In this relentlessly challenging economy, everyone is trying to figure out how to do more with less and get the most out of what they own.
That is certainly a good approach to take to technology. Retailers and wholesalers may have less to spend on new technology but they can still try to derive greater benefits from technology they already use.
Some great examples of this can be found in the profiles of this year's SN Technology Excellence Award winners.
Take Bozzuto's, the Cheshire, Conn.-based winner of the award in the wholesaler category. To bolster its twice-a-year Independent Retailer Conference, Bozzuto's invested $500,000 in wireless ecommerce technology. That technology has indeed helped make the conference more productive for retailer and manufacturer attendees.
But then Bozzuto's realized it could repurpose the same systems to support another important event — its annual Dream Ride for Special Olympics of Connecticut, a fund-raising effort supported by motorcycle and car enthusiasts. Last year, the application of those systems helped to double the number of participants, which is expected to double again this year. The technology is enabling Bozzuto's to expand the geographic reach of the event from one state to seven. Yet the main investment on Bozzuto's part has been in the form of time, not dollars.
Price Chopper, Schenectady, N.Y., the winner of the award in the chain category, was also able to leverage existing technology in a new way. In this case, the technology is a computer-generated ordering system that the chain has developed over the past several years. But instead of standing pat, Price Chopper decided to use the application as few retailers ever have — to automate the ordering of direct-store delivery and perishables products.
The benefits of this approach have been substantial for Price Chopper. In the DSD arena, the chain has restructured its supply chain arrangements with some suppliers, resulting in major cost savings. But these changes did not come with any significant new price tag.
The third winner of the award — Market of Choice, Eugene, Ore., which won in the independent category — did make some monetary investments in technology to support its corporate network, POS platform and website. Sometimes, strategic investments are unavoidable if a retailer is to enhance its operation, as Market of Choice surely has. On its website, for example, the retailer has added social networking elements — blogs and an interactive forum — that are helping it connect to the new generation of tech-savvy shoppers. Its network is enabling Market of Choice to remotely monitor its widely dispersed Oregon stores.
But sometimes, a little creativity, without a large financial investment, can turn an existing technology into a completely new asset.
Respond to SN's Viewpoints online at supermarketnews.com