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Retail industry sustainability: ERP and CRM strategy to counter the disruptions during and beyond COVID-19

August 16, 2021

Retail, as we know it, has changed.

The global pandemic and resulting shutdowns have brought about substantial and lasting changes in the entire retail ecosystem. Changes expected over the next couple of years have happened in weeks, forcing retailers to reshape and digitalize their business in real-time. From managing the financial impacts of store closures and supporting the workforce working remotely to digitalizing operations and making cross-vertical partnerships, retailers operating in segments like luxury goods, beauty, apparel, and footwear are at the forefront of a new landscape, facing challenges they have not dealt with before. These changes and challenges have introduced three significant trends for the next normal.

With evolved lifestyles and evolved companies, what are the key trends that stand out?

Collaborative work with technology at its backbone: There is a shift in how people collaborate and work - from individual remote working to collaborative working utilizing technology. The work environment in the new normal needs to be more inclusive and agile.

The notion of “anytime, anywhere” in consumer adoption: The consumption patterns are changing; online commerce has increased drastically. Consumers have embraced change and demand an end-to-end buying and shopping experience that is consistent across all touchpoints. Retailers also need to rethink existing processes to cope up with additional challenges such as managing reverse logistics.

Scalable sustainability for the environment, for the organization: There is an increased preference for green and sustainable value chains while ensuring revenue and efficiency in all processes –from production to delivering and serving customers.  

How can CRM and ERP sustain Retail during COVID-19 and beyond?  

The realignment of customer preferences and working practices has forced retailers to be responsive and invest heavily in their technology stack. Here is why CRM and ERP are the immediate need of retailers today!

Real-time Information

The role of information in business operations is quite significant. When businesses grow and expand, it becomes tough and sometimes impossible to synchronize the data across all channels. So, what serious repercussions can this lead to?    

For starters, a price change might not be visible across all channels, and this information can be misused easily. If the amendments made are not reflected uniformly, this would lead to incorrect records. However, the most serious repercussion would be a delay in information being broadcasted, resulting in the delay of overall operations and poor efficiency. Many retailers face this disruption, especially those with no digital transformation plan in place, and now they require more visibility and control of their workflows than before.

However, the right mix of CRM and ERP software can fix this. They leave no room for error or delay while distributing real-time information across all channels.

Customer Management

The importance of customer management lies in the fact that anyone even closely associated with retail knows that at the core of the business is the customer and that customer is God. Brand loyalty is quite vulnerable, and there is always a constant fear and pressure of losing customers. In these testing times, when the customer is already so frustrated and needs no reason to switch to another brand, it makes it hard to retain and attract a potential customer. Customer Relationship Management and Enterprise Resource Planning, hence, serve as vital data repositories. You can track your profitability, customer preferences, and loyalty and at the same time identify upselling and cross-selling opportunities, implement better strategies and drive future revenue.

Employee Management

The retail Industry operating through various retail outlets, spread across different geographical locations, is not easy to manage. The added challenge of managing teams working from home makes an end-to-end management even worse. With your CRM and ERP platforms working together, duplicate and inaccurate information become a thing of the past.

Real-time information such as remote shift timings, working hours, and other essential employee details can, thus, be accessed more accurately and efficiently. Handling out new projects, tracking goals, and offering promotions and bonuses are made much more efficient too.  According to Gallup, organizations with high employee engagement provide better customer service and are 21% more profitable.

Inventory Management

When the global pandemic outburst initially hit, retailers faced a double edge-sword-having too much inventory to manage. According to a study conducted by IHL Group, out-of-stocks and overstocks cost retailers $1.1 trillion globally in lost revenue. Maintaining the momentum created by global conditions and the resulting acceleration of e-commerce, retailers are required to stay proactive, manage end-to-end inventory flow and update everything in real-time. The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) help track items against all possible criteria, monitor multiple warehouses, automate the reordering process and produce barcodes for efficient material handling. Modifying and managing your inventory in real-time gives you an edge over competitors struggling to cater to unpredictable consumer demands.

From survival to mastery: preparing organizations to withstand the test of time and nature.

With the right tools in place, retailers can ensure their survival and continuity during these testing times. A McKinsey global survey of 800 executives reveals that the adoption of automation and digitization technologies has accelerated, with people finding themselves facing the next normal. Having a CRM and an ERP at its core allows businesses to handle their operational and customer-centric processes smoothly, as well as remotely. The employees and employers can work together on a single unified platform and access data in real-time to make data-driven decisions. When integrated, the two can yield ever better and in-depth results.

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