Digital technology has transformed the world of retail. Businesses must evolve rapidly to keep up which is why many of them are turning to business process outsourcing.
The way we shop is changing. Today’s consumer is likely to blend the high street with web and mobile platforms. They expect to be able buy what they want, when they want and through whatever channel they choose. Keeping pace with these demands is no easy matter; it puts strain on your systems, requires new skills and investment in new technology and infrastructure. The best way to do this, in many cases, is to opt for business process outsourcing.
The growing BPO market
This sector has, in itself, evolved remarkably in the last few years. Traditionally the goal was pretty simple: to save a bit of time and money by outsourcing certain functions such as HR or payroll.
Today, though, it can open the door to a host of cutting-edge technology and technical expertise which can be crucial for success in the modern retail sector.
Demand for services is surging. According to Grand View Research, the BPO market will grow by 7.4% year on year between now and 2025 to a total size of $343.2bn. Key drivers of this market, says the report, include the ability to save money, concentrate on core competencies, to meet back office challenges, improve service quality and increase flexibility.
A changing market
Every industry is adopting BPO services, but retail even more than most. The rise of ecommerce has changed the game. The pressure is on to offer a seamless omni-channel experience to customers. Retailers must manage in store and online orders seamlessly, deliver a personalised customer service and keep customers interested at every touch point.
Supply chains need to be reliable and efficient; they must anticipate demand identify trends, manage stocks and ensure delivery anywhere at any time. E-commerce will also create demand for services to manage cross border payments, store data, manage orders and provide ‘chat’ based customer service options.
Unfortunately, many companies will find their legacy back office support functions can’t cope. Failure to adapt quickly may put everything at risk. Competition is intense, the market is evolving and customers are more demanding,
As a retailer, you need to move forward or risk being left behind. If your competitors can make e-commerce work and are adopting next generation back office systems, they will gain advantages at multiple points. They will be able to satisfy demand, reduce expenditure and feed that through into pricing and service quality. In some cases, it really may be a case of ‘adapt or die’.
BPO services for retail offer an affordable way to transform your back-office requirements. The best providers will have the latest technology and will have mobile, cloud-based analytics solutions. They will provide the technological infrastructure, both in terms of equipment and personnel, which would be extremely difficult to replicate internally. When embedded with retail processes, they allow providers to offer an innovative and smarter ‘platform as a service’ based model.
Aside from the technical challenges, many retailers will struggle to obtain the human capital to fully embrace the digital future. Ecommerce is an extremely admin heavy proposition. In order to fulfil orders, businesses will need to handle a complex array of tasks including:
This process is laborious and time consuming but it also requires a considerable amount of expertise. Simple errors can have a significant impact on business performance and harm the customer experience.
Outsourcing this process firstly frees you and your team up from this task allowing you to concentrate on core areas of expertise and it also ensures higher accuracy and improved quality, all of which will feed through into bottom line performance.
Reduced operational expenses
The net effect of that reduced admin can be to reduce operational cost. Time is money, they say, and BPO can save a lot of both. A good provider will place skilled specialists on the task ensuring it is done more quickly and to a higher standard. Turnarounds will be fast and administration will be taken care of in the shortest possible time.
Meanwhile, you save money by reducing the burden on your staff or the need to hire new people. This feeds into both ends of the balance sheet. On the one hand, you’ll be able to keep head count down, while on the other, existing staff will be free to pursue other tasks within their core competencies which drive revenue. As such, a good BPO company should quickly prove to be a positive return on investment.
The enhanced accuracy you can expect from a BPO company should also reduce costs. Because they are experts at what they do, their work should have a lower error count. Managing this can be difficult internally, but an outsourced BPO company will use expert professionals, quality assurance teams and service level agreements to guarantee quality.
As with many other industries, digitisation dramatically increases the amount of data coming into an organisation. Retailers are interacting with customers in multiple locations, from the shop floor to their websites and social media platforms.
All that data has value. It can highlight your bestselling products; you can see where you are making the most profits and identify any regional variations in product performance. If captured correctly, this data can help you provide customers with the personalised service they increasingly expect.
For example, e-commerce sites commonly provide services such as look creation which help customers find complimentary items which increase the value they get from a purchase. Doing this can increase revenue yield per customer and lead to improved customer retention rates.
Data can also help with financial management and business analytics. Increased visibility of all your data can help you see more detail about real time business performance. You’ll be able to monitor what is coming in and going out of a business, you’ll make forecasts based on more accurate data about expected income and liabilities allowing you to address cash flow issues as and when they arise.
For example, if sales figures show a regular annual drop in revenue, you can take steps to mitigate the situation, either by trying to increase business performance or reduce capital expenditure.
One side effect of the new digital age of retail could be to increase your reliance on social media. For a traditional bricks and mortar store, this has relatively limited value. All it can do is alert people to your presence and remind them to visit when they are in town.
Once you’re operating online, it becomes integral to an omnichannel marketing strategy. A social media presence on sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and many others can help you engage with your customers, expand your reach, promote new products and perform market research.
Delivering such a strategy, though, creates additional work. You’ll need to manage contributions on forums, moderate user generate content, provide customer support, manage data and protect against cyber attacks or other scams.
It’s a considerable undertaking and one which may swamp your team. Outsourcing social media services on top of back office and e-commerce functions, can help you tap the benefits of the web in a way which doesn’t drown your team in additional work