How to Eliminate the Pain Points of Retail IT Support
Improving retail IT support is quickly becoming a key competitive asset in the world of brick-and-mortar commerce. While this may come as a surprise in the age of online shopping, mobile technology is putting pressure on local establishments to engage customers on a digital basis. Today’s consumers have little patience for latency, confusion or anything else that contributes to a less-than-optimal buying experience.
As with any high-tech environment, shoring up retail IT infrastructure requires more than just a budget and a supply of black boxes. As with other forms of infrastructure, retail IT support needs to transition from a technology-driven process to a strategic imperative. Through IBM retail support solutions, organizations can shed the routine aspects of building and maintaining data systems in order to focus on core, revenue-generating operations. Watch my webinar to learn five ways support impacts store costs and how to build a streamlined strategy.
Retail IT Support Pain Points
A quick look at some of the commonly faced issues in modern IT provisioning and support can help to illustrate the benefits of a streamlined, service-based program.
- Complexity: Retail systems span everything from point-of-service devices and kiosks to security gates, video cameras and digital signage. Each class requires a chain of purchase contracts, supply chain arrangements and final installation and testing processes. While there’s nothing wrong with acquiring best-in-class technology, the burden of supporting disparate systems ultimately saps the establishment of critical resources.
- Vendor Support: Multiple vendors generate multiple support contracts, which must be monitored and maintained by in-house staff. While this helps ensure properly functioning equipment, it comes at a high cost and can hamper systems management. It’s often difficult to determine exactly which system is causing a problem in an integrated environment. This can lead to finger-pointing among providers about who should take responsibility.
- Capital Costs: In retail — perhaps more so than in other enterprise areas — preserving capital is crucial to fund strategic initiatives that contribute to long-term growth. Under a traditional IT support program, upfront costs are exceedingly high, and the technology itself faces obsolescence from almost the moment it’s powered on. What’s more, keeping these devices up-to-date requires regular maintenance, software upgrades and the deployment of still more technology.
- Hidden Costs: Along with the normal responsibilities of buying and maintaining equipment, there are myriad added costs that may not immediately present themselves. For example, maintaining high availability invariably forces retail establishment to look into a vital piece of infrastructure: the network. Full-blown services outages draw attention to the network immediately, but latency tends to remain hidden, slowly eating away at performance and profit margins.
- Employee Skills: Few retail establishments have the resources to field on-site technical support. Troubleshooting IT equipment is generally not a skill required of sales people or store managers. When something breaks, the responsibility to fix it falls to someone who lacks the proper training. This leads to lost time, lost sales and a poor retail environment that frustrates both employees and customers alike. In today’s competitive environment, few businesses can afford to lose talent or revenue simply because they cannot maintain an adequate digital environment.
With IBM’s retail solution, retail establishments can resolve these pain points in a way that’s cost-effective and produces a higher level of service.
For one thing, IBM reduces the number of suppliers from hundreds to one. That means one number to call for support, one contract to manage and one integrated IT environment. When you partner with IBM, you gain a professionally designed support solution that drives down costs and increases efficiencies. Virtually all your internal IT responsibilities are transferred to IBM, which can manage them on a regional or global scale with our team of more than 19,000 support specialists at more than 57 sites around the world.
Customers implementing the IBM retail support solution typically see a 30 percent savings in the cost of their retail IT support operations. This is achieved through the elimination of multiple service agreements, an average 10 percent drop in asset costs by switching to an opex model, 8 percent in labor cost reductions and a whopping 75 percent reduction in overall IT costs. Although these numbers are hard to quantify for each and every customer, IBM has a track record of proven transactional methodologies, seamless vendor on-boarding, zero downtime for rollouts and improved customer service, business operations and employee training.
But the real value of IBM’s retail services is not that it lowers the cost of support for today’s IT but that it provides an on-ramp to the IT of tomorrow. By providing a way to implement state-of-the-art technologies like the Watson cognitive computing platform without the burden of upfront capital outlays, IBM places businesses on the leading edge of the digital economy and equips them to incorporate advanced mobile services, augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of Things and big data analytics.
The key to retail success is growth. Businesses that can grow their customer base, expand into new markets and tap into the latest digital technologies will see sales grow, while those that resist the future will stagnate. To achieve growth, retail organizations must engage in digital transformation through support for both legacy systems and new infrastructure.
By partnering with IBM, retailers can streamline IT operations, reduce costs and embrace the future of commerce all at the same time.