3 tips for better retail procurement

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DarrenJackson.jpgThe retail landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade, with technology becoming an important consideration in the customer journey.

A historical buzzword, 'omnichannel', is now an integral part of any retailer's strategy, with in-store kiosks, transactional iPads and social screens now commonplace in-store. Advances in technology are having a direct impact on the role of procurement leaders, who must now consider everything, from the physical hardware to the content that is being shown on digital screens.

Darren Jackson, Director of Retail Solutions at APS Group, has put together his top three tips on how procurement teams can deliver the best value in a sector that is continually evolving:

1. Keep legacy systems in check
With an influx of new technology coming to market at any given time, there is always a technical aspect that needs to be considered. It is essential that the procurement team keeps tabs on any outdated legacy systems, which may not be compatible with new technologies as well as ensures that new solutions have adequate maintenance plans in place.

This is particularly relevant as the conversation around data security becomes a number one priority and retailers, for example, having to become more transparent about how they store customer data.

2. A more joined-up approach
With retailers implementing a 'digital-first' strategy, we are seeing a new breed of retail procurement in which buying teams have to consider everything from logistics and implementation, to product aftercare. Understanding which purchases fall under the remit of specific departments is key, as the role of the retail procurement manager continues to expand.

For example, whereas the IT department may have previously managed budgets for electronic equipment, this may now fall under the wing of marketing or store operations teams, who will often be tasked with deploying a complete in-store strategy. By pro-actively communicating, business units can work together more effectively to understand opportunities for budgets to merge and cross over.

3. Maximise return on investment
It goes without saying that return on investment remains key for procurement managers who continually need to demonstrate value for money. This can be challenging when investing in technology that is still new and emerging.

How does one strike the right balance between deploying innovation vs. ensuring value delivery to the business? And yet, it is important that you have a period of roll-out in order to monitor success. This may mean a single-store pilot, full roll-out in a specific region - but in varied stores - or simply looking at performance in a particular variable, before and after implementation.

Consider also the rise in trends, such as 'retailtainment', which sees stores entertain shoppers rather than just sell to them; this can be incredibly difficult to measure in terms of results.

John Lewis infamously invested in virtual changing rooms a few years ago, only to remove them when they discovered that these rooms were not doing enough for them. The lesson here is to implement comprehensive tracking and analytics, acknowledge when something is not working and know when to try something new.

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