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eTail Europe 2019 : Five things tech companies need to know

The five key things that tech companies need to know about retailers from attending eTail Europe 2019

Retailers don’t put the customer at the heart of their business

The tech industry needs to stop creating and delivering empty one liners that don’t really mean anything. Sure, retailers need to understand their customers better so they can sell to them better, but they are not central to the way they think. In order of priority, it is product, people (staff), channels and then customers. Without amazing products that conspicuously different, the retailer has no business, evidenced by the number of companies that have failed this year, all of which had lost what once made them special. Retailers are obsessed with their people because finding them and keeping them is harder than ever and a full-time job. And, channels; the daily grind of trading takes up what little time was left over. Then and only then, it’s customers.

The decision making circle keeps getting wider

Trading, merchandising, marketing, operations, IT, ecommerce – the list of decision makers and influencers around tech gets longer and longer, forcing delays that can create sales cycles of two years or more. For many types of tech, that problem may be here to stay so you have to build it into your forecast; but there are sometimes ways to short circuit the endless decision cycle. Retailers, the IT director mostly, will often say, “that’s a nice to have but it isn’t a priority or it isn’t on our roadmap.” This is an excuse for what is really going on, which is, “I have a bunch of projects that I need to deliver, so I can’t really be thinking about your stuff.” The answer is to influence more widely, but to use messages and content appropriate to each person. For instance, the CEO wants a memorable one-liner about a technology that they can demand their team looks into.

Retailers are looking for solutions not products

You already know this, but it bears repeating; a solution for all retailers will more and more often depend on a number of products working together to deliver a solution. If you do not have knowledge of those other products or even partnerships with the companies that sell them, then you will simply end up trying to sell your product to a retailer that has not even worked out how to use it. In other words, don’t make the retailer do all the work; understand the problem and understand how your product will almost certainly be part of a wider solution.

Retailers’ list of pain points varies massively from company

Every year, all the management consultants publish a list of the year’s pain points for retailers in order to help tech companies develop their top conversation starters. First of all, they are usually the same ones as 10 years ago – integration, optimisation, measurement, cost management blah, blah, and secondly, they generally give no clue as to what is really stressing retailers right now. So, all the vendors end up developing the same content and messaging, when really, they would be better advised to do more research into each retailer they want to talk to and frame their communications based on that insight. It’s not always easy and it’s a big piece of work, but it is rewarding and it is common ground that both sales and marketing can meet on.

Retailers are finding it tough to work out who they should be working with, so partnerships are key

By partnerships I do not mean superficial relationships; click here for a list of the people we want you to be impressed that we claim to work with, but close working relationships with a handful of companies that you know can collectively solve a retailer’s biggest problem. You may have to work with a near-competitor, but retailers won’t care about that as long as they get what they need. Sure, you want to sell them your whole stack, but something is almost certainly better than nothing.


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