Tag: crm for ecommerce

Retail ERP Software, Retail POS Solution

Why it makes sense to move your retail management software to the cloud

As a successful retailer, chances are you are already running some of your IT functions in the cloud. That’s smart.

The next logical step is to move your entire retail management system to the cloud, and go from the on-premises version to its software as a service (SaaS) one. But even if you know that the cloud is experiencing exponential growth, and that you will, one day, take the leap, you may be hesitant to do it now. Perhaps you are afraid you’re not ready for the change. Perhaps you have security concerns. Maybe you can’t clearly identify which practical, day-to-day benefits you’d get from moving to the cloud.

Whichever your reasons, you want the best for your business, and you care about staying competitive. You want to make the right decision, and employ technology that will propel you forward today and tomorrow.

While you are debating whether the cloud is for you, here are 8 good reasons why you should consider migrating your system.

1. Stay up to date, automatically

With traditional on-premises software, businesses are responsible of keeping their hardware and software up to date. In order to stay current (and safe), they’d need to purchase new hardware every few years, and to update their software every few months. But in reality, retailers usually have more pressing concerns than keeping track of the latest software patch or upgrade. And if the company is using multiple software solutions and there are integrations in place, a system upgrade can become a costly and lengthy project. As a result, many companies end up with outdated IT environments that work, but don’t really support the business, and may even hinder it. In the worst cases, this old tech might reduce the company’s ability to grow and take on new projects, or stay on top of consumer demands.

When you are using SaaS in the cloud, all these concerns belong to the past. You don’t need to worry about periodic maintenance, or to budget for expensive and complicated software upgrades. Instead, your supplier takes care of updating your software regularly. And if you have configured your add-ons correctly, you can maintain all your extensions, and even your configurations. SaaS software guarantees that you are always, automatically, on the latest version, and can use all the new functionality that comes with it.

2. Enhance productivity with intelligence

One of the biggest advantages of the cloud is the advanced computational power it offers. Tasks that until yesterday were too complex for even the most powerful computer, for example predicting future sales patterns, are now within reach of any retailer. Businesses can run their data into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) powered tools available in the cloud, and without having to pay for extra servers or data scientists, they can get the answers they need, with minimal effort, very rapidly, and at a fraction of the cost than comparable on-prem technology. There is a wide variety of AI tools available in the cloud, giving businesses infinite possibilities to improve their effectiveness and productivity. AI can also help make smarter decisions, and deliver more personalized, to the point customer service.

Would you like to send personalized promotions and special deals to your customers based on their shopping history and specific tastes? Are you thinking about adding a chatbot or virtual agent as a first-line customer support? Or perhaps you’d like to offer intelligent search on your e-commerce site? When you run your software in the cloud, all these initiatives are accessible to you, and can be started within a very short timeframe.

But AI can do much more than help deliver bespoke customer experiences. You can use optimize your inventory with advanced forecasting that can factor seasonality, promotions, trends, and product substitutes and complements into your forecasts. You can refine your hiring practices with intelligent talent acquisition solutions. You can simplify searches across your catalog for both staff and customers using AI-powered accurate product tagging applied to images. When you infuse your business with intelligence, you also make it more proactive, agile, and profitable.

3. Guarantee business continuity with a reliable infrastructure

With traditional in-house IT setups, businesses are at constant risk of downtimes and failures. On-site servers can’t usually guarantee a consistent performance, and if a key piece of your hardware breaks down, you may be left unable to serve customers or close sales – and could even risk losing your business data. As regards reliability, a traditional infrastructure usually necessitates a disaster recovery plan, requiring you to build redundancy, carefully monitor conditions, having dual firewalls and more – in short, you need to budget for time-consuming, expensive, complex monitoring.

