SMEs gain edge in tech-driven retail vs larger corps

Smaller businesses leverage technology for enhanced efficiency and customer experience.

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are finding unique ways to compete with larger corporations, and Andrea Carnino, Principal Consultant at Argon & Co., said that SMEs have a natural advantage in adopting new technologies to level the playing field.

According to Carnino, SMEs are "much more dialed to logical operation" when it comes to embracing technology, which allows them to enhance customer experience and improve operational efficiency effectively. 

“The advantage that SMEs have is that, being smaller, they're normally much more dialed in logical operation when it comes to adopting this new technology. The goal is again, to enhance customer experience and to improve the operational efficiency,” he said.

Social media, for instance, is a vital tool for SMEs to promote their brands, create community, and connect with customers on platforms like TikTok or Twitter.

"Personalized marketing to create targeted promotions, recommendations and loyalty processes. This is something that we've seen with airlines for quite a while, but it's now coming into other ends of retail,” he said.

Carnino added that another area where SMEs can capitalize is cloud solutions. For smaller corporations, cloud technologies offer flexibility and scalability without substantial upfront costs.

The concept of data-driven leadership in retail was also mentioned by Carnino, saying that by employing raw data, businesses can prioritize actions, allocate resources efficiently, and align with long-term goals.

“The point here is to distinguish between normal process variations and anomalies that will actually require some action. Now, retail is a really data rich environment, both in upstream and downstream supply chains,” he explained.

He cites an example where Argon & Co assisted retail supermarkets in the Netherlands and Belgium. By analyzing fuel rates of containers and trucks, they identified potential cost reductions amounting to 10 million euros.

When asked about the fundamental changes technology is bringing to retail, Carnino points to the significant impact of customer-facing technologies.

“Technology, which goes hand in hand with data, actually is everywhere downstream in the very customer facing retail world. So examples of these are of course, ecommerce that provides your presence online,” he said.

Carnino mentioned how e-commerce, mobile payments, and augmented reality are reshaping the retail experience, citing examples like Lego's use of augmented reality in stores, allowing customers to visualize 3D models of products, and the adoption of RFID technology by brands like Decathlon and Uniqlo for faster checkout and real-time stock tracking.

“So these helps, of course, speeding up the process, again, improving customer satisfaction, but for them as also the additional benefit of tracking the stock in real time,” he said.

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