Three tips for better retail procurement

The retail landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade, with technology an important consideration within the customer journey.

Historically a buzzword, the term "omnichannel" is now an integral part of any retailer’s strategy with in-store kiosks, transactional iPads and social screens now commonplace in-store.

The increase in technology is having a direct impact on the role of procurement leaders who must now consider everything from the physical hardware to the content that’s being shown on digital screens.

I’ve put together my top three tips for how procurement teams can deliver best value in a sector that is continually evolving.

1. Keeping legacy systems in check. With an influx of new technology coming to market at any given time, there is always a technical aspect that needs to be considered. It’s essential the procurement team keeps tabs on any outdated legacy systems that may not be compatible with new technologies, as well as ensuring that new solutions have sufficient maintenance plans in place.

This is particularly relevant as the conversation around data security becomes a number one priority, with retailers having to become more transparent about how they store customer data for example.

2. A more joined-up approach. With retailers implementing a "digital-first" strategy, we are seeing a new breed of retail procurement in which buying teams have to consider everything from logistics and implementation to product aftercare. Understanding which purchases fall under the remit of specific departments is key as the role of the retail procurement manager continues to expand.

For example, whereas the IT department may have previously managed budgets for electronic equipment, this may now fall under the wing of the marketing or store operations teams who will often be tasked with deploying a complete in-store strategy. In proactively communicating, the business can work together more effectively to understand opportunities for budgets to merge and cross over.

3. Maximising return on investment. It goes without saying return on investment remains key for procurement managers who continually need to demonstrate value for money. This can be challenging when investing in technology that is still new and emerging. How do you strike the right balance between deploying innovation versus ensuring that they’re delivering value to your business? And yet it’s important you have a period of roll-out in order to monitor success. This may mean a single-store pilot, full roll-out in a specific region but in varied stores, or simply looking at performance in a particular variable before and after implementation.

Consider also the rise in trends such as "retailtainment" – which sees stores entertain shoppers rather than just sell to them – can be incredibly difficult to measure results-wise. John Lewis infamously invested in virtual changing rooms a few years ago only to remove them when they discovered that it wasn’t doing enough for them. The lesson here is to implement comprehensive tracking and analytics, acknowledge when something’s not working and know when to try something new.

☛ Darren Jackson is director of retail solutions at APS Group

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