IT software solutions consultant, De Data, has been sharpening its retail strategy for more than a decade. It has seen big demand for mobile sales automation systems, particularly in the past 12 months, and already has some big consumer packaged goods (CPG) players under its wing.
Today's technology goes well beyond data capture and into the realm of automation, integrating field and back-office operations and allowing additional workflow capabilities. The trick is to be able to push intelligent data out to the field team, according to managing director, Frank De Palo.
"A lot of the CPG players don't supply direct to store so they don't know what's going on at the retail outlets," De Palo said. "The two data metrics for retailers are the distribution space on shelves and the stock on shelf."
The company's purveyance system takes the guess work out of retail environments and allows for data capture at store level. All reports are Web-based and include the ability to drill down into details.
The retail market was a prime hotspot for mobile sales force automation solutions like purveyance, De Palo said.
Sales force automation of just one of a number of technologies changing the competitive retail landscape. According to a recent IDC study, Australia Retail and Wholesale Market, local IT spending in the sector will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent between 2005 and 2010 to reach $1.68 billion.
IDC vertical market research analyst, Phillip Allen, said operational efficiency and the ability to capture and share massive quantities of data were necessary for both retailers and wholesalers.
"These require back-end integration, providing opportunities for both systems integrators and consultants," he said.
Five key themes driving IT spending and transformation within the retail and wholesale industry are customer centricity, a scientific approach to retailing, greater emphasis on skills and training, changing patterns of consumption, and radio frequency identification (RFID).
While RFID is a hot topic, Allen doesn't expect to see many deployments in the near term. The immediate focus is enhancing customer experience, integrating technologies with applications, improving inventory management, and sharpening data management capabilities.
"Retailers have functionality diverse application portfolios. The ability to closely link related information within a company and from supplier partners should enable better decisions," he said.
"Retailers will divert their attention to the supply chain, unify business processes and operations, and enhance customer experience by getting to know them better and using business intelligence."
While the retail sector is increasing IT spending in a bid to sustain growth and gain competitive advantage, the majority of spending is still project-based.
NCR vice-president of retail sales solutions, Con Vass, said vendors and resellers could help retailers boost productivity and bottom line.
"There's a lot more science in the stores. Retailers want to ensure the checkout environment is productive, there's a good health and safety design, and in-store operations are optimised," Vass said. "There's a lot more data collection around making more scientific decisions."