Marketing & Merchandising

The importance of information technology in retail

June 14, 2022

The retail industry faces continuous technological advancements, which is evident both in-store and online. From the increased use of kiosks to the implementation of artificial intelligence and stronger warehouse management systems, technology continues to progress and assist retailers across industries with more efficient ways to conduct operations, as well as help simplify certain processes, gain insight into consumers, keep track of inventory, and so on.

One type of technology that can help achieve this, which in itself acts as an umbrella for other types of technology, is information technology, better known by its acronym ‘IT’.

What is information technology?

To put it simply, the purpose of information technology (IT) is to process, manage and store data and information. Through the use of computers and networks, hardware, software, operating systems, storage, and various other technology, IT can be used in a retail setting to speed up processes and create efficiency across several platforms, including e-commerce, supply chains, collecting customer data, etc.

Collecting data is an important part of operating a retail business, as it can provide the information that retailers need to make important business decisions, and be better informed on who their customers are and their needs, while also helping to plan ahead, among other factors. To keep up with competitors, many retailers rely on great amounts of data, but collecting it, and then effectively using it, can be difficult. That is where IT can help. Using various software, systems, hardware, or networks, retailers can obtain information from the data that has been processed and analyzed, while also having the ability to have it securely stored for immediate or later use.

An example of IT in retail: Electric point of sale software

One of the main advantages of using IT in a retail setting is that many of the software and systems that fall under IT utilize automation. For retailers who want to remain ahead of the curve, automation can be extremely handy, especially when inputting and/or collecting data.

An example of software that utilizes automation is an electronic point of sale (EPOS), which is a system that electronically performs business-related tasks, such as the checkout process (i.e., scanning, payments, etc.), while also handling customer accounts, managing in-store inventory, and more.

When a customer purchases a product, the retailer scans the barcode, and the transaction is complete. However, with an EPOS, it captures that data from the product(s) sold, as well as any customer data provided, and can keep track of performance, sales, etc. Data gets automatically synced, which makes it much easier for retailers to determine how well they are doing, while also helping them to track their inventory much more easily.

Through this (and similar) software, processes can become much more efficient. Relying on digital technology to track and store data that can be later turned into valuable pieces of information that a retailer can use later on is invaluable.

Demand forecasting & Inventory prediction

Demand forecasting is an important aspect of the retail industry, as it is used to help retailers understand and forecast the future demand of their products by utilizing historical patterns, along with internal and external decisions and factors. Similarly, inventory prediction allows retailers to have a better grasp of their inventory levels are so that they can reorder accordingly. For instance, if an item is extremely popular, they can use the data from previous purchases to determine how many items they need to order.

Both demand forecasting and inventory prediction require various technology, such as machine learning and data to be able to work effectively. Using IT, such as within supply chain management, can help retailers regularly determine purchasing trends and make accurate forecasts accordingly. IT works to process, manage, and securely store data by using various software or systems, and this is why it is important for retailers to keep up-to-date IT solutions within their retail stores (either brick-and-mortar or online), as it can help them achieve accurate demand forecasting and inventory predictions. This can help improve supplier and customer relationships, as it allows suppliers to better plan for product orders, while customers can have their product needs met much more effectively.

Collecting customer data

When a customer makes a purchase from a retailer, their information is collected. For instance, many customers will provide their email addresses to receive special deals or insight into new products or will sign up for loyalty programs. The process of inputting this data and subsequently storing it securely requires the use of IT.

Collecting consumer data can be extremely beneficial to a retailer as it can be used as a way to make the shopping experience more personalized for customers. And since consumers are 40% more likely to spend more than they planned when they have a personalized shopping experience, this can be extremely important for retailers to consider. IT helps store customer data, which the retailer can then use to reach out to customers via email with personalized offers or with mail offers, and when going through the check-out process, retailers can search up the customer’s information to make their experience quick and efficient. Whichever way a retailer may use customer data to improve their experience, utilizing updated IT plays a significant role in that.

IT plays an important role in the retail industry, as it can be used to make processes across all digital platforms more efficient. Remaining ahead of the curve and implementing new technological advancements within retail operations, such as cutting edge software and operating systems, can help make connecting and meeting the needs of customers that much more effective.

About Reshift Media

Reshift Media is a long-time partner of the Retail Council of Canada. The company is a Toronto-based digital marketing and development organization that provides leading-edge social media, search and website/mobile development services to retailers around the world. Please visit www.reshiftmedia.com to learn more.

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