By Aimee Chanthadavong

It’s no longer a guessing game that in order to be a successful retailer in the current soft retail environment delivering a consumer-centric experience should be a key focus.

But often the problem retailers face is answering the two crucial questions: ‘how will I know what will work?’ and ‘how do I go about implementing them?’.

Speaking to RetailBiz, Pronto Software retail and CRM product manager Stephen Duncan, said empowering businesses with better insights will assist them in making faster and more appropriate decisions and to do that it comes down to better strategic planning.

“Part of what I’ve seen out there is that to obtain new client and satisfy new customers there’s a new push on customer service, communication, and social media has also been a big component,” he said.

“So what we’ve looked at is what we can do for retailers strategically to allow them to be strategic in those areas by strengthening our retail value chain which is around the core components of allocations, forecasting what the demand is, and making sure the right product is in the right store so when the customer is in-store there’s the opportunity to buy the product.

“Promotions are also another consideration, enabling the retailers to put on high quality, relevant promotions and so they’ll be able to report on them as well. So really again it’s getting those components and focusing on their main attributes which is their customer.”

Pronto has introduced new features to the Pronto Xi 710 suite’s retail value chain for store allocations, group trading, wholesale, and retail promotions, to drive ongoing profit growth and superior customer experience, while also enabling greater flexibility for online retail and franchising.

Duncan highlighted part of the solution to developing a working strategy is providing education to staff and creating brand advocates.

“You can’t have people on the field on the front line if they’re not being educated on what the value proposition of the business is. I’m a firm believer that we need to create brand advocates for our business and to do that it’s a strategic thing. We can have great products or promotions and drive interest through different channels but at the end of the day our best people are our advocates and become our sales people.”

Similarly, sourcing the right amount of products for the floor is crucial, particularly given that consumers will always crave a physical shopping experience.

“As customers have become less impatient they don’t want to wait around for products. We know with products need to move quickly. It’s just about ensuring the right stock is in the right location by coming up with a matrix to show where the product should be,” Duncan said, believing it will eventually lead to seeing more small to medium businesses cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with the wholesaler to reduce cost and for greater immediacy.

But at the end of the day and the real next big challenge for retailers, Duncan said, is sorting through unstructured data that could potentially be the basis how a retailers create their strategic plans.

“Data collection and using unstructured data to compare it against operational data is the new challenge for retailers because it comes down to being strategic. How can you be strategic if you don’t have the right data and you don’t have operational efficiencies? If they’re in place, you’ve got the data then what you do next will strategically better.”