By Kevin Peesker, General Manager - UK And Ireland Dell Consumer And Small, Medium Business

Whether they’re online or on the high street, it’s crucial for customer experience to be a priority for all retailers alike. With e-commerce growing ever more popular, having an IT infrastructure that enables the introduction of new customer services is crucial for growing any online retail business.

For high-street stores it’s equally important to attract new customers and maintain customer satisfaction which can only be achieved if in-store technology is running as efficiently as possible. Research shows that even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority for consumers, with 60% often or always paying more for a better experience.

Both in-store and online shoppers will inevitably be driven away if there are any technical complications with their purchases. Online customers are increasingly demanding more efficient, sophisticated online experiences so online retailers need to ensure sufficient backend resilience and flexibility to allow as quick response to changing customer needs. What’s more, a flexible environment is fundamental to securing the continuity and expansion of your business over the years to come.

Two retail companies that have revamped their IT infrastructures in order to provide a better customer service are Moss Bros and Chain Reaction Cycles.

Moss Bros, the menswear retail, hire and bespoke company, was struggling with ageing equipment which was failing to cope with the expansion of the business. Moreover, the company’s lack of standardised equipment created numerous technical problems. When one unit malfunctioned it often took weeks to replace and get the system back to full efficiency and when technical issues resulted in tills going down, the company lost customers and ultimately revenue.

To tackle these challenges, Moss Bros rolled out standardised servers to all stores and offices, and revamped its till network; making significant improvements to its hardware monitoring system, reducing payment processing times and boosting store uptime to 99.9%. Moss Bros deployed Dell PowerEdge servers and a combination of computers including Precision and Latitude laptops and Optiplex desktops for carrying out transactions, monitoring stock and performing other in-store processes. The impact of ensuring the smooth operation of the company’s IT system and the reduction of customer waiting time has been extremely positive for Moss Bros.

“As a business you are always looking for ways to boost sales and improve customer service online and on the shop floor,” said Brett Grobler, IT Manager for Moss Bros. “With Dell we’ve been able to significantly improve our levels of customer service which has brought immeasurable benefits to the business as a whole”.

The world’s largest online bike store Chain Reactions Cycles, needed to upgrade to a more scalable infrastructure to be able to deliver new applications and customer services. A virtualised environment was implemented to enable the company to be more responsive to changing customer demand[/b]. Chain Reaction Cycles selected three physical Dell PowerEdge R710 servers as they offer easy-to-manage hosting and are cost-effective, both of which were very important to the retailer. The company also selected networking and storage solutions in the form of PowerConnect switches (6224) and EqualLogic PS4000.

“Previously, launching a new application meant having to procure an extra physical server which could take several weeks to order,” said Paddy Devine, ICT Infrastructure Manager at Chain Reaction Cycles. “Now we can launch a virtual host within ten minutes meaning no downtime or customer waiting time.”

The speed and flexibility with which the company can introduce new customer services is something that will continue to drive its future growth. What’s more, the virtual environment has established a scalable, fully resilient platform that will be key to the continuity of the business.

The recession has arguably made the retail field more competitive than ever so retailers must take all the steps necessary to give their businesses the edge over their rivals.

Both Moss Bros and Chain Reaction Cycles invested in technology in order to offer a superior shopping experience to customers, ensuring greater customer loyalty and increased revenue.

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