Brook, Director of Retail Operations
- I am consumed with broken technology problems instead of my job.
- I cannot deliver an integrated tech buying experience.
- My staff is “doing” tech or managing third party tech.
- Instead of positive reviews, my customers complain that “gift cards don’t work online, loyalty balances don’t’ match, and where can I see my purchase history on demand?.
- I am worried: “what is going to break next?”
I’m responsible for merchandising, marketing and demand generation, inventory supply and control, Funds Reconciliation, and most importantly, customer experience. I’ve helped the company leap from regional to national B2B order fulfilment, added a new B2C ecommerce site, and now brick-and-mortar stores are on the horizon. While normally I would be thrilled to add a new business model, I am terrified because if we add one more impossible-to-integrate technology to this ecosystem, I am afraid we will collapse. I am a retail-operations expert, not a technology manager, but that is what I have essentially become.
Amazon and other heavyweights push the bar up constantly, and customers expect ever-evolving tech-enabled buying experiences like: In-store pickup, online returns, omni-channel purchase visibility, and on and on. Unfortunately, every time I find what looks to be the perfect addition - like a loyalty app - to address the market issue, it turns out to be more effort to manage the hopeful benefit. I think I do everything right, including making sure it has an API that can be integrated, but inevitably we cause an integration problem I can’t solve, or it works only until we upgrade something else, so now I just worry about what is going to break next.
The ecommerce site interfaces with our ERP, but no SaaS POS option fits because the ERP is old and has API limits. We will probably launch the pilot unintegrated which will cause my team more manual processes. The logistics company we outsource to manages most of the fulfilment of orders except for the ecommerce site, which partially worked for 4 months, but a recent upgrade broke the ERP integration and inventory is now "temporarily" managed separately between B2B and B2C in separate systems. It was recommended by a vendor to run an export into excel, make manual changes, and import into the other. I don’t even know which one of our vendors to call half the time, and they just blame each other or give me advice I have no idea how to evaluate objectively. Rather than making improvements like omni-channel gift, loyalty, returns, and other services my customers have come to expect, I chase tech problems around all day, and am losing customers. I know what this environment should look like, but I can’t make it work the way I want, and I feel like I am letting down my CFO, who just sees rising costs and diminishing sales.
If we couldn’t solve these problems, ultimately I was going to be blamed for failing the organization, even though they really weren’t issues I had the power or skills to solve.. If the company had chosen to continue to select me as the solution for these problems, any budget needed to provide technology outcomes would have been immediately redirected to unskilled manpower and eventually the company would have rejected me, my team, and those technologies without learning anything.
- Tech that works so I can do my job.
- Confidence I can add new tech without slowing me down.
- Restored trust between departments and alignment on future retail strategies.
- BOPIS, BORIS, and Ship-to-store are now standard and in line with customer expectation.
With all these issues, our CFO brought on a CIO to clear up the confusion, and he went to work immediately with a product called iPaaS.com, which is an integration platform for retail systems.
The platform was easy for non-tech types to set up. All the time, effort and energy spent maintaining the systems that were crashing became opportunity for adding new tech we needed. Underperforming legacy systems were replaced without downtime one-by-one, pre-integrated point-of-sale offered advanced features and was flexible for future expansion, but installed with the simplicity of plug-and-play. The first two stores launched on-time. I was able to use a managed integration services partner (MISP) to add an across-channel loyalty program I’d wanted for years and didn’t even think possible, along with omni-channel gift cards. Oh, and buy-online-pick-up-in-store? Return-to-store? They were easy, and customers finally got access to their cross-channel order history for easy review and reorder.
The employee that was importing and exporting data between monitoring integrations is now designing a mobile app for our B2B customers I’d always wanted but never had the ability to focus on. I plan to extend that to B2C consumers next year. Essentially, I am back to doing what I do best: installing strategies to improve our performance, enhance customer experience, and stay ahead of the competition. The CFO and I are back in alignment, and we are excited for the next fiscal year. iPaaS.com let me do my job again.
The company would have rejected me, my team, and those technologies without learning anything.
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