It is no secret that the pandemic has shifted the way consumers spend. Intelligent retail is a prominent factor helping businesses transition their business models and selling habits.
Karen Wong is an innovator in the retail intelligence industry for over 14 years. Her work includes founding TAKU Labs Ltd. and ACE POS Systems among others. TAKU Retail is a software solution that allows for retailers, big or small, to manage inventory, market, and sell their products through one platform. We had the opportunity to sit down and discuss retail intelligence with her and gain her perspective on the value and future of the technology involved in the retail industry. She explains the need for investments into technology and digital transformations in businesses.
How does TAKU elevate the retail experience for both the consumer and seller? How do local businesses benefit from software solutions?
“I think it’s pretty obvious that today’s shoppers don’t shop the way they used to. There would be 1-2 touch points – you would know where to find the product and how to interact with it. The problem we have retailers today, is we have a scenario where retailers trying to sell traditional things with flyers, and shoppers have moved on. They pre-shop and find what they need online and disconnect with what used to be touchpoints. Local shopping is not just supporting stores near us – it is improving the digital experience: answer questions easily, when stores are open, what they carry, the release of new products – all of that being customer discovery to create frictionless shopping.”
TAKU takes data like inventory levels of consumer packaged goods (CPG) and gives it the ability to get in front of shoppers by making it easy to shop through a multitude of channels. Off-the-shelf solutions are a great widespread solution that is easy to implement into your business. Other options of software solutions include custom solutions, read more about the difference here.
One of the main benefits of using advanced technology like this is, Karen explains that small businesses trying to keep up with larger competitors such as Amazon. Small businesses have things that bigger companies cannot offer, like their knowledge of their customers, employees, and investments right back into their communities but maybe they don’t have the same technological resources as businesses, like Amazon. Software solutions can give these businesses the opportunities to compete equally with bigger competitors by getting in front of people at a lower cost wage
What drove you to create this innovative solution? Will there be an increased need for people thinking of intelligent retail in the future?
“I come from retail using an omnichannel approach and it was extremely difficult to manage.” No matter what business you are in, there are probably a multitude of tools that you are using for numerous tasks – which in comparison could be completed with one piece of software. There are easier ways to get things done, whether that be on one off-the-shelf platform or seamlessly combining them with a custom solution. Having data is key, but putting that data into a vast amount of platforms can devalue your uses for it and ultimately make it more confusing.
Having data is key, but putting it into a vast amount of platforms can devalue your uses for it and ultimately make it more confusing. Intelligent retail will ultimately help elevate the pains that occur in daily workflows.
How do you see the needs of consumers and businesses changing post-pandemic?
Karen explains that “there is a pent-up demand to go in a store.” Ultimately, consumers want to be in-store, try things on, and test the product before they bring it home. Although e-commerce appears to be a big purchasing channel, it may not be as big as it seems to be. Out of all $600 billion retail sales in 2020, $40 billion were conducted online. Karen suggests using your e-commerce website and technology in general as a sort of “catalog” for potential customers to buy from, while still giving them a purchase channel that suits their wants and needs.
Could you explain the importance of “future-proofing” your business? What it could look like?
The Covid-19 pandemic has evidently entered the K-shaped recovery of the economy, and with this certain businesses are in a position for technological transformations, and that leaves certain positions behind. “The pandemic should be a wake-up call. If your business can survive the pandemic, you know surviving is not enough. There will have to be a paradigm shift to meet the needs of the next generation of shoppers.”
Karen explains, specifically, cloud platforms are a great tool because, for the most part, you are always using the most updated platform. In regards to security, cloud computing is much more reliable and secure than not using one. “To people who are hesitant about using cloud platforms, it is more likely for you to go down than Google or Azur, [using these tools are essential for the future and cybersecurity of your business.] They have high-level security and backups already put in place” while offering up-to-date features.
“Cloud platforms need to be updated to get their new features and so that you can be challenged by the new. I always say, don’t be afraid to try new things. Technology can be used for more than POS systems – for example, HR and accounting software gives you flexibility on your workflow which is extremely important. It’s all about the resilience factor and how resilient you and your business can be.”
The pandemic should be a wake-up call. If your business can survive the pandemic, you know surviving is not enough. There will have to be a paradigm shift to meet the needs of the next generation of shoppers.Karen Wong, CEO
Do you see this technology expanding beyond the retail industry?
“There is a big opportunity for businesses who are both wholesalers and retailers.” Those two systems are typically built separately and are not built to work collaboratively. There is also a big opportunity for fast food stores. Karen stressed the need for businesses to utilize your data for sales. It is easy to collect data, using proper data integrity, but it is how you use that data and integrate it into the business that helps you grow those sales. Another contributing factor stresses the need for you and your business to be resilient. If you are unsure on where to start to look for data insights, let an expert at Sangwa help guide you towards the proper analytics.
The pandemic has fast-tracked businesses needing to innovate and invest in digital transformation. Small businesses specifically have to compete with big competitors in areas where they did not have to before, like e-commerce. Whether it be retail or any other industry, updated technology is key. Off-the-shelf solutions and custom solutions are both valuable options depending on what your business needs.