Retail Executive Insight: A Fashion Retailer’s Guide to a Total System Makeover

November 1, 2016

Posted by Breanne Richardson, Retail Fashion Marketing, NetSuite

Editor’s note: Below is a Q&A interview with Matt Rhodus, Director and Industry Principal, Retail Apparel Vertical for NetSuite that originally appeared within Apparel Magazine’s Thought Leadership Report. The interview focused on how fashion retailers can break the bonds of legacy IT systems and unleash new levels of innovation. Thought leaders Alton Lane and RSR Research discuss the essentials to achieving disruption in retail. Learn more by downloading the full report: From Basics to Beyond: A Fashion Retailer’s Guide to a Total System Makeover(opens in new tab).

Q: Why would a fashion retailer want to consider a total system makeover? 

Matt Rhodus: Unless a retailer has started up in the last five years, it’s probably coping with many of the same back-end problems the industry has struggled with since around 2000. With the proliferation of channels, fashion retailers have implemented all sorts of systems to try to solve this problem or that problem. This has created a behemoth IT infrastructure that can’t pivot and change. There are fractious layers of software wedged amid the core ERP and retail management software(opens in new tab), demanding resources and dividing attention away from achieving meaningful goals. These multiple systems require heavy integration, which is the direct enemy of customer experience innovation. That’s partly because retailers are always in maintenance-centric mode, which squeezes out the time and opportunity for invention.

To break free of the same perpetuating problems, you can stand the business up on a new foundation. When we talk with apparel retailers and ask them to imagine what systems they would want on day one if they were starting fresh, they always say they’d want all of their channels running on the same system. A total system makeover empowers them to achieve this goal.

Q: What makes sense to focus on first? 

Rhodus: First, you lay the foundation, the unified commerce engine, which supports everything on top of it. This unified platform gives you a single view of all of your basic business information: orders, customers and inventory. The next step is to update your POS system(opens in new tab) so that your in-store technology is united with that centralized commerce engine. We realize no retailer can light a match to their entire IT infrastructure and replace it the next day. It’s too much change. Instead, you connect the new foundation to your old infrastructure, plugging it into your legacy systems for a period of time. And then, depending on your business requirements and budget, you can either walk or run up the next implementation steps. You can construct your additional floors of innovation on that foundation until all business processes are unified on the platform.

Q: With back-end processes remedied and strengthened, what types of front-end innovation can take flight?

Rhodus: You can really start to do some innovative things once the basics are solved, and all of your business processes are tying back to the unified commerce engine. Now that you have a clear view of shopping across channels, you can experiment with new customer acquisition and retention strategies. You can profit from in-the-moment commerce experiences because you have a 360-degree view of the consumer. For example, associates can engage in real-time, relationship-building conversations with shoppers whether they are in the store, using your mobile app, browsing your ecommerce(opens in new tab) website or interacting with your call center. You can take intelligent marketing campaigns to a new level, building personalized promotions based on real-time sales data. When technology is no longer the inhibitor, you are free to innovate and take your business in exciting new directions.

Download the full Apparel Thought Leadership Report: From Basics to Beyond: A Fashion Retailer’s Guide to a Total System Makeover(opens in new tab)

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