Direct-To-Consumer Selling Will Save Brands

Angelica Valentine

Across industries, diversification is what drives the bottom line. To put it plain and simple: Who would want all their eggs in one basket when competitors are waiting for the opportunity to take advantage of a momentary slip-up?

Brands are catching on to this as their resellers react to the hyper-competitive retail environment, often in ways that damage their brands. But who can blame them? They’re simply catering to what shoppers want in order to stay relevant.

Almost 90 percent of shoppers name price as a top factor that impacts what they choose to buy. And much to the dismay of brands, brand is a key factor for just 45 percent of consumers. While brands would love to be able to fully control the price at which resellers are offering their products, the consumer wants what the consumer wants. And that is often a low price. So what can brands do to take the situation into their own hands?

Boosting brand loyalty

Brand loyalty