It’s an irrefutable fact that big data and data analytics is a rapidly growing opportunity for vendors, but the availability of seemingly similar options, particularly in retail analytics software, makes choosing the appropriate solution downright daunting. Ease of purchase, installation and adoption of new software has increased significantly in the past 5 years, yet adoption has failed to keep pace.

With senior leadership continually pushing for greater efficiency and effectiveness, ineffective software can potentially backfire and leave you scrambling to keep up with the demands of the evolving retail industry. Self-interested software providers are failing to acknowledge the pain points of vendors, making it difficult to cut through the clutter and see software for what is; a tool to help your business improve.

Therefore, I’ve put together 5 tips that I know businesses can use to better focus their energy when evaluating different software solutions for optimal retail execution.

1. Diagnose the Problem

Choosing the right software requires a strong grasp of your business challenges. Often, decision-makers evaluate software solutions without fully realizing key organizational pain points. If your team struggles with on-shelf availability, then perhaps your solution needs to prioritize inventory upkeep. Or maybe senior management wants to know more about how particular SKUs influence the bottom line. It may even be a marketing initiative to improve promotional measurement across each retail account. Irrespective of the direct problem, it is essential to understand your business challenges and find the solution that best fits your needs.

2. Understand Your Buyer

Sharing among retailers is becoming more common, shifting the responsibility to vendors to collaborate with their buyers and provide valuable insights aimed at growing the category. Yet, each retailer differs in their expectations of vendors, and there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to effectively meet each of your buyer’s needs. Understanding how your retailers share data is also essential before choosing your software solution. Some buyers share data via vendor portals and others still deal solely in EDI 852. Make sure you know how your buyer shares data, and whether your analytics software is able to handle this type of data effectively.

3. Prioritize Features

Features that differentiate different solutions are becoming more difficult to discern. But if you’ve effectively diagnosed the problems your business faces, then choosing your consideration set of features should be fairly straightforward. From there, it is essential to rank and prioritize these features. This keeps the search focused on medicating the problems you’ve diagnosed early on in your evaluation of a new retail analytics software solution. And remember, features are simply solutions to your complex problems. Identify the challenges and business problems your team faces each week and ensure that your software solution offers the right features to alleviate these issues.

4. Understand Your Resources

There is little use in investing in evaluating retail analytics software if you don’t have the time, money, resources or ability to implement it. Often it’s forgotten how intensive the process of choosing new software can be. You may find the perfect solution, only to learn that management hasn’t allocated any budget. Or you may commence the buying process, and then discover that other investments have been prioritized over your analytics software needs, pushing your evaluation to the wayside. Understanding your problems means little if you don’t have the resources to effectively remedy them.

5. Understand Your Learning Curve

Culture is everything in adopting new software. It dictates whether your organization is able to easily marry the solution with your company, and whether your teams will immediately acclimatize to new technologies. As you select your solution it is necessary to understand and acknowledge the breadth of your team’s data culture, and decide whether they are capable of taking advantage of the new technology. No matter the solution, new technology takes time to gain traction. But understanding how quickly your business can adapt is essential when choosing to take on new software for executing on your retail analytics strategy.

Picking the right software is not easy. The failure of many brands in choosing retail analytics software occurs because of their inability to understand the different considerations they need to pay attention to in choosing new software. But following these tips, and remaining diligent, will ensure that any brand, small and large, will make a decision that delivers success.