Shoppers today are savvier and more well-informed than ever before. Having the right retail platform is critical to ensuring that you can be there for your customers no matter where or how they’re shopping.
In this article, you’ll learn how to upgrade and deploy a modern retail management system across multiple stores. Featuring insights from retail IT pros and cloud integrators, you’ll get an in-depth look at the step-by-step process of levelling up your retail platform — without the complexity.
Table of contents
Upgrading Your Retail Management System for the Future
Choosing and evaluating retail management systems
Deploying your new retail management system successfully.
Post-deployment: ensuring continued and long-term success
Upgrading Your Retail Management System for the Future
As a modern retailer, you’re acutely aware of just how much the retail landscape has changed.
Shopper expectations of today are starkly different from just a few years ago, thanks to developments in technology and the rise of omnichannel commerce. Because of this, you may find that your current retail system is holding you back, and you need to move to a solution capable of meeting today’s business demands.
Switching to a new retail management system may be daunting, but it’s a task that you can’t afford to postpone. Fortunately, with the right tools and processes, you’ll find that it’s completely doable and worth the effort.
That’s exactly what we’ll tackle in this guide. Featuring insights from retail IT professionals, software researchers and cloud integrators, this guide will give you an in-depth look at the step-by-step process of moving to a new retail management system. From selecting and evaluating solutions to deploying the new system across multiple stores, you will learn what it takes to get a new retail management system up and to run successfully.
Choosing and evaluating retail management systems
Clarify your requirements
Figuring out what technologies to upgrade or implement starts with determining your needs. What features or capabilities do you require? What should your new retail management system enable you and your staff to do?
A good way to start is to look at the limitations of your existing system. Identify the major pain points that you’re experiencing and list the features and capabilities you need to overcome them.
Your team can also be an excellent resource. Speak to your store managers and employees — i.e., the people who’ll be using the system — and discuss their needs.
What to look for in a retail management system
While each organization’s requirements are different, here are some to the key features and functionalities to look for in a new retail management system. The following capabilities will not only help you run a more efficient retail operation, but they will enable your business to stay competitive in the years ahead.
Choose a retail management system that can easily connect with other applications. Your retail platform should be able to integrate with other mission-critical applications, including your financial management solution, ERP, eCommerce platform, and more.
Shoppers today are using different channels and devices, while retailers are increasingly adopting multiple apps and tools to run their business. Having a platform that connects everything is a must.
Ideally, your retail management solution should have existing integrations with multiple apps in the market. Another plus is if the platform offers an open API that allows developers to build solutions within the ecosystem.
Centralize your operations
Equip your retail business with a platform that makes it simple to oversee and manage multiple locations. Your retail management system should enable you to view each location’s performance from one centralized platform and provide multi-store management tools for running day-to-day operations. If you need to transfer stock from Store A to B, for example, your retail management system should make it easy to do so.
Customer management is also a key consideration here. Choose a solution that lets you recognize and serve customers no matter where or how they’re shopping. If you’re running a loyalty program, for example, customers should be able to earn and redeem rewards at any store or channel (i.e., online and offline).
There’s very little room for guesswork in today’s retail landscape. Maximizing your sales and profitability requires data-backed decisions around inventory, marketing, financials, and more. That’s why it’s important to have a retail solution that offers robust retail reporting and analytics.
The system should offer an at-a-glance view of your retail performance while giving you the option to drill down on specific stores or select areas of the business.
When you have access to the right data, you’ll be in a position to make informed decisions that ultimately lead to better product assortments, smarter pricing strategies, and effective marketing.
Choose a retail management system that can grow with you. Ideally, your software should make it simple to add or remove stores and warehouses depending on your needs. In a fast-moving market, having the flexibility to scale up or down will help you capitalize on opportunities while protecting your business in the event of a downturn.
Launch, onboarding, and training services
Deploying a new system across multiple locations is no walk in the park. Align yourself with a solution provider that can walk you through the process and handle the heavy lifting for you. Ideally, your vendor should also train your managers and team and help you map out a rollout plan for your new system.
Have a roadmap
There are numerous retail management solutions in the market, so finding and evaluating different systems can take up a significant amount of resources. To make this step easier, it’s best to have a business roadmap before conducting your search.
