Being strictly connected with economic trends, the retail sector is a kind of “universal indicator” of the economic situation of the country. According to the data from the Central Statistical Office (The economic situation in the industry, building, trade and service sectors in September 2015), the general economic climate in this area has been improving regularly since the beginning of 2013.
As an active participant in the market of IT services addressed also to the retail sector, we observe a growing trend of investments in advanced information technologies. In the age of increasingly fast information flow and the need for permanent access to detailed reports and analyses, informatisation has become an essential component of business activity. The trade sector is particularly open to new technologies and implements a large part of them in the first place. Why?
We think that the advancing optimisation of costs and most important business processes are not the only reasons. The competition never sleeps and, in order to stay ahead by at least a few metres, the retail market increasingly often relies on information technologies.
The aforementioned information about the economic situation on the retail market also refers to the most important barriers defined by its participants in connection with their business. Strong competition is the main barrier to free business development for as many as 66% of companies.
Other quoted reasons included costs of employment, insufficient demand (this rate is slowly decreasing) and high budget, customs duty and import tax charges.
Trends: what is and will be fashionable in the retail industry?
It is hard to ignore the trend of new “end points” of trade that function on the touch screens of tablets and smartphones. The times of paper offers are definitely gone, and commercial networks are willing to invest in dedicated applications that contain information about discount offers and contests or even allow them to create a personalised offer on the basis of the user’s preferences.
This means that we can expect an even stronger shift towards mobile technologies: the popularity of smartphones and their technological level increases, so applications will offer more. Geolocation services and NFC will ensure a smooth combination of apparently distant online and offline worlds.
IoT and M2M
Along the same lines, it is worth mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT) – an extremely promising market segment. The possibility of data exchange between a growing number of appliances will be used not only in the famous refrigerator that will control the stock of products and order missing items, but also – which has already taken place – for purposes such as the tracking and analysis of customer traffic in stationary shops with the use of beacons. The number of IoT devices grows by leaps and bounds. Gartner forecasts that their global number will reach 26 billion by 2020.
From wireless communication between appliances, there is only one step towards the M2M technology and telemetric solutions. Already the existing IT solutions (including those offered by the Hicron Group) allow commercial networks to control utility meter readings accurately, to eliminate any potential errors thanks to remote readings and to define the best tariffs adapted to the given facility. The level of advancement of these solutions will certainly grow in the near future.
IT solutions – what else is worth checking out?
The potential of data in the broad sense of the word can also be seen increasingly often. We produce increasingly more data, both as market players and individuals; according to E. Schmidt from Google, the quantity of data produced by people within two days is as big as from ancient history till the beginning of the 21st century, and this rate is growing rapidly. However, the possibilities hidden within peta- and zetabytes of data will not emerge automatically. This is where the potential of Big Data emerges – the information gathered is analysed thoroughly in order to find out customers’ habits, to forecast them proactively and, consequently, to make appropriate decisions on the basis of the data.
One of the rarely mentioned trends is integration. In theory, this is not a new concept, but it will acquire a completely new sense in the near term. Well-known ERP systems will begin to exchange data with business areas that have not been covered by IT systems until now: production machines, external institutions or vehicles. The centrally managed system will rationalise the flow of information and will provide standardised data that will be utilised by the entire enterprise at a later date.
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