The Retail Technology Transformation


At 34, I feel old. I know that I am probably angering some readers with that statement, but it’s true. And from a tech-world perspective, I’m a dinosaur. I’m old enough to remember the excitement of renting VHS tapes from Blockbuster; old enough to know cell phones used to be referred to as car phones; and old enough to remember the “cha-ching” sound of a store’s cash register, before card swipes and chip inserts were trendy.

When I first began my career in retail, the technical systems used in stores were mainly the register system and the inventory system. There was also an HR/payroll system but that was pretty much a screen that looked like an HTML dashboard that was accessible only from a back office computer that took up an entire cabinet. We put our time off requests on post it notes and we called in or stopped by the store to check our shifts for an upcoming week.

At my first corporate retail job in 2005, we sent email in plain text format to accommodate all the hardware and software variations in the stores. Like most retailers at the time, we used voicemail as a major form of communication and heavily relied on mailbags to communicate important information.

When something was printed incorrectly, we would frantically pull it from all 800 mailbags on the loading dock. And then if we didn’t pull the information in time and it did reach the stores, we would sit on the phone for hours calling each store to clear up the miscommunication or leave a voicemail into the black abyss hoping that someone would listen to the message.

During those years, I did have a cell phone – which I used to call people only. It was in 2008 that I got my first Blackberry and I thought “Wow this is so awesome! I can read my email!”

Fast forward to 2010. I was working at American Eagle Outfitters when my life changed – I was issued my very first iPhone. The rest – as the cliché goes – is history. I think back to those times we stayed late to pull things out of the mail bag (which wasn’t all that long ago!) and I smile to myself about how archaic that seems in comparison to the instant-gratification technical world we live in today.

With software suites like Reflexis, store employees can now see their schedules right on their mobile device from their couch. They can enter time off and view communication instantly without any inconvenience to their daily routine. I look forward to what the next 10 years will bring and I feel fortunate to be on the front lines of this new exciting technology. It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come!

– Maygan Cianflone