Your roadmap must detail where the company is and where you want it to go. List the capabilities of your existing system (i.e. what it can do currently) and the things that you would like it to do now and in the future. Provide a copy of this document to key people in the company, especially to those involved in the search for a new system. You and your team must refer to this roadmap constantly when assessing different solutions.
Jurlique, a major cosmetics manufacturer and retailer, did just that when it switched to a new retail system. According to Chris Balogi, Director of Global Information Technology at Jurlique International, they consulted their roadmap throughout the project to ensure that the systems they were evaluating aligned with where the company was and how they wanted to scale in the future.
Consider doing something similar when you decide to switch retail management systems. Understand — and document — where the business is currently at, and what you plan to do in the future.
Be specific. For instance, if going omnichannel is on your roadmap, list the capabilities that you’d like to offer (e.g. in-store pickup, mobile ordering, etc.). Doing so will streamline the research phase of the project and will assist your team in identifying potential vendors.
Research and evaluate technology vendors
Comparing multiple vendors (each with their own set of features and functionalities) can get overwhelming, so you need an efficient method for evaluating solutions side-by-side.
One way of doing this is to create a vendor matrix that lists all your key requirements. Once you have your requirements on paper, put the different vendors that you’re considering in separate columns, and then check off the features that each vendor can provide.
This is one of the steps that Jurlique took to make their research and evaluation phase easier. “We listed out the key requirements of our current system, and we had the information in a big matrix to find out what each system had to offer,” said Balogi.
Note: View vendor matrix template in the appendix section at the end of this guide.
Retail chain Jurlique focused on finding a replacement for their existing retail management system, with the ability to do more in the future.
Pro tip: Start with existing features or pain points
While it might be tempting to go all out and list every feature that you’d like to have, the most important thing at this stage is to start with the functionalities of your current system. As Balogi puts it, “You have to be very cautious with a project like this [when you’re evaluating features]. You don’t want to get sidetracked and end up with a massive project.”
In Jurlique’s case, Balogi’s team focused on finding a replacement for its existing retail management system, with the ability to do more in the future. That was a smart move, and it made the evaluation phase more manageable for them.
A good way to hone into these key requirements is to identify any pain points you have with your current solution. As Justin Guinn, a retail market researcher at Software Advice notes, “You have to understand the needs fully, and current pain points your employees/colleagues have with the existing system. Go to them, sit down with them, and determine common problems that the new retail management system needs to overcome.”
With these insights in mind, you can then proceed to researching and evaluating potential solutions.
Bring in a consultant if necessary.
If you don’t have the resources or expertise to research, evaluate, and deploy a new retail management system, then you may want to consult with third-party experts such as software resellers, partners, or cloud integrators who can assist you in all phases of the project.
Doing so may enable you to save time as you won’t have to sift through the numerous solutions in the market. Partnering with cloud integrators and consultants also allows you to tap into their technical knowledge and expertise so that you can make smarter decisions throughout the process.
As cloud integrations expert Jeffrey Atizado explains, “As cloud integrators, we deal with improving business systems every day. Not only can we recommend solutions and features that are right for their business, but we can also offer a lot of insight in terms of how retailers can improve.”
Your relationship with a consultant will begin with an initial meeting to assess your needs. At this point, you need to provide ample information on your current systems and workflows, as well as your plans for the future.
What exactly will your consultant ask? According to Atizado, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:
- How many stores do you have now, and how many locations are you planning to expand to in the future?
- Do you operate a warehouse, online store, or any other component other than your brick and mortar shops?
- How do you fulfil orders (i.e. are orders driven out of a single point, such as a warehouse, or are they fulfilled out of each store’s stock?)
- How do you purchase inventory (i.e. are you ordering at a store level or do you have a more centralized model?)
These are just some of the many things you should expect to discuss with your consultant. Remember that it’s key for them to understand your business to recommend the right solutions.
Time to select a solution
After taking the steps above, you should be able to narrow down your choices to just 2 or 3 solutions. The next step is to decide which system to adopt.
This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, which is why it’s necessary to discuss it with key members of the organization. Depending on your company, these individuals may include members of your IT team, executive team, department heads, advisors, and more.
