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    Tech trio offers new opportunities to SA retailers

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    Ask any South African retailer what keeps them up at night and they'll give you a shopping list. Consumers are spending less, but they want more. There is a need to provide a better customer experience in an omnichannel environment. Online shopping has become a way of life, greatly impacting inventory availability and delivery options.
    For many retailers, the solution to these challenges does not lie in artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, or the Metaverse. Instead, they are turning to proven technologies such as document management, security, and communications to reduce costs, glean critical customer and operational insights, and reach new and existing audiences.

    “Since the pandemic, the retail space has become much more virtual. Customers want to know when their products will arrive. But as retailers strive to provide customers with a so-called 'seamless experience,' “Now more than ever, we need to better manage sensitive information, comply with regulations, and make the most of legacy technology,” said Estee Kilian, head of retail. A product of managed business services provider Itec SA.

    It's in print, but not like you know

    Until a few years ago, retailers used printers to physically print daily inventory reports to manage the day-to-day operations of their stores and businesses. And many retailers would struggle to do business without it.

    Today's generation of multifunction printers (MFPs) can also print on paper if needed. But its real power lies in its direct integration into a company's software systems, where critical information, such as processing FICA documents, is captured digitally.

    “In an environment where major retailers are producing millions of pieces of print per month, reducing paper and ink usage reduces costs. is about providing real-time information that can be used to digitize operations, save costs and provide a better customer experience,” said Kevin Johnston, Consulting Executive at ITEC SA.

    “Printing is the least glamorous part of IT, but if a store can't print and scan, it can't operate. Collecting the data from these machines can help drive new behaviors and process standardization. I can.”

    Security: Business support, not the big brother

    Many retailers have surveillance cameras installed and only monitor them when they need to find footage of an incident. This is a huge waste of technology that could also be leveraged to dramatically improve retail operations, says Ashley van Breda, security product manager at Itec SA.

    “We want to change the way our clients think about what security can do for them. It's not about being Big Brother. It’s important to leverage technology beyond your intentions. With the help of smart analytics, security systems can provide a treasure trove of data and insights,” says Van Breda.

    For example, security systems can heat up the busiest times and areas in a store, when and where additional staff are needed, where customers spend the most and least time, and where there are flow issues. You can see it on the map.

    There are also a number of alerts you can set, such as if the register is unattended, if the register is left open, or if a known shoplifter enters the store using facial recognition.

    While smaller retailers can get all this information directly into their apps, larger retailers have central control rooms with AI-driven systems that alert them to anomalies and gather useful information. I am.

    Digital communication and omnichannel

    Creating an omnichannel environment is a competitive advantage for any retailer. It starts with modernizing communications systems to integrate voice and data. This will enable you to offer your customers the same experience whether it's via voice call, text message, WhatsApp, email or social media.

    The advantage of modern communication systems is that they can also be purchased in small retail stores, says Hannes van der Merwe, Mitel Product and Pre-Sales Manager at ITEC. Communication as a Service eliminates the need to own equipment or platforms. Also, all customer data, voice recordings, and operational information can be integrated directly into his CRM or ERP system.

    “Modern communications systems offer a variety of benefits, including the ability to collect customer data and easily collaborate with partners, suppliers, and other stores. Telephony platform systems also allow you to more directly control costs and budgets. and can be adjusted according to business needs,” says Van der Merwe.

    conclusion

    Retailers are already struggling to adapt to a challenging economic environment and changing consumer behavior. You don't have to worry about backend technology either.

    “Look for a technology partner who is ready to build a custom solution for your environment, offer a wide range of procurement options, integrate all your systems in one place, and walk with you. This leaves us free to focus on delivering the best customer experience,” says Killian.

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