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In-sync over isolation: Why unification is the future of retail technology

  • Written by Andrew Fraser, Managing Director, APAC at Lightspeed

There is perhaps no industry where the impact of technology is more apparent - and powerful - than retail. Retailers big and small across Australia are using technology to improve efficiency, drive profitability and enhance their customer and employee experience. However, the extent to which they’re succeeding varies. That’s because technology’s impact is significantly higher when it is adopted and embedded strategically.

During the pandemic, so many retailers adopted technology with an urgent focus on overcoming short-term challenges. While we’re experiencing the long-term economic effects of the pandemic today, by approaching technology with an embedded or ‘unified’ approach, retailers can improve their productivity, revenue and customer and employee experience.

The days of relying on multiple best-in-breed solutions - which many retailers, understandably, did during the pandemic - are over. That’s because it's expensive, ineffective, creates business silos and impedes your customer and employee experience. Strategic and sustainable technology is unified, whereby software, hardware and processes work in harmony, rather than in isolation.

What is a unified technology stack? 

A unified technology stack is one in which different softwares and hardwares are connected, streamlining processes and the flow of data. For example, rather than relying on one vendor for your point-of-sale (POS) and another vendor for payments, unified technology enables your payments processor to communicate with your POS system to process payments and complete transactions. With transactions recorded automatically in your POS system, it removes the need for manual entry and reduces the risk of human error.

Also, being linked directly with your POS system, an embedded payments solution unlocks data such as reporting, inventory, analytics, forecasting and other software your POS uses. For online purchases, for example, an embedded payments solution ensures your customers won’t be taken to a third-party website or app to complete payments. This reduces the risk of cart abandonment. Embedded payment processing is ideal for all types of businesses, whether bricks-and-mortar, ecommerce or omnichannel.

What are ‘silos’? And why are they dangerous?

When your payments processor isn’t connected to your point-of-sale system, you won’t have automatic access to data related to reporting, inventory and more. When payments aren’t embedded, it requires manual work and introduces complexities to the checkout experience - unhelpful for both your business and customers. Furthermore, it creates technology ‘silos’.

A technology silo can limit business visibility, wastes time and resources, compromise data security and make it harder to provide streamlined customer experiences. Imagine, if your team members were working as individuals, rather than a connected, communicative and collaborative team. Your business would suffer because they’d be operating in ‘silos’. In much the same way, it’s important your technology communicates, enabling your business to operate more efficiently, effectively and strategically.

What are the benefits?

When POS and payment solutions are unified it can drive higher revenue and profit. That’s because it’s far easier to deploy value-adds like tipping or loyalty programs, which can help drive revenue and increase customer retention. Then there’s the checkout process, which can be make or break for every potential sale - particularly online. If the process is streamlined, their satisfaction - and by extension, their loyalty - is likely higher. If it's underwhelming, card abandonment becomes more prevalent.

There are benefits for you and your employees, too. Rather than investing in different pieces of hardware and software, a unified approach can keep your costs lower. And when you have more solutions from one vendor, it's far easier to seek support from a vendor who understands your technology, your business and how to help you drive growth and efficiency. Because your in-store and online sales are automatically recorded in your accounting software, bookkeeping becomes much easier. So not only does it streamline your day-to-day operations, it can take the sting out of tax time.

Take, for example, White Earth; an eco-friendly, Australian-owned, retailer operating four stores with plans for growth. Unifying their POS and Payments platform has freed up their time from day-to-day troubleshooting to focus on business growth. They say using Lightspeed Payments has improved accuracy, minimised instances of human error and made it seamless for the customer in-store. As they look to grow, a unified approach can scale with them and give them the foundation for sustained success.

The retail industry has long been an innovative sector, pushing the boundaries of employee and customer experience through technology adoption. For retailers, though, the future of technology is unified. Those who rely on multiple best-in-breed solutions will struggle to wield the same results and efficiencies as those who deploy a unified approach. 

By Andrew Fraser, Managing Director, APAC at Lightspeed

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