Switch to SaaS software, and you can step away from all of these problems. Even if you experience a hardware failure – say your computers or servers break down – you won’t lose your data, as it is safely stored in the cloud and can be accessed when and as you need to. The cloud also guarantees higher reliability. Large cloud services like Microsoft Azure, with expansive resources and entire dedicated teams, have already built in redundancy, from failover hardware to datacenters located across the world. As a result, Azure, the service where the cloud-based version of LS Central resides, can guarantee 99,995% uptime, and top security features.

4. Respond quickly to changing market conditions

You know how important speed of action is in the retail industry. Yet, traditional IT environments are all but agile: even a project as simple as adding new servers or applications can be very time consuming. First, your IT staff needs time to procure the hardware or software that will fit within the current infrastructure. Then they have to set it up and test it, and finally, they’ll have to go through implementing it.

In the past, this process was the only way to implement change. Today, this is an outdated and ineffective way of operating – especially when the businesses you are competing against are agile and unburdened by traditional infrastructure, such as e-commerce players. To stay on top of change, you need to be able to analyze data in real time, devise plans rapidly, and immediately deploy mission-critical applications, or innovative tech, with minimal upfront costs and preparation time.

When you are running your systems in Azure, you can get this speed of action. Businesses running LS Central in the cloud can, for example, extend their business with extra functionality or innovative applications that won’t require a lengthy integration process, because they are already designed to work with the system. So you are quickly operative, and your IT staff has the time and space to focus on more pressing activities and objectives.

5. Get anywhere, anytime access to your business data

Retail business has become a 24/7 affair: sales happen at all hours and trends change faster than lightning. As a retail manager, you can’t afford to be left with no visibility over the business between 5pm and 9 am or when you are out of the office.

When you run your retail management system in the cloud, you can be operative when and as you want. With data stored in the cloud, where you are does not influence what you can see, or achieve. You can access your data on any pc or phone device and keep track of your sales, make changes and adjustments to prices or items, analyze data, access dashboards and share them with colleagues. So you are always on top of your data, ready to act when you need to.

6. Increase collaboration and support remote work

Demand for remote work has been growing. Workers appreciate flexible schedules and decreased commuting times, and companies reap the benefit of providing more sustainable working conditions. Although retail may not seem like the ideal setup for remote work, the expansion of online commerce and the diffusion of cloud technology are enabling retailers to increasingly meet demands for flexible work. “Retail, and omni-channel retail in particular, is built on data. And today, to analyze data, you don’t need to be on the store floor, looking at tons of printed statistics,” says Carsten Wulff, Vice President Europe at LS Retail.

The ability to access both business data and applications in real time is helping support remote jobs in very diverse positions, from decision-making roles to support to sales assistance. A marketing or sales manager could analyze buying patterns or keep track of sales trends from home, and use this data to create personalized promotions or communications. An online sales assistant could solve customer queries and provide real-time support and advice on the e-commerce site. A store manager could oversee sales and make stock requests from their personal device, without needing to waste time commuting across different store location. And all these workers could collaborate on joint projects, using the same online applications and data.

7. Stay safe and compliant, easily

With traditional in-house IT, it is the responsibility of the business to maintain tight security measures to protect data and users against external threats. Internal IT teams have been bearing the overwhelming weight of staying on top of the patches, updates and diagnostics required.

When you run your business software in the cloud, all of these concerns are transferred to your cloud service provider – who is, arguably, much better equipped than you in delivering top safety features. If you are a business running LS Central in the cloud, you can take advantage of the multi-layered, built-in security controls and threat intelligence that Azure offers. You can also leverage several industry certifications: Azure is ISO, PCI, HIPA and GDPR certified, which makes you automatically compliant with these standards, with no extra work needed on your part.

By choosing a cloud service like Azure that puts data security at its core, you save the time and effort you’d need to stay up to date with legal requirements, today and tomorrow. You can go on with your business, knowing that Microsoft will identify new threats and protect you against them, while keeping you on top of industry regulations at the same time.

