About to take the leap and launch new technology in your stores? Avoid the common mistakes made by many retailers before and after the implementation of a new system takes place. Get it right the first time and align the feedback, goals and requirements of your staff with the best interests of your business. Past best practices for implementing technology are no longer adequate in the face of the cross functional and omnichannel impact that many systems have as their driving force today. As more digital tools fall into the hands of stores and associates, successful retailers will approach system implementation in a whole new way.
Here are our 7 recommended best practices:
- 1. Clearly defined business requirements and goals.
New technology rollouts often lack in the communication department. The importance of clearly defining the goals and parameters of the project cannot be overstated, and neither can making sure your whole team is aligned with them. The key here is to do it collectively, seeking input and suggestions from every level of staff, especially from those engaging directly with the new technology. Hammer out what a successful project looks like with clear measures of success. The clearer your goals, the easier it will be to measure progress down the line.
- 2. A project owner and project support.
If your associates need questions answered or features explained (they will), the best response is providing them with a positive user experience. Having a project owner and clearly defined, accessible project support is key. If your project has ties to an outside vendor, leaning on said vendor for this support can be very helpful.
- 3. Maintain high level of engagement after training.
In the days or weeks following the implementation of a new project, block off enough time to sit down with all users and managers and answer their questions—either one-on-one or in groups. Tip: training your middle managers to train others will reduce the volume of questions headed your way.
- 4. Meaningful incentives.
It’s important that end users who are being introduced to anything new understand what is “in it” for them. Although a well executed communication plan should address core program benefits, it’s important that business requirements and goals align with incentives for the end user. For example, will the tool drive more sales? Will it facilitate communication with customers?
- 5. Test the tech with people (but the right people).
Many companies test the technical setup and network configurations but forget to test the impact on human beings in real life. Test it all: the messaging, the training, the communication, and the support systems. Start with a small but diverse test group made up of the most implicated departments or groups with the most to gain. Choose participants that are open to the idea of new tools. It’s always easier to establish the adoption of something new with a group of enthusiastic participants.
- 6. Create a continuous feedback loop with end users and stakeholders.
There’s a tendency for management to view a program as successful if adoption is high. But it is not the only measure of success (see point #1 about goal setting), so it is critical for managers and end users to celebrate wins and share opportunities for improvement throughout the initial phase of any new project. And managers should ensure end users have ongoing opportunities to share feedback and insights through recurring touchpoints, conference calls, retail audits, and open forums.
- 7. Choose the right technology and partner.
Your company needs to establish whether your new tech is an internal capability or driven by an outside partner. Don’t forget that external vendors typically have experience and best practices associated with competitors and other industries which they can leverage to your advantage. If speeding to market is a priority, it’s important to consider that some technology may take months or even years to fully implement, whereas others may be designed for more rapid deployment. Make sure you know what you are getting into before making a decision.
Stores are a unique environment that require a high level of anticipation and planning when it comes to the success of new projects. Whatever project you’re planning for your store’s future, it’s important that stakeholders at every level adopt the best practices listed above for meaningful results! Whether you are focused on setting goals or creating incentives for your new project, continuously aligning your stakeholders throughout the process is critical to its success. Think of transparency across all of these practices as the fundamental that will help internal stakeholders and external partners work well together in the knowledge that they are aligned toward a common vision for success.