A lot has changed within the retail industry over the course of the past couple of decades. Fuelled primarily by the ongoing digitization of the world around us, the shopping environment has virtually transformed, yielding multiple channels on which consumers can shop and a subsequent shift in their collective behaviour. This ever-evolving retail landscape has presented merchants with the challenge of continuously meeting increasing consumer omnichannel desires while enhancing the experience they offer across all channels. In concert with the digital revolution have been advancements in point-of-sale innovations and retailers’ ability to leverage them in conjunction with promotion management software to create unique and complex promotions. And, most importantly, explains Dan Surtees, Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at XCCommerce, its allowing marketing teams throughout the industry to move from an approach that’s tactical in nature to the development of initiatives that are driven by strategy.
Evolution and innovation
“It’s incredible to think of the immense change that’s happened within the industry over the past 25 years,” he says. “When you think back to the early 1990s, although ecommerce hadn’t taken off, a digitization of retail was already starting to take shape. POS systems were evolving and becoming much more innovative. But, as POS solutions providers started to build out their product, the promotions engine, unfortunately, was developed mostly as an afterthought. As a result, retailers were left with simple promotions with basic functionality, supporting things like a dollar off, percentage off or buy-one-get-one. The problem was the fact that these POS solutions providers didn’t focus on promotions as the core area of their business. The consequence was promotions engines that may or may not provide its user with consistent results. And because many of these systems were built for specific technologies, they were very much tied to them, limiting functionality and a retailer’s ability to shift from rudimentary tactics.”
He goes on to explain that in the years that followed, which bore witness to the rise of ecommerce, a subtle wave of promotions innovation occurred, resulting in moderately better functionality and more automation. However, as ecommerce and physical retail became the two predominant channels of choice, the need for solutions that addressed those singular needs took precedence in the development of the technologies and software, further preventing the introduction of a more robust and flexible promotions engine. Surtees also points out the fact that, in addition to the continued limitations inherent in the systems being deployed by retailers at the time, the dual channel offering was also presenting challenges that were complicating their efforts.
“Although the rise of ecommerce signalled the start of really exciting times for retailers and their teams, their approach in building systems and infrastructure was still very tactical,” he recalls. “Many merchants within the industry developed strategic plans for ecommerce solutions but didn’t consider potential synergies with their existing POS solution. The development and potential benefits of a dynamic promotions engine remained an afterthought. The popular thinking at the time was that, because promotions modules were included within these solutions, their organization’s promotions needs would be met. However, many of the same limitations still existed, defining constraints for the business and their interactions with customers. The other challenge was in the fact that many retailers all of a sudden had a promotions solution running through their POS system and another running through their ecommerce system, meaning that any and all promotions would need to be entered twice, inevitably resulting in inconsistent results. And, not only were retailers still technology-dependent when it came to promotions, but they became channel-dependent as well.”
Although greater flexibility had started to be built into the systems, it hadn’t necessarily translated into increased capabilities or efficiencies for retailers from a marketing and promotions perspective. Surtees points out that marketers or operations team members would approach their IT organizations to introduce new promotions initiatives. Invariably, however, they would be told that the promotion type could likely be implemented, but that it would require a significant amount of time and money to do so through their solutions providers. He describes the situation that lingered as a continuation of the malaise around the development of agile promotions solutions, perpetuating their tactical approach inside the limitations of their solutions’ functionality. However, with the evolution of the retail omnichannel environment, along with shifting consumer shopping behaviour, has come a critical need for retailers and their teams to begin thinking strategically about promotions and the ways they’re engaging with their customers.
“Understanding customers and their needs and wants is obviously critical in supporting the efforts of any retailer in driving their business,” he asserts. “But the urgency has been heightened with the arrival and development of the omnichannel world and, most recently, by the pandemic and the swift change in consumer behaviour that occurred as a result. This means that the promotions and offers that they create need to be extremely strategic in order to effectively engage with customers and generate loyalty. Subsequently, they’re now realizing that they need to be thinking of newer, better ways to give their customers what they want and to ensure that their solutions can adapt in future with any further changes in shopping behaviour. The way retailers can achieve this is by ensuring that their promotions management systems integrate seamlessly with their customer relationship management and loyalty systems. And, to execute on this strategic vision, they need an expert partner that can help with the creation and implementation.”
Agility and adaptability
One of the expert partners that Surtees speaks of is XCCommerce – the omnichannel promotions solution provider that’s been servicing the retail industry with automated promotion and coupon management solutions for more than 20 years. Headquartered in Montreal, QC, with offices in Toronto and the United Kingdom, the company works with more than 55 brands, including Indigo, Ann Taylor, Metro and Shoppers Drug Mart, among many others, servicing more than 13,500 storefronts on 30 different channels. Offering a promotion solution that provides its clients with full control over the management of their promotion and coupon offers, the company is helping retailers drive loyalty among their customers and increase sales. Compatible with any operating system, database and sales application, and decoupled from all other technologies, Surtees says that the XCCommerce promotions execution module is a fit for just about any business, allowing the freedom and flexibility to grow and gain a competitive edge.
“As the retail industry becomes more and more competitive, the requirement for a strategic focus continues to intensify,” he says. “And, when combining a well-developed strategy with the capabilities of a dynamic promotions engine and applying them to the opportunities that ecommerce presents, global expansion for any brand becomes so much easier to achieve. Retailers can now enter any market. And the flexibility and adaptability of our systems are allowing them to pursue this, enabling some of our clients to operate promotions in dozens of countries with dozens of currencies, entering their promotions once and delivering consistent results across all channels. When you’re talking about multilingual and multi-currency operations, you need your systems to be working with you effectively.”
Given the incredible evolution that’s occurred within the retail landscape, one that’s been precipitated by a digital transformation of the world around us, it’s clear that the development and implementation of the right technology systems is crucial in supporting retailers’ efforts to succeed going forward. And, according to Surtees, including the right promotions management solution as part of the overall system will not only allow merchants to meet consumer needs, it will go a long way toward providing the ability to get out in front of shopping behaviour and trends, opening up an entirely new realm of marketing and promotions possibilities.
“The most adverse effect of a tactical approach to promotions is the fact that your thinking is by proxy very reactionary. You identify a new promotion type or consumer shopping trend and then look into the things you need to do to develop and implement the things you need to make this happen from a technology perspective, which is often very time consuming and costly to the business. By enabling your systems with the most agile and effective supporting solutions, an organization can eliminate their tactical, reactionary, limited way in which they approach business and instead begin to influence behaviour and trends and broaden their reach, taking any retailer to the next level.”
To learn more about the ways XCCommerce can help your business deliver an exceptional omnichannel retail experience, visit https://xccommerce.com
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