The 15th annual RIS Software LeaderBoard results are out and so we interviewed RIS News Editor-in-Chief and Retail Technology Blogger, Joe Skorupa.

We got Joe’s expert opinion on what goes into the LeaderBoard evaluation process, his thoughts on retail technology and a sneak preview of his upcoming NRF 2016 speech about the Brave New World of Unified Commerce.

MANTHAN: How has the LeaderBoard evaluation process changed over the past few years?

JOE:There are three pillars of research in the LeaderBoard and two have not changed for more than five years, which lends credibility to year-over-year comparisons. The two that have not changed are Customer Satisfaction, which is the average of retailer evaluations in 10 criteria worth 5 points each for a maximum total of 50 points, and Revenue Factor, which is a range of one to five points based on plateaus of software revenue in the retail vertical.

The pillar that changes slightly each year is Retail Recognition, which reflects the software footprint each vendor has in retail technology. The LeaderBoard creates a list of 50 retail-specific applications or modules and counts one point for each. These include POS, assortment planning, labor management, warehouse management, planograms, etc. Each year an analysis is made to determine which of the 50 (if any) should be removed from the list and which ones should be added. Each year three to four changes are made. Recent additions to the list of applications include Customer Data Repository & Analytics, Location-Based Marketing, and Social Media Analytics.

“For vendors the message is clear – leverage mobile devices and cloud computing to empower managers in the store.”

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MANTHAN: You’ve stated in a very popular post that this is the Golden Age of Brick-and-Mortar retailing. How do you feel this situation will impact retail vendors?

JOE: For vendors the message is clear – leverage mobile devices and cloud computing to empower managers and associates (and even shoppers) in the store. Put BI dashboards with targeted KPIs in the hands of managers. Put a single view of inventory in the hands of associates to enable endless-aisle sales. Create applications that enable and support guided selling, personalization and location-based marketing.

MANTHAN: What would be your key advice to companies who haven’t scored well?

JOE: The primary thing a vendor can do to improve its Software LeaderBoard score is to review policies, processes and promises it has in place for clients. Develop strategic KPIs to measure client satisfaction and create an incentive plan that rewards employees based on results. Without an incentive plan to measure and reward customer satisfaction there is little chance in improving it.

MANTHAN: You’ve mentioned Manthan’s stellar performance on the LeaderBoard this year. What would you attribute this success to?

JOE: Manthan appears in 24 of the LeaderBoard’s 51 charts, including an impressive #5 placement among all software vendors ranked. This means that in the prestigious Top 20 master list Manthan has been judged by its clients (retailers) to be among the absolute best-of-the-best software providers currently delivering retail solutions.

When Tier One retailer responses are singled out Manthan is #1, which is very impressive. The keys to Manthan’s customer satisfaction success, according to retailer evaluations, are in innovation, return on investment, software reliability, quality of service, ease of installation and integration, ease of administration and maintenance, and overall performance.

MANTHAN: We understand you will be speaking at the NRF 2016, on ‘Staying Ahead of the Retail Curve’. What would be the key takeaway for retailers who will be attending?

JOE: My session at NRF will be about the importance of Unified Commerce as a strategic goal for retailers. Today, retailers are fundamentally operating in a multi-channel and multi-silo world despite recent efforts to adopt omnichannel capabilities. The result is that retail systems do not deliver smooth interoperability on the back-end nor do they enable frictionless experiences on the front-end for shoppers, many of whom express frustration. The RIS/IHL 2016 Store Systems Study benchmarks where retailers are today in their Unified Commerce journey and discovers where they plan to make future investments to reach their goal.

“Leading retailers are learning new ways to leverage analytics and take decisive actions that deliver results.”

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MANTHAN: How important do you think it is for retailers to start using analytics and why?

JOE: I think retailers understand that it takes a new level of analytic insight to succeed with today’s shoppers, who have so many options at their fingertips. Data-powered insight and innovation are required to increase shopper understanding and engagement. Leading retailers are learning new ways to leverage advanced analytics and take decisive actions that deliver results.

Retailers that aren’t testing new analytic technologies and developing new methods to use them will risk losing business to those currently increasing their analytics IQ.

Thank you Joe!