Retail is experiencing a monumental digital shift. To stay ahead of the pack, retailers must embrace technology that will drive a seamless interaction and enable them to engage customers at scale.
Here’s the secret recipe to successfully connect your customer experience to your back of house operations.
‘Going digital’ isn’t a new trend. In part, this has been driven by changing consumer expectations and the rise of eCommerce and other technologies. Then came the COVID, which has transformed buying behaviour. Screen time is up, and suddenly the playing field is as competitive as we’ve ever seen.
The crisis has forced many retailers to rethink and redefine how they operate, but even before COVID hit, the need to adopt technology was abundantly clear. If you’re not keeping up with the rate of digital change, you’re missing out on enormous opportunities to build your brand, engage your customers and maximise sales.
Yet, adopting a new technology can be an intimidating process. For every business that gets it right, there are many that don’t. You can’t just insert a technology into your business and expect to reap the benefits.
Of course, knowing which technologies to invest in is no easy feat. There are thousands upon thousands of tools out there that promise enhanced customer experiences and streamlined operations. We’ve encountered many of them. But through years of trial-and-error and prototyping and implementing solutions, we’ve seen four best-in-breed technologies consistently rise to the top for both our retail and franchise clients: Xero, Shopify, DEAR and HubSpot. We like to describe these solutions as the pillars of a robust retail ecosystem. The tools that will enable retailers to establish a connected digital platform.
Combined, these four tools can create the perfect digital ecosystem, giving business owners 360-degree visibility on their customers, their financials and their back of house operations - all while driving streamlined operations through integration and automation.
Shopify has been an absolute game-changer for retail. No matter the size of your business, Shopify has made it easy to set up and start selling online. In addition to the online store, Shopify also gives businesses access to a suite of marketing, inventory management and analytics tools.
Shopify also offers an integrated point-of-sale system. For retailers that operate both brick-and-mortar and eCommerce stores, this is essential. An integrated POS system enables you to process online and offline sales all in one spot, sync your physical inventory with your eCommerce store so you never miss a sale, and keep a record or purchases so you can easily personalise your marketing and customer service for a more engaging customer experience.
To grow your business, you need to know your customers. What products do they like? What content do they engage with? What brand messaging resonates with them most? HubSpot is a powerful marketing, sales and service platform that offers you insight into your customer, and enables you to better engage them through powerful automation. With a free Customer Relationship Management platform at its core, HubSpot has a suite of tools to help businesses reach more customers, close more deals and provide better customer service through its single view of customer.
DEAR inventory is a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that provides a better way to process, track and manage your inventory and customer orders. The platform gives you complete visibility on your inventory and production costs. Real-time updates mean no more wondering if you have enough stock to fulfil an order, and in-app order processing means your team will save countless hours that otherwise would have been spent on manual order processing.
It’s no secret we’re big fans of Xero. We’ve spoken to one too many businesses that are keeping track of their expenses in an Excel spreadsheet, or that have no visibility on their cash-flow. We’ve even heard of businesses relying on an old shoebox… still!
Xero is an online accounting platform made specifically for small businesses. Xero enables businesses to monitor their cash-flow in real-time by providing an immediate view of money coming in and money going out. The platform also makes it easy to access your financial data, prepare quotes and invoices, and file payroll through Single Touch Payroll.
Most of the clients we work with have experience with one or more of these digital tools. Maybe they’re already selling online using Shopify, but are looking for ways to better handle their inventory behind the scenes. Or perhaps they’ve automated their inventory management procedures using DEAR, but are exploring new ways to drive demand for their products through marketing automation or building customer relationships.
We often hear from clients who have established a digital ecosystem of tools and technologies that cover up to 80% of their day-to-day operations, but what about that final 20%? That 20% represents a significant gap in your business. You may be stepping into the world of online marketing using Shopify, but without a CRM, you have limited insight into your customer. Or your marketing efforts are pushing products out the door, but you’re operating at a loss because you have no visibility on how much it costs to create a product and take it to market.
The beauty of these four tools is not in how they work, but in how they work together. A connected ecosystem of digital products that work harmoniously as one to give you a 360-degree view of your business through financial, operational and customer data. No more gaps. Integration drives efficiency and automation in your workflow, saving time and minimising errors.
Xero, HubSpot, Shopify and DEAR will give you the financial, customer and operational data you need to run your business better. The caveat is that while they’re all powerful sources of data, it’s integral that they’re configured correctly. There is functional overlap between the systems, which can make it difficult to know which system is the single ‘source of truth’ for your data. You might have all four systems in place, but if they’re not working together, that means a whole lot of double handling of information, manual entry of data from one system into another, and the data quality issues that come with that.
Each of these tools come with several pre-existing integrations, meaning you can connect them with the touch of a button. Properly integrating your platforms enables your data to flow seamlessly from one system to another. Of course, each business is unique and has unique needs - there are still some occasions where a custom integration is required - this is where a strategic approach is essential.
The key thing here is that each tool is cloud-based, meaning you can integrate new features and tools as opportunities arise. Such as barcoding systems, loyalty programs, manufacturing, international stores, marketplace integrations, advocacy programs...and myriad other things you may need as your business grows. The system scales with you.
Having a big picture strategy around the priorities of your business will drive how you configure each tool and what you do with them. Are you looking to improve the customer experiences? Create better products? Drive greater efficiency in your day-to-day operations? Knowing what your strategic priorities are will help you better architect your digital ecosystem to address the needs of your business.
BlueRock Digital is one of the only Melbourne agencies that partners with DEAR, Shopify, HubSpot and Xero. Specialising in digital transformations and systems implementations for retailers and eCommerce businesses, we can help you prototype and implement a digital ecosystem to help you run your business better.
Get in touch for a free consultation.