Written by Rosa Stocks, One Step Retail Blogger

On a cloudy, Spring day in downtown New York, executives from many of the top brands in the metropolitan area entered through the doors of Apple’s Executive Briefing Center to discuss a subject that has been on the mind of many retailers. As an ever-changing landscape reshapes the way retailers engage and interact with their customers, how does today’s retail technology help to create deeper engagement opportunities and elevate connectivity for retailers? Specifically, do traditional ERP models (widely popular among large-scale retailers), support the customer-centric strategies that many retailers are adapting to remain relevant in their customers’ eyes?

Hosted by Shopify Plus, Sophelle, and Teamwork Retail, this two-hour discussion was moderated by an expert retail panel consisting of…

Nicholas Thomas- Agency & Solutions Partner Lead at Shopify Plus

Lesley Heller- President of The Cashmere Sale

Dough Weich- CEO of Sophelle Retail Strategy & Implementation,

Kevin McAdam – One Step Senior Retail Technology Consultant representing Teamwork Retail.

With no time to waste, panelists immediately jumped into the question at hand. Can traditional ERP models support today’s customer-centric retail strategies? The answer… a deafening no.

In a customer-centric world, retail success hinges on the ability of a brand to keep the customer at the heart of its business. This means every aspect of the business, from engagement to fulfillment, needs to revolve around the customer. This includes a customer who is continuously evolving the way he or she shops and has expectations that continue to climb higher and higher. Retailers must be more efficient, innovative, and relevant in their strategies in order to adapt to their customers’ needs and demands. The technology needed to support such strategies must also be as flexible and innovative as the strategies themselves. Most importantly, the technology needs to allow retailers to always keep the customer in complete sight across all channels.

Flexibility, innovation, and relevancy are not words one thinks of when describing traditional ERP solutions. Once an ideal solution for businesses looking to streamline their technology with an end-to-end integrated software, ERP solutions are struggling to keep up with today’s customers’ shopping behaviors and technological advancements. As Michael Dattoma, president of The Bart Group Retail Merchant Services, recently described in an MR article Are You Stuck in an Enterprise Resource Prison?

 “ERP systems have notoriously been slow to deploy, with massive costs to implement and maintain, and most critically have failed to achieve the desired results on average 30% of the time. That is a huge roll of the dice for any organization trying to respond quickly to an ever more competitive marketplace.”

If the technology cannot adapt as fast as the customer evolves, thus failing to provide the shopping experience the customer demands, the technology is obsolete. Retailers need to implement technology that is as innovative and agile as its customers. Technology capable of integrating the front end and back end systems into a unified, seamless operation with the customer at the center.

As the event progressed, the conversation switched focus from ERPs to how today’s technology has torn down the wall between the physical and digital worlds. One comment, in particular, sparked a fervent discussion on how retailers view themselves in this new connected environment. The comment followed the lines of…

“Although I have 100+ physical stores, I don’t view myself as a brick and mortar retailer. Instead, I see myself as a digital business operating with physical stores.”