During the summer, retailers typically have more "down" time as consumers head outdoors. So now is the perfect time for retailers to evaluate their IT systems and processes and determine how to generate more value from them.
Verizon Business, which is delivering integrated, secure IT solutions to many of the world's largest retailers, offers the following tips to help retailers make the most of their IT investments -- especially as the economy continues to improve:
- Perform an IT 'physical.' With the holiday season still several months away, summer is the ideal time to ensure that all IT systems are healthy and will perform well during the busy season.
Retailers should thoroughly review and update existing systems. This includes validating that you have installed the current version of an application, applied upgrades and patches, verified all systems work, and identified appropriate help desk contacts. Evaluate the most critical systems first, which generally include point-of-sale (POS) and other in-store systems.
Use last season's performance as a baseline: Did your systems support your store objectives? If there were issues, have they been addressed? Or are there open issues that need to be prioritized?
- Focus on the frontline. In retail, the people with the biggest impact on your brand are the in-store associates. They are the frontline when it comes to customer service. Are your associates fully leveraging in-store technology to better serve customers? Is there an opportunity to use modern communications and collaboration tools to improve store team productivity? Have you planned to ensure that the right number of associates will be on your floor to meet the holiday rush?
- Change your passwords early and often. This is a simple procedure that nets big security rewards. Using standard passwords and failing to update old passwords allow hackers easy access into corporate networks. Retailers should pay specific attention to whether they have used seasonal passwords and shared them with temporary workers, such as during the summer or holiday season.
- Keep your networks fresh. Perform a network diagnostic. Refresh network settings. Look for forgotten or unused connections, which can decrease network speed and introduce security vulnerabilities. Consider the impact that e-commerce activities are having on the performance of your website. Before the busy season begins, tweak your network to deliver the highest levels of security, capacity and performance.
- Build a culture of innovation that spans the entire year. During the holiday rush, most of an IT team's time is taken up with handling routine processes and an occasional emergency. Set aside time now for your business stakeholders to communicate their evolving objectives, allowing the IT team to reflect on them and respond with new ideas, even if the implementation of new enhancements may have to wait until the end of the holiday season.
(For additional tips on maximizing retail IT investments, visit the Retail Blog.)
"2010 is a make-or-break year for many retailers," said Ravi Bagal, vice president and global managing director - retail, Verizon Business. "The economy is improving and consumer confidence is increasing, which should start to generate more retail spending. We recommend that retailers take advantage of the current economic as well as seasonal conditions to validate and upgrade their existing assets. Putting in a little effort now could generate strong returns during the upcoming 2010 holiday season and beyond."
Verizon Retail is an IT consulting practice group focused on helping retailers simplify their IT infrastructure, better control costs, and protect their data and reputation with the ultimate goal of better serving customers. Through Verizon's Framework for Retail, the company brings a standards-based approach to retailers. The framework leverages Verizon's networking, managed IT and application solutions, specifically drawing upon Verizon's cloud computing and security offerings. More information is available at http://www.verizonbusiness.com/solutions/retail.
About Verizon Business
Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE, NASDAQ: VZ), is a global leader in communications and IT solutions. We combine professional expertise with one of the world's most connected IP networks to deliver award-winning communications, IT, information security and network solutions. We securely connect today's extended enterprises of widespread and mobile customers, partners, suppliers and employees - enabling them to increase productivity and efficiency and help preserve the environment. Many of the world's largest businesses and governments - including 96 percent of the Fortune 1000 and thousands of government agencies and educational institutions - rely on our professional and managed services and network technologies to accelerate their business. Find out more at www.verizonbusiness.com.