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Can Low-Code Answer the Retail Sector’s Challenges?

Technology

Dec 9, 2020 - 5 minutes read

1304 Leveraging Low Code In The Retail Industry 416X300
Sharon Smith Rapid Application Developer

As a long-standing employee at Objectivity, Sharon has held various roles during her 24-year tenure. She is a highly analytical team player who has gained multiple skills from working in traditional development, support teams, and business analysis. She currently works in the rapid application practice as an Advanced Mendix Developer where she can use both her technical and customer-facing skills to benefit the agile teams we have on low-code projects.

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Before we even start considering COVID-19, retailers were already struggling to keep up with lifestyle changes and consumer demands for a more personalised and focussed omnichannel experience. We’ve seen digital transformations appearing across the retail landscape, with various brands building their eCommerce solutions and tailoring shopping experiences for individual consumers.

Those retailers who invested in the digital transformations early on and embraced a full eCommerce offering have had a significant advantage in recent months. They are better equipped to deal with the various lockdowns and restrictions. Those at the beginning of the digital journey had to review their path and react quickly to deal with the changes caused by the pandemic.

For the retailers with large shop assets and small or no eCommerce provision, the absolute priority has been to ensure a safe on-the-floor shopping experience for their consumers. Overall, these retailers have had to expend tremendous efforts just to keep their operations up and running. These efforts are simply not sustainable without some help, even for those businesses that keep their heads above water.

Solving Challenges with Low-Code

No matter where a retailer is on their digital transformation journey, they often want our help and advice in the form of agile solutions capable of making a big impact. Retailers who require an accelerated digital transformation without having one in their current plan can’t afford to wait for a custom off the shelf (COTS) package to be implemented. Businesses with large digital transformations running in the background may struggle with bringing them into the foreground quickly, given the immediate challenges they are facing. Even the retailers at the end of their digital transformation journey can face entirely new challenges brought about by COVID-19. Many of these problems were never thought about and can’t be addressed by the new systems in an agile manner.

The challenges faced by retailers fall into several categories. First, there’s the need to ensure a safe shopping experience for consumers. Then, they need to look at the issues concerning the retailer’s employees to ensure they’re being looked after. The businesses also have to focus on keeping normal operations running as smoothly as possible. We’ve seen consumers prefer those retailers who are concerned about the wellbeing of their customers and their employees. Most of these challenges are underpinned by communication. We know that getting the right message to the right people at the right times is crucial. Consumers need to see retailers proactively share the changes they make in relation to shopping hours and in-store operations, so they feel safe and informed. Employees need to see evidence that they’re genuinely cared for and trained appropriately. The stores have to be audited for health and safety. Absences and government policies have to be managed proactively, especially where risks are identified.

Our experience with both retailers’ operations and low-code solutions leads us to believe that low-code transformations can be a much-needed saviour for retailers at this time. Having already piloted low-code in retail environments to great advantage before the pandemic, we feel that the agility and speed brought by low-code solutions can be a real game changer. If retailers give it a chance and use it wisely, low-code can fix many of the problems the industry is experiencing right now.

Really Simple Queuing—Because Safety Is Not Disputable

We were delighted to partner with Coventry Business Improvement District and Visit Coventry in providing a city-wide shopping by appointment service. Really Simple Queueing (RSQ) is a mobile-friendly web application that enables fast track queueing and check-in services for retail and hospitality venues in Coventry city centre and the wider Coventry area.

RSQ leverages the built-in security and scalability of Mendix, a leading low-code platform, so consumers can shop safely and businesses can easily monitor and manage their in-store capacity. Additionally, it allows hospitality businesses to securely collect and store track and trace information, which is then automatically deleted after 28 days. The high productivity and agility provided by the Mendix platform allowed us to develop the solution rapidly, while reacting to emerging local and regional lockdown regulations.

Retail Communication—Because Knowledge Is Power

As already discussed, we piloted a Mendix solution for one of our retail clients to improve communication efficiency between the Head Office and their stores with a specific focus on business-critical actions. Even before the pandemic, this was extremely important, allowing a targeted approach for communication with built-in auditing of compliancy for required actions. It also increased efficiency and reduced the administration effort on all levels. You can imagine what a game-changer this has been during the lockdown, in terms of communications and other actions that need to be sent to, in the case of this client, hundreds of stores across over a dozen countries.

Retail Auditing—Because You Need to Be Sure

We see tremendous advantages of using low-code to address some of the extra health and safety tasks that have arisen throughout this year. Electronic auditing of safety checks which could be executed periodically on a handheld device is just one of the ways in which low-code can optimise in-store tasks performed by employees to ensure a secure environment to work and shop. We know that traditional development also can provide such a functionality, but we believe that low-code platforms can implement this with significantly reduced development time, thanks to their visual design capabilities. Instead of coding, developers can use drag-and-drop components and model-driven logic through a graphic user interface. All this, alongside automated testing, means that business value can be delivered notably sooner. With low-code development, organisations can quickly adapt to market changes and customer needs. It’s a real lifesaver for the retail industry, which is currently in need of such agile solutions.

Retail Inventory & Data Management—Because You Need to Know

Another area where we’re seeing our customers struggle is the maintenance of the supply chain and the handling of stock to ensure the right goods are in the right place at the right time. Low-code platforms are built with innovative and easy-to-use data integration connectors out of the bag. We can leverage these low-code platform components to enable solutions that surface data from any operational system quickly and easily to provide stock and supply chain visibility. We especially see low-code platforms as being able to bridge the gap of handling stock issues during the pandemic. For example, low-code solutions can support retailers in transporting their stock from locked-down stores to open ones, or from the warehouse to the customer, in the case of online purchases. Using data connector integrations to the underlying systems with a low-code application instead of making expensive and time-consuming changes to the legacy system is often more efficient.

Low-Code as a Solution to Current and Future Problems

Low-code development allows for innovation to happen at an incredible pace. With the constantly competitive nature of the retail industry and the increased demand being currently thrown at these businesses, it seems to us that strategically targeted low-code solutions can support retailers immensely.

With the added ability to integrate effectively with legacy systems on an omnichannel level, we could bring to market business-critical solutions for issues that surfaced during the pandemic. We can offer retailers the sought-after business agility by lowering costs and expediting development cycles with the use of low-code platforms. This way, we’re able to solve their current problems as well as help them prepare for future challenges.

Retail Efficiency Ebook Thumbnail
Sharon Smith Rapid Application Developer

As a long-standing employee at Objectivity, Sharon has held various roles during her 24-year tenure. She is a highly analytical team player who has gained multiple skills from working in traditional development, support teams, and business analysis. She currently works in the rapid application practice as an Advanced Mendix Developer where she can use both her technical and customer-facing skills to benefit the agile teams we have on low-code projects.

See all Sharon's posts

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