Put together a presentation or a document that details what each system has to offer and how much it costs. See to it that everyone has the necessary information to make an informed decision. From there, you and your team should be able to move forward with confidence。
What to know and what to do to set up your multi-store retail management system successfully
Successfully moving to a new retail management system will require work from multiple divisions in the organization. Hence, the first step is to figure out what those departments are and how they need to work together. This is what Jurlique’s team members did when they were at the planning stages of implementing their new system.
“I had my project manager draw up spreadsheets identifying all the cross-functional parts of the business that needed to be involved with the project, and roughly how many hours would be needed from them, and when,” shared Balogi.
“For instance, we identified finance, sales, training team, operations, customer care, and supply chain, among others. We then determined what all these different departments would need to do to assist us in this project,” he continued.
Iron out your internal comms
When and how you communicate the change depends on who you’re talking to. While those in the higher parts of the organizational chart need to be aware of the change early on, you may want to hold off on telling the rest of the company until certain details have been finalized.
In Jurlique’s case, Balogi said they informed their regional managers first. “We did an initial presentation to the regional managers at one of their conferences, where we introduced the new system.”
Balogi continued, “Then we did a much more detailed and intensive presentation about three months later, and that’s when we showed them what we were going to do and how things would work.”
Meanwhile, Balogi and his team were actively working with different departments within the company, and this ensured that all the key people were aware of the upcoming change.
Newsletters were also sent internally to give the staff an idea of what was coming. As for communicating at a store level, Balogi said they didn’t get into too much detail until closer to deployment.
“We ramped up in-store education efforts about a month before deployment,” he added. “We didn’t want to do it too early, because people might forget about it and lose interest.”
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Jurlique here. To recap, take note of the following pointers when informing company stakeholders about your project:
- Remember that not everyone needs to know about your plans from the get-go, so hold off on telling the entire organization until certain details are finalized.
- Be organized when informing people about the project.
- Start with managers, department heads, and individuals who are involved with planning and setting up the new system. From there, decide on when it’s time to spread the word to the store level.
As for how to do it, consider your message and target audience. Some details are best explained in person or through presentations. For others, newsletters would suffice.
Prepare for data migration.
Your new retail management system needs to be equipped with the right information about your store, so take the time to prepare your data. Retailers typically have two options with how to migrate and set up their data. You can either do it in-house or work with a technology partner (like your solution provider or vendor) to do it for you. Regardless of which route you take, you’ll need to prepare the following:
- Product catalogue
- Customer database
Before migrating your data, take the time to clean up your inventory catalogue and customer lists by:
- Deleting duplicate entries
- Removing inactive products and customers
- Correcting inaccuracies
Doing so will not only make the migration process much faster, but it will help you kick things off on the right foot with your new system. Starting fresh can pave the way for smooth and efficient operations in the future.
Prepare your stores
See to it that your stores are well-equipped and adequately staffed to transition to the new system. Purchase the required hardware (e.g. scanners, receipt printers, tablets) and send them to each store well before the go-live date.
If necessary, enable Wi-Fi in your stores, and set up the necessary connections to ensure everything works. And if you’re importing data, keep all the files (i.e. spreadsheets) you need handy.
Additionally, you want people with ample knowledge about the new solution to be on site when you deploy. Send a couple of your team members (ideally an IT expert and someone familiar with the new system) to each store when it’s time to go live. Set their schedules in advance, so you know exactly who will be in each store and when they’re supposed to be there.
Train your team
The next step is to train the users who will be using the new solution. If you’re doing things in-house, prepare education modules, determine who will conduct training, and how various individuals should be trained. Bear in mind that you may need to train people differently, depending on their roles.
Another option is to work with your vendor to train your team. Have the solution provider train your in-store managers, and equip them with the knowledge to educate the rest of the team (i.e., sales associates, cashiers, etc.).
Test the new system
Testing the new system will provide valuable lessons about how it works, and also allow you to spot issues that need to be addressed before deployment. Some of the different ways to test the new system are:
In-house testing: This involves testing the new system in your offices or at one store (but not with actual customers). Some retailers have dedicated spaces (such as innovation labs) for testing new technology.
