionality to customers is becoming increasingly commonplace, from app-based online shopping to beacon technology. But for the small and medium-sized retailer, this innovative tech may seem beyond their reach, requiring substantial investment. In fact, you may not even be aware of how cutting-edge mobile technology could be helping your business.
Partnering with an outsourcing company to provide app-based and mobile tech solutions gives you access to a team who know their business inside out, who can advise you on how mobile technology could improve your customer experience or increase profits, and who can give you access to shared services that make such technology affordable.
In the modern retail climate, staying competitive means knowing your customer, and one of the most powerful ways of doing this is through big data analysis. Collecting data about your customers and using it to improve customer experience and learn about buying habits is not a new practice, but recent technology has made it possible to gather more data than ever before, including online activity, in-store behaviour and buying history. But there’s now so much of this data available that analysis has become a speciality in its own right.
For a small or medium-sized retailer, collecting and analysing big data can be daunting. The software for doing this yourself exists, but getting the most out of it and drawing useful conclusions and converting them to action is a large job.
Plus, speed and responsiveness is crucial. React too slowly and the data fast becomes out-dated and useless.
And even for large retailers, big data analysis in-house is prohibitively expensive. Outsourcing this analysis to a specialist company gives you access to their expertise, to the latest analysis methods, tools and technology and to their wider experience. They can present findings and recommendations in a way that you can action quickly and effectively on the shop floor.
As well as analysing your big data to find out about your customers there may be other ways you want to gather information; focus groups, mystery shoppers, satisfaction questionnaires or other feedback mechanisms are all specialist market research tools that an outsourcing partner can help you with. Not only is this kind of research time-consuming, it’s also very specialised, and an expert in the field can advise you on effective methods and interpretation.
Working with a marketing partner is a common way to outsource a specialist but key part of your business. When you’re involved in the day-to-day of running a retail business, finding the time to reach out to new customers in creative and effective ways can be a challenge. A marketing partner can take charge of marketing campaigns for you, offering joined-up thinking between different marketing platforms, from print to social media, and taking charge of time-consuming marketing activity such as managing social media accounts.
Supply Chain Management and Process Automation
Improving the efficiency of the behind-the-scenes parts of your business is a potential way to increase your profit margin. Streamlining stock control, minimising waste and speeding up ordering and delivery systems are all improvements that can benefit a retail business but can be a challenge to achieve from within the company.
Working with a specialist partner can give you access to expertise in the latest supply chain management technology. Helping you find and implement the right solutions for your business seamlessly. Process automation outsourcing is an obvious candidate, as much of the technology involved is very specialised, and making a culture change within your business to automated processes can be a large-scale task better managed by an outside partner.
“AutoStore robotic warehouse”: AutoStore, http://autostoresystem.com/media
“Support Keyboard Button”: GotCredit, http://tinyurl.com/h8wj9xw
“iBeacon”: iBeacon, http://www.ibeacon.com/what-is-ibeacon-a-guide-to-beacons/
Contributor[ap_team image=”http://modernretail.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Emily-Cleaver-Profile-Pic-150-x-164.png” name=”Emily Cleaver”] Emily Cleaver is a blogger and content creator who writes on retail, business trends and creativity. You can find her at www.wordboutique.co.uk