That said, revamping your retail systems takes a lot of time and effort. It also comes with several challenges that can slow down or derail the process. To avoid such issues, you need to anticipate these challenges and address them early on.
Today we’ll talk about the common challenges retailers face when switching to a new retail management system. Take notes and keep the following pointers in mind when you decide to move to a new solution.
1. Transferring data
Migrating customer and inventory data can be a pain if you don’t do it right. You need to plan out how you’re going to transfer information from one system to the next. Are you going to enter the data manually or will you be importing it in bulk? Speaking of which, what is the import and export process for the two systems?
Also, note that your new system may have different data fields from your old one. For example, some solutions have the field “Barcode number” while for others, the same field may be called “SKU #.” Be sure to format the data or files correctly before importing them into your new system.
To be safe, test the data migration process for a few products or customers first. Jurlique, an Australian cosmetics retailer, did just that when they switched to a new retail management system.
According to Chris Balogi, the company’s Director of Global Information Technology, before transferring all their information, they tested the process to determine the format and amount of time it took to migrate their data.
“We defined exactly what to transfer, and then we started to test the actual migration of this data. So by the time we were ready to go live we knew what data we were going to migrate and how long it would take,” he said.
Do the same thing in your business. Figure out what you need to transfer, the best format for doing it, and how long it’s going to take. Doing so will make the data migration process a lot easier.
2. Modifying workflows and processes
Expect to deal with changes in workflows when you switch to a new retail management system. You may need to process orders differently or change how you handle suppliers. See to it that you and your staff are aware of these changes early on.
Study and document how your existing workflows would change after you make the switch. Will you need to come up with workarounds? Would you need to buy additional hardware? What specific steps or procedures should you modify? These are just some of the questions that you and your staff should answer.
If you’re part of a large organization or if you have many processes in place, you may want to hire a process analyst to study your workflows.
That’s what Jurlique did to ensure that they were able to smoothly transition to the new system. “[The process analyst] spent time with different departments asking about things like ‘How do you ship an item to the store’ or ‘Where does the order go from the warehouse?’ All that stuff had to be understood in case there was a change [that needed to be addressed].”
If it makes sense for your organization, emulate Jurlique’s strategy. Assign someone to study and document the changes to your processes so you can carry out the necessary adjustments.
3. Integrating (or not) with existing systems
If you’re using other types of software, check to see if your new system can integrate with them.
Make a list of existing software or integrations and determine if they’ll work with your new retail management system. How easy would it be to link the solutions together? If they can’t be integrated, you need to figure out how you’re going to move forward. Does your new system have existing features that can replace your current software? For instance, if you’re switching to a retail management solution that has a built-in loyalty program, then you can probably make do without a third party loyalty solution.
If your new system can’t replace an integration, will you need to develop a workaround? Should you find a new integration? Sort out these questions well before switching to your new retail management solution.
4. Communicating the change to your staff
Moving to a new retail solution is a massive undertaking. Your team needs to be aware of your plans, and each individual should know how the change would affect them.
Craft a communications plan for your organization. Determine when and how to tell your staff about your plans, and figure out how you’re going to train them.
Here’s a tip: you don’t need to spread the word to everyone all at once. While a few people should be aware of the change early on, you should hold off on telling the rest of the company until certain details are 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 also working with different departments within the company, and this ensured that all the key people were aware of the upcoming change. Newsletters were sent internally to give the staff an idea of what was coming.
At at a store level, Balogi said they didn’t get into too much detail until closer to deployment. “We ramped up our 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.”
5. Implementing the new system
You can’t just “turn on” your new system to get up and running. There are several steps to take before going live.
First is deciding how you’re going to do it. If you have many stores, will you go live all at once or will you do it one store at a time? Will you be running multiple systems simultaneously? At what point will you turn off your old solution? These are just a few questions to think about.
There’s also the matter of hardware and connectivity. You’ll want to set up your equipment and in-store WiFi (if necessary) months or weeks before going live. This will give you the chance to test the system and iron out any bugs.
Most importantly, you need to think about data migration (again). While some types of information (e.g. product names and descriptions) may be migrated early in the process, other types of data (e.g. inventory levels, financial info) must be kept current. This means you’ll have to wait the night before you go live (or the day itself) to migrate the information.
You should make these decisions well before your go-live date. The last thing you want is to deal with technical difficulties upon turning on your new system.
Other general tips
Below are additional pointers to help you transition to your new system smoothly:
CONSIDER HIRING A CONSULTANT
If the issues we talked about look overwhelming, consider bringing in a consultant to help you move to a new retail management system. Search for solution experts or cloud integrators who can guide you throughout the process.
Doing so could save you a lot of time and headaches. As Jeffrey Atizado, Joint Managing Director at Australia-based SMB Consultants says, “While there are some upfront savings with doing it yourself, retailers also have to factor in how much their time is worth. The main benefit of hiring consultants is that they can leverage our experience. We can offer a lot of insights on how they can improve.”
“We can also recommend products and features that they probably didn’t even know existed. I don’t think many businesses have the time to keep up with the amount of choice and workflows available. They end up sticking with workflows or tools that may not necessarily be the best fit for them.”
If you’re not keen on going the DIY route when upgrading retail solutions, contact consultants and or retail tech experts in your area and see if they can help you.
HAVE A BIGGER PLAN
Your move to a new retail management system should be part of a larger plan for your business. Think about where you want your business to go, then make sure that your new solution aligns with your goals.
Start by listing the capabilities you have now and features that you need going forward.
Taking the time to do this will help you choose the best retail management solution. You won’t have to waste energy on systems that aren’t a good fit and you’ll spend less time evaluating solutions.
The adage knowledge is power applies to the task of moving to a new retail system. Simply being aware of potential challenges already puts you in front of the tons of businesses that jump into new technologies too soon.
So congrats if you made it this far. You’ve educated yourself on the issues that come with moving to a new system, and you’re more prepared to handle the task.