More and more grocery retailers are recognizing the critical role digital engagement plays in their customer’s shopping experience. What’s becoming increasingly confusing are all the new marketing technologies available, challenging retailers to navigate the rapidly changing landscape.
Before making that great leap forward into the digital space, it’s crucial to have a better grasp of your options, and the pros and cons for each. Many retailers struggle to achieve this, leading to unsound decisions and often solutions that don’t suit their needs. By no means are these easy questions.
- Should we try to work with existing legacy systems?
- Are the new features and technologies going to integrate with existing systems?
- Should we scrap everything and start over?
Mercatus believes the answer lies somewhere in the middle: an integrated approach that ties digital marketing solutions together into a single platform integrating nicely into yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s systems.
There are several platform solutions that exist today, ranging in design to meet specific needs. Here’s a closer look at the three main platform approaches available for retailers: enterprise, portfolio and integrated.
An enterprise suite offered by companies such as IBM and ORACLE, exist mainly for large organizations (banks, hospitals, government) that need to support extensive infrastructure, complex business processes and calculations of large, complex problems. The primary appeal of an enterprise suite is that it is a one-stop shop for companies, offering everything they need through a single platform provider. Third- party vendors offer specialized integrations, and companies can also rely on ongoing support.
The main disadvantage associated with an enterprise platform is that it’s not very flexible, locking retailers into a specific framework that’s often supported by system specific application and software (“bloatware”). For example, if a new solution emerges, such as social media monitoring, companies are restricted in their choices because the software vendor decides which third-party provider it will use based on compatibilities.
A portfolio suite means that a company is integrating a series of stand-alone service providers, applications, or solutions. In many cases, the portfolio solution is driven by the desire to keep up with the latest in digital marketing. The key advantage of a portfolio suite is it allows companies to review and integrate the right mix of best-of-breed service offerings, allowing for greater flexibility and choice.
The major pitfall of a portfolio suite is that companies end up having siloed data, conflicting initiatives, complex integrations and systems that are hard to sustain and evolve. While it’s advantageous to offer customers things like e-coupons, e-flyers or recipe apps, it’s up to the retailer to fit all of the different pieces together. Companies ultimately end up struggling with disjointed business strategies and cohesive shopping experiences.
An integrated platform provides a centralized framework which readily accepts and integrates multiple services into a common data architecture. Many grocer retailers have existing infrastructure and legacy technologies that are very fragmented and disjointed. An integrated platform is able to sit on top of existing infrastructure, unlocking the legacy information and data to facilitate digital commerce and marketing. It ties all of those technologies together to deliver a seamless customer experience across all touch points, whether it’s e-commerce or apps. An integrated platform offers the benefits of a single-platform solution, but with flexibility and scalability, and without enterprise-level spend.
Importantly, consumers themselves want retailers to integrate their channels. A recent study by Accenture found that nearly half of U.S. consumers (49%) believe the best thing that retailers can do to improve the shopping experience is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping channels.
One potential disadvantage of an integrated platform is managing multiple systems, from varying tools and technologies to different time zones and languages. However, Mercatus believes the pros largely outweigh the cons and the right technology partner can help companies manage the complexity.
And while many retailers believe integration into legacy systems is problematic, that perception is a bit outdated. Innovation has made it possible to bring together existing, new, third-party and legacy systems. When done successfully, an integrated approach will drive both consumer engagement and revenue. Know your options, plan your route and be sure to have the right partners before taking that leap.