Is real-time processing a must-have for retailers?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the RTG (Retail Technology Group) blog.
Credit authorization is the oldest example of indispensable real-time processing in retail. But in the new world of unified commerce, most aspects of running the business now require real-time processing.
These include real-time:
- Inventory availability to support “endless aisle” and BOPIS;
- Geofencing to support in-store offers;
- POS and loyalty to bring bonus offers at checkout to best customers when certain purchase thresholds are met;
- Price-change management capabilities to tap dynamic pricing;
- Electronic shelf labels and RFID data to minimize stock-outs.
One challenge for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solutions occurs when some of the business functions on which a retailer relies — such as third-party logistics services or an e-commerce platform — lie outside the boundaries of these software suites.
While most of the leaders have a platform that enables communication between internal and external applications in real time, some may be running applications in real time while other modules depend on “batch” or scheduled interfaces between mixed systems. A third group may just be running their POS in real time and that’s it. The options to reaching the goal vary as well.
One option is the dreaded rip-and-replace approach, wherein the retailer does away with the disjointed parts that make up the portfolio of applications and replaces everything with a single-source or multiple-source set of real-time-ready applications. This option is costly, disruptive to the business and risky, but once implemented successfully, more efficient.
The other option is to methodically replace some or all of the old “batch” applications with current, API-capable applications. APIs enable applications to interface with each other so they can read and update their databases in real time, thus tightly coupling modules from different external software-or-services providers.
In either case, the planning and strategy come first, the evaluation and selection of the appropriate solutions come next, and the installation and thorough testing come (over time), just before implementation.
Is retail ready?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What’s the best option for small to medium-sized retailers to get up-to-speed with real-time information processing? Do you favor the “rip-and-replace approach,” the discriminate use of API-capable applications, or some other approach?