It's easy to get comfortable with technology that you've been using for a long time, just because it "gets the job done." However, getting the job done doesn't always translate to getting it done well.

At my company, we realized a few years ago that our legacy technology was no longer the best tool available for operational efficiency, and that it was time for a change. The software we used to run our order fulfillment warehouse was still working, but looking towards the future, it lacked support for layering automation technologies into our operations--something that I think will be critical for distribution companies as e-commerce becomes more widely adopted.

This realization got me thinking about our clients. which are retail and e-commerce brands, and about how these types of businesses can identify when it's time for a technology upgrade.

1. Your website doesn't adequately address customer needs.

Customers expect a high-quality, easy-to-use website to help them find what they're looking for. Is the loading time for your website or mobile site too high? Considering that 53 percent of mobile site visits leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, you'll want to identify and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. Long page loading times increase your bounce rate (when a shopper leaves your site before ever interacting with it), meaning they may never even get a chance to see what you're selling. Evaluate page speeds using Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

Some simple ways to decrease page loading time include compressing images and text as well as large HTML and JavaScript files. You can do that using a software application for file compression.

2. Your in-store technology doesn't adequately address customer needs.

According to a Salesforce Connected Shopper Report, 29 percent of Millennial shoppers agree that associates in brick and mortar stores need mobile devices to look up a shopper's profile information, like past purchases.

If your employees are frustrated by having to make repeated trips to a stationary point of sale (POS) device to look up inventory information for a customer, or information about that customer, such as past purchases and loyalty program status, it's time for an upgrade to mobile POS devices. These handy gadgets not only make your employees more efficient with looking up information, but can reduce customer frustration (especially around the holidays) by capturing payment information from the sales floor, eliminating the need for a customer to stand in line to check out. Research retail management software and POS systems to determine which program would be best for your business. 

In my business, we solved a similar problem by providing our warehouse associates iPads equipped with our service desk software. This gave them the ability to remain mobile while responding to customer inquiries. We more than made up for the cost of the tablets with this efficiency. 

3. Your e-commerce or shipping software doesn't automatically send shipment tracking information to customers.

Do you lack the ability to automatically send shipment tracking information to your customers?  Online shoppers expect the ability to track their orders throughout the shipping process. Consider upgrading to shipping or e-commerce software that sends shipment information to your customers based on their notification preferences. According to my company's annual survey of online shoppers, email is the preferred method of receiving notifications overall, while younger consumers prefer in-app notifications.

Depending upon the e-commerce platform you're using, there is a host of plug and play software and apps that allow you to automatically send branded tracking and delivery updates. A good place to start your search is your e-commerce platform's app store or marketplace.

Like death and taxes, technology upgrades are certain for any small business. But you don't have to be caught off-guard--pay attention to emerging trends in your industry and customer expectations so you're always in the best position to be proactive instead of reacting to a rude awakening.