10 Myths About Selecting a Retail System
Monday, May 18th, 2009
It’s easy to select a new system. It’s HARD to select the RIGHT system. Over the years, I have heard retailers say such things as, ‘all systems basically function the same’, ‘they all have their issues’, and ‘if it works for ‘X’ it will work for me’. It is this kind of attitude that is likely to get you into trouble. Over time, I have developed a list of 10 myths about selecting a new retail system:
Myth #1 - If it works for other retailers, it will work for me.
This is absolutely not true. The exact same system could be a great fit for one retailer and a disaster for another. Even if you believe the retailer is very similar to you, there are always differences; merchandise mix, number or size of stores, distribution methods, employee skill/sophistication, personalities, etc. These differentiations can all impact on how a system will work for one retailer vs. another.
Myth #2 - All systems basically do the same thing.
On the surface Retail systems all have to provide a certain level of basic functionality in order to operate in a retail environment. But it goes beyond this. Is the system easy to use, intuitive? How is the system going to help you improve? Does it have the required level of sophistication that is going to enable your company to grow and thrive, or will it’s rigidity be a hindrance? Yes, most systems have the basic functionality, but whether it is in-depth , forward-thinking, and intuitive can be a very different story.
Myth #3 - Underlying technology is not important
If it works and runs on a Windows PC then it must be OK. Not true! The underlying technology is very important. Is it current? Is it open or proprietary? Can it inter-operate and play well with others? Purchasing a system that is an aging or dying technology or completely closed and requiring special or proprietary knowledge can be very limiting.
Myth #4 - System must be PCI compliant
With the number of credit card security breaches we have experienced recently, certainly all solutions MUST be PCI compliant by now. That is simply not true. Some may be fully compliant, some may only be partially compliant, and others may not be at all. This needs to be reviewed, questioned, and challenged. Being PCI compliant is more than simply about software. This is your data and you are at risk, not the vendor. Do your homework.
Myth #5 - Architecture is not important
Not all architectures are the same. Is it centralized or distributed? Is it client server or thin client? Is it web-based? How easy is it to deploy the software? Are software updates automatic? These can have an effect on your operations and your total cost of ownership, and ultimately your bottom line.
Myth #6 - If they don’t have what I need, it can always be customized
While this may be true, it is really not recommended. Customizations can be expensive and risky. There is more cost than just the initial development; documentation needs to be customized, specialized training may be needed, support team needs to be educated, and upgrades are more costly as customizations need to be re-incorporated. In addition, customizations can cause the software to become unstable.
Myth #7 - Store activity does not have to communicate in real-time
Yes for some, seeing their store sales the following day is acceptable, but how the data is communicated can be very important. Whether real-time, near real-time, or nightly, it is extremely important that data is communicated accurately, consistently, is easily verifiable, and has proper failover should connections be lost. Also, not all data is created equal, maybe seeing some data in real-time is critical while some is not, All this must be considered when evaluating store communications.
Myth #8 - If they don’t have what I need, I can always ‘plug-in’ another module
This can be a viable approach, but not all systems/architecture easily support this. Some vendors may support 3rd party modules/applications right out of the box, others may require some integration effort, while some may not support this at all. Integration can be painful and expensive if not working with the right solution.
Myth #9 - As long as it has the data, I can get what I need
Be extremely careful here. I hear vendors say that ALL the time. We have the data you need, so you surely can report on it. This is not necessarily true. How is this data accessed? Most vendors will have a set of base (canned) reports (but not all!), and then typically you can modify or add reports of your own. How easily is this done? Can data be summarized, filtered, organized? Is the database complex or proprietary? Do they have their own end-user tool? Can you use 3rd party tools (such as Crystal Reports or JasperSoft)? Do you require any special knowledge/skills to access the data? Be very careful to make sure that you will truly be able to access the data, in the format you need it, and with the skillset you have.
Myth #10 - It costs less and does the same thing
Similar to myth #2, not all systems are alike, and therefore, you cannot simply go with the lowest cost solution. You get what you pay for definitely applies here. Now, that being said, there are less expensive solutions that may work for you, but you need to evaluate all of the above and see where a solution fits within your budget. Just as you would not consider a system that exceeds your budget, you should probably not be considering a solution that falls below the lower range of your budget either.
Bonus Myth - We can do this on our own. Who needs consultants?
While you can use this list to arm yourself with valuable knowledge, having outside expertise is still recommended. Consultants bring expertise, an outside point of view/perspective, and in-depth industry knowledge of best business practices, technology, and software vendors. In the long run, a consultant can save you time, money, frustration and costly delays.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few, what myths would you add? What words of warning or advice can you share that will help others?