8. Lower capital expenditure

When you move away from an in-house IT environment and run your software in the cloud, you can realize some significant savings, especially in terms of capital expenditure. With SaaS, you don’t need to install and run apps on-premises, which means you also don’t need new hardware and servers. Not only: you don’t need to worry about the cost of running and maintaining the system, consider the cost of integrations or upgrades, or budget for the services of system engineers and specialists. When you use SaaS, your system is managed and cared for by the specialists, and it’s all included in your subscription price.

It’s time to take the step

With LS Central now available purely in the cloud, this might be the perfect time to consider a SaaS retail solution. And if you are a retail or hospitality business already using LS Nav or LS Central on-premises, we have an enticing offer for you: we can help you fast track your on-premises solution to the cloud, at a special, highly discounted price.

Are you not yet eligible for our offer? No need to panic – we can help! Get in touch: we’ll be happy to talk you through the options, and support you in your transition to tomorrow’s retail technology.

Retail ERP Software, Retail POS Solution

7 tips to deliver better online grocery shopping

The boom of online grocery shopping has been a long time coming. In 2015, more than one third (37%) of shoppers in Asia-Pacific regularly shopped for food online, Nielsen reports. Although in the rest of the world online grocery shopping was less common, there was already a growing trend, which has only become more pronounced. According to projections by Deutsche Bank, online grocery shopping is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.2%, which is significant if compared with a 2.5% CAGR for total grocery sales.

Supermarkets have had time to prepare for the shift to online, but not all of them have stayed on top of trends. When, due to necessity, consumers worldwide moved massively towards online shopping, some supermarkets found themselves suddenly out of the race. Today, the businesses who didn’t believe and invest in omni-channel are facing the harsh consequences of their decisions.

Online shopping has been gaining ground quickly among all ages and geographies, and there is no reason to believe this popularity will fade in the upcoming months. This means there is no better time than today to invest in improving your e-commerce capabilities.

Here are seven tips to get you started.

1. Focus on speed and ease of use

Simplicity and usability of the platform should be your top goals:

  • Make it easy for people to registerfind the products they need, add items to the cart, review and edit the order and pay.
  • Enable filtering per sub-groups of items to speed up search. Your customers would rather not have scroll through a hundred-item long list of “bread and pastries” to find the apricot-filled croissants they are looking for.
  • Make sure you include all relevant product information. Feature high-quality pictures, and clearly label brand names, price, ingredients with nutritional value and allergens, and pack size.
  • Include expiry dates wherever possible. If a shopper knows that the Greek yogurt lasts three more weeks, they might buy three packs instead of one.
  • Support returning shoppers. Give customers the possibility to recreate previous orders quickly and activate shopping lists where people can add staples and family favorites. Allow registered customers to see their buying history and to share the basket with other family members.
  • Ensure short page load times. If your site is too slow to load, buyers may abandon their cart without completing the purchase.

2. State the important information up front

How annoyed will your online shopper be when he finds out that his postcode is not eligible for delivery, after he spent a full hour adding products to the cart? For retailers, it pays off to be clear and provide all needed information from the start. Buyers should be aware of shipping prices and timesdelivery restrictions, geographical areas included in the service and special conditions before they have added a single item to their cart.

When it’s time to check out, make sure that all the steps are clearly labelled, and that shoppers know what’s coming up in the process. Consider adding lines that clarify where the customer is at, such as “You can still modify your order in the next step” or “By clicking here, you confirm your order and accept to pay. You won’t be able to modify your order afterwards”. Consider adding a progress bar that shows the various steps (“Customer details” -> “Shipping” -> “Payment information” -> “Review order” -> “Complete and pay”).

Once the order has been placed, include an “order completed” page where all the key information is summarized: items purchased, delivery and payment information, time of order, and what the customer should expect (an email? A call? A link to track the shipment?).

3. Think of the different platforms

Today, more consumers access websites from mobiles than from computers. According to data from marketing site The Drum, last year 63% of traffic and 53% of sales on retailers’ eCommerce sites happened via mobile. As the preference for mobile shopping is only going to get more common, you should ensure that your website performs well on mobile devices. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is my e-commerce site responsive?
  • Are the buttons big and easy to tap? Are the text fields large and easy to type into?
  • Are pictures clear? Can people easily zoom in to see extra details? Is it easy to move through different images?
  • Is all information visible on small screens, or do some lines disappear or end up off screen?
  • Can customers easily move between items and categories?
  • Is the payment process simple and easy to follow?

Many consumers start a transaction on a device and continue it on another one. If when they resume the transaction they lose all the items they had already added to the cart, they may not be bothered to start over again – and you’ll lose that transaction. Enable saving the cart for logged in customers, so they can easily pick up transactions on different devices, at their pace and convenience.

4. Make it easy to navigate

On your e-commerce site you can easily display a larger product selection than in your physical locations. If you decide to go for the “endless aisles” style, make sure you organize the selection so that customers can easily find what they need.

  • Offer top-level categories that can be accessed from the top menu.
  • Enable customers to filter and sort items by price, brand, group, review scores, etc.
  • Make sure information is easy to skim through. Use bullet points and organize information consistently (first ingredients, then package size, then weight, then expiry date…) so users can find what they need at a glance.
  • Make sure the “buy” button is clearly visible. Add a checkmark or confirmation text to clarify when an item has been added to the basket.
  • Include a search function with predictive suggestions and auto corrects (“Did you mean…?”). Your customer may call “cilantro” what you call “coriander” on your site; you wouldn’t want her to leave without it just because the search gave no results.

5. Offer flexible delivery

Offer several delivery options and time slots, and be specific with your delivery times. The best practice is to offer precise delivery windows, and allow people pick the one that best fits their schedule. The more precise you are, the more likely you are customers will decide to shop with you. Nielsen’s “Global Connected Commerce Report” advises offering 30-minute interval windows – provided you can stick to your promises, and ensure delivery within the selected time frame.

How should you ship the products? Food retailers worldwide have been experimenting with different delivery methods. Which one(s) you should implement will depend on your customers’ demands, as well as on the local context and competitive landscape. Do your customers prefer to get their products delivered home? Would they rather use a third-party delivery station, such as a refrigerated locker? Do they want to order online and pick up in-store? Can you support picking up products at the curbside, or even via drive-thru? The more delivery options you can offer, the likelier you are to satisfy all demands. What if you don’t have the infrastructure to manage timely delivery and distribution of your goods? Then you should consider partnering up with distribution agents. This model, made popular by tech companies like Instacart, has already been successfully adopted by many supermarkets.

6. Guarantee high quality

Research by Nielsen shows that concerns over the quality of fresh items and worries about the risk of spoilage during delivery are two of the main barriers to online food shopping. To help consumers overcome these concerns,

  • Offer delivery options that preserve product quality. Refrigerated lockersone-hour delivery, and click and collect within a specific pick-up window are some of the options to ensure freshness while offering customers high flexibility.
  • Provide detailed information for fresh produce. This means including not only a description, but also freshness labels that say how many days the product will last after it is delivered.
  • Solicit feedback, and feature customer reviews under each product your website.
  • Allow customers to exchange the products, or get their money back, if the food does not meet their expectations at delivery.

7. Make it all work together seamlessly

When you are selling products online, you will be judged for more than just the quality of your products. If your website crashes, if the delivery service runs late, if a product description is incorrect, if the refrigerated locker where you deliver products breaks down, customers will hold you responsible. Convenience is a core element in consumers’ decision to shop for grocery online. A poor experience, a snag in the process, and you risk losing a customer forever.

It pays off to analyze and future-proof your whole chain, from production, to the technology you use, to accuracy of product information, to physical delivery, and ensure that every step of the process is smooth, efficient, and up to standards.

Online grocery shopping has moved beyond its tipping point. Although it’s hard to predict what will happen tomorrow, we can expect that grocery e-commerce will continue its upward trend. Retailers who want to shape the market and win over competitors must move quickly and fearlessly. If you need advice getting ready for the digital future of grocery shopping, do not hesitate to contact us.

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