“Real-world” testing: While transactions can be simulated in-house, it’s still best to test the system with actual customers and sales.
In the case of Jurlique, the company found a great chance to test the new system when the Australian Open took place. The retailer set up a pop-up store at the event, and they used their new retail management system to process transactions. “It was a fantastic testing environment for us,” shared Balogi. “We learned a lot of lessons because of it.”
Deploying your new retail management system successfully.
Once the initial planning and training have been completed, you need to figure out how — and when — the system should be deployed. Here are a few things to consider:
Decide on an implementation method.
Decide if you’re going to turn on the solution for all your stores at the same time, or if you’re going to stagger the rollout over a period of time. As Atizado put it:
In the context of multi-store retailers, there needs to be a discussion as to whether we’re implementing the new solution for all stores at once, or if we’re going to do it one [or however many] stores at a time. The main thing retailers need to think about at this stage is how they can minimize or even eliminate downtime.
If you decide on a staggered approach, you would need to specify which stores will go live with the new system and when.
In Jurlique’s case, the company chose to group stores according to state, then staggered the deployment of one state at a time. According to Balogi, they basically did one state a week, and this enabled them to deploy the system with minimal issues.
Pro tip: Staggered approach
At Vend, we recommend that multi-store retailers implement a staggered approach. Rather than going live with your new system across all locations, implement the solution in just one location first, then see how it goes.
This will enable you to iron any other last-minute kinks that may arise so that you can smoothly deploy the system to the rest of your organization.
Rather than going live with your new system across all locations, implement the solution in just one location first, then see how it goes.
Post-deployment: ensuring continued and long-term success
Monitor and gather feedback
Closely monitor how stores are doing in the weeks following the deployment. Refer to your objectives for switching to the new system, and evaluate whether the solution has helped you meet them.
Gather feedback from associates, managers, and other members of the organization who were affected by the change. How are they liking the new solution? Have they encountered any difficulties so far? Are they happy with the switch?
It’s also best to establish a good relationship with your vendor and/or consultant. Discuss any fine-tuning or tweaks that need to be implemented so you can keep the system running smoothly.
Even if you don’t have any issues with your system, it’s still a good idea to work closely with them so that you can tap into their expertise and resources. Many solution providers and consultants provide training and additional information on features and functionalities that may come in handy for your team.
Work on what’s next for the company
The retail industry doesn’t stay stagnant, and neither should you. Keep your roadmap updated, and refer to it often so you can figure out your next steps.
Discuss with key company members around what’s next for the company and explore how your retail management system will enable you to implement your plans in the future.
Finding, purchasing, and deploying a new retail management solution takes tremendous effort. To complete the project on time (and within your budget) give your team the knowledge and tools that’ll keep them organized and on track. Let this guide serve as one of those tools. Use the insights and examples we’ve provided when you decide to move to a new system.
Good luck with your search for a new retail management solution. It’s a lengthy process, but know that going through it is crucial to future-proofing your business. And if you need a quick overview of what the process entails, you can refer to the following workflow graphic.
Evaluate retail management systems.
- Create a roadmap for the company
- Research and evaluate technology vendors through any of the following methods:
- Create a vendor matrix
- Bring in a consultant.
- Write RFPs
- Calculate the costs
- Select a solution
Prepare to move to a new system.
- Identify all parts/departments of the company that need to be involved.
- Map out how different departments should work together
- Study and document the various processes that would be affected by the new system
- Communicate the changes to the company
- Think about data migration
- Test the new system
- Train users on the new system
Deploy the new system.
- Decide on an implementation method: deploy all at once vs staggered deployment.
- Purchase the necessary equipment and set up Wi-Fi in your stores
- Assign a solution expert and IT professional in each store to oversee the implementation
- Migrate inventory, financial and customer data into the new system
- Switch out the hardware
- Turn on the new retail.
- Monitor stores using the new system
- Determine if it meets your objectives/requirements
- Work out any issues with your solution provider/consultant.
- Work with your solution provider/consultant to make the most out of the system.
- Refer to your roadmap to determine what’s next for the company
- Explore how your new system can help your business scale to where you need it to be
Source: Vend POS