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Retail technology: How to get senior buy-in for innovative new projects

Retail technology: How to get senior buy-in for innovative new projects

4 experts share their top tips…

A search for “retail innovation” on Google returns 68 million results. With so much noise around this topic, in-depth research is essential before deciding where your focus should be. But however well you’ve researched the technology landscape, and no matter how confident you are that you’ve found the right solution to help your business evolve, without senior buy-in, your project could be dead in the water. In this post, 4 retail technology experts share their top tips for getting key decision-makers on board. 

Paul Armstrong, HERE/FORTH

Paul Armstrong is the founder of HERE/FORTH – a company that advises business leaders on the best use of emerging technologies. Paul also writes for publications including The Guardian, Forbes and Wired on topics surrounding technology, media and innovation. Here are his top tips…

1. It's all about comfortable investment. Asking top brass or even middle brass for money, time and resources is all risky. Instead of creating a massive spreadsheet and baffling people with numbers and potential, I start from the other end and ask them what they would feel comfortable investing in the project. After this you can push for more information on return on investment - sometimes it is needed, other times it is more for the wow factor. Knowing which can save you time, money and heartache upfront. 

2. Talk about “nothing risk”. Doing nothing can be a strategy in itself. Doing nothing can save a lot of money, but you risk mediocrity, or worse still, being disrupted. Disruptive technologies are speeding up - standing still and looking at others is one strategy, but often the learnings are more helpful to the companies doing the projects than the results. Ask your project approver to help you create a list of outcomes if you do nothing. This often opens eyes up and you can start to mitigate fears and concerns early on to unlock more money. 

3. Use “and if” early. The majority of the time you are able to unlock some money. Discuss with approvers early about what will happen if you achieve goal X. Can you agree beforehand that Y amount will then be freed up? Or if the goal is not achieved, the rest of the money will go into another project. This approach focuses approvers on decision-making and results lust but locks them into “contracts”, which means negotiating for more budget after a project is easier and faster. 

Steve Ledgerwood, Emarsys

Steve Ledgerwood is the UK MD at Emarsys – a company specialising in marketing analytics and automation, with clients including eBay and Toys R Us. Steve has contributed to publications including BDaily and Digital Marketing Magazine on a range of retail technology topics. Here are his top tips…

1. What is most important to the senior leadership team? To understand this, you need to ask:

A) What business goals is your business trying to achieve?

B) What metrics help you measure these goals? 

2. Map solutions to goals.

After you've identified the goals and KPIs, map the current technologies (and spend) to the execution of these goals. Note that as a team, you need to identify challenges within the status quo that will keep the goals from being met or keep the teams from reaching even higher figures if empowered with the right tools. These challenges should have a monetary value associated to them. 

For example, it could be that the technology requires many people to focus on operating the IT rather than focusing on the strategy. One needs to analyse the human capital required to complete activities that could be completed with a more efficient technology.

It boils down to senior leadership needing to see the potential results with a monetary value converted from campaigns that will use the technology. If possible, articulate how this conversion rate will increase with the introduction of the new technology, driving the acquisition of new customers and repeat purchases for existing ones. This will give a clear ROI, and often the individual helping to sell you the technology can help provide these figures for you. Whatever the reasoning, senior leaders focus on numbers, and the business case requires data to articulate WHY they should change. Once this is identified, it’s then possible to identify what technology would help fill the gaps and what return you can expect. 

Tom Caporaso, Clarus Commerce

Tom Caporaso is CEO at Clarus Commerce in New York. Tom writes for publications including CMSWire, MarketingProfs and LinkedIn Pulse, covering topics such as customer loyalty and wearables. 

1. Identify customer experience and behaviour benefits. Often, innovative technology projects will naturally drive benefits outside of the initial return on investment. When projects capture new data, offer new customer touch points, or provide new functionality, it often leads to side effects such as new visibility of consumer behavior, improvement of the overall customer experience, or possible market expansion. In turn, these new data points and capabilities can help other resources throughout the organization identify new opportunities, optimise existing revenue streams, and/or provide additional value.

2. Focus on the long-term wins, not the technology. When pitching a highly innovative project, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to sell the technology to senior leadership. The technology is typically just the vehicle to deliver the value. To align vision and obtain buy-in, it’s necessary to focus on the long-term   financial, operational, and competitive benefits that the project will ultimately enable. Similarly, it can be difficult to convey innovative concepts to a non-technical audience.  Demonstrate the end goal as closely as possible — if the team can interact with a prototype or see sample analytics that simulate the value being targeted, they’ll have a better understanding of the project as a whole.

3. Show the risks of not innovating. In an ever-faster, highly competitive landscape, failing to innovate can cause the organisation to fall drastically behind. With companies like Amazon using technology and innovation as a differentiator, many retailers have found themselves trying to catch up and find new ways to compete. Similarly, as security and compliance regulations continue to rise, innovative projects are often a requirement to keep the organisation up to standard and keep your customers’ data safe.

Iñigo Antolin, Ecomnova

Iñigo Antolin is Head of Marketing and Communications at Ecomnova, where he works on brands like Appleyard Flowers. Iñigo is also editor at Gusto Guides, a Spanish travel blog. Read his top tips below...

1. Find quick wins. I would recommend to push hard for projects that are going to show their value really early. If you think that a tech project is going to produce an important increase in conversions or sales and you can prove it with a detailed forecast this is going to help you a lot to sell the idea to the business director.

 2. Follow top trends in your market. If you see that some innovation is making noise in your sector and your business director already knows it will help you a lot to get the budget to develop it. When an innovative company does something that is successful, it is much easier and less risky to replicate. 

3.Don’t stand still. Online marketing and ecommerce is a really fast moving industry. You have to convince anyone in the business that you have to move fast to stay still and you have to move even faster to make your business advances. Status quo is not a good thing in ecommerce. 

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