What specific role is Information Technology (IT) playing in the 21st-century retail sphere? How important is it to the rising and falling of many SMEs and can it be described as a holistic tool in driving sales or it’s only a fraction of the business?

Actually, the role of IT in the management of complex retail operations is going to be increasingly significant and will be one that cannot be easily side-tracked in a hurry. The reason is simple; IT has become unavoidable in the Information age especially in aiding the performance of the minutest tasks to the most sophisticated projects. It has lessened the arduousness of work and made communication readily accessible to all, with the ever-increasing solutions it provides.

There is also no doubt that the globalization of retailing has accelerated, at both levels of points-of-sale and points-of-supply; resources expended in IT infrastructure in the retail sector has escalated in a significant manner. This has restructured the retail sector in such a way that market knowledge, as well as control of data and information, is what gives a competitive advantage. What used to be the simple process of retailing has started to deploy more advanced retail information systems to cope with all the transactions involved, because markets are continuing to grow and become more complex.

As retailers in today’s business world, you will need to constantly refurbish your IT capabilities for a lot of reasons including:

    The evolving marketplace demands an increase in the company’s ability to respond through enhanced speed and flexibility.

    To collect and analyse customer data while enhancing differentiation.

    For efficiency in the workplace; retailers need one system working across stores (or even across national borders) to make sure the most effective use of stock and improve business processes.

Today, retailers are quickly beginning to realize that the role of technology is one of an enabler; information technology can catalyse processes and deliver cost saving benefits to the company.

With the many advantages that IT has to offer, the retail industry still faces many specific challenges related to IT management, knowledge of this helps in maximizing the many benefits of IT as a business tool, some include:

Customer data

A lot of SMEs struggle with information overload because they’re required to collect and filter through a great amount of data, then convert it into useful information in a customer-centric industry.

Transparency and tracking                                          

In a bid to increase transparency between systems, retailers must also obtain better tracking to integrate systems from the manufacturer through to the consumer while obtaining customer and sales information.

Global data synchronization

Due to radio frequency identification/electronic product coding, the entire supply chain has become more intelligent. Retailers must enable the use of real-time data to watch inventory levels. Also, radio frequency identification tagging positions the company to be able to safeguard its shipments by allowing products to be tracked from the manufacturer through the entire supply chain.

In today’s retail businesses, speed, agility, and efficiency are what is expected. To achieve this, retailers should invest in an electronic inventory control system, a central database, a point of sales system and an automated statistical forecasting system. They are not tools that merely reduce your overhead and improve your planning. They’ve become necessary tools that can provide you with a competitive edge to thrive and grow in the market.

So, it is easy to say that, IT tools for doing business are what create the line of distinction between successful and thriving businesses and the ones barely surviving in the 21st-century business world. You can, therefore, choose what side of the divide you want to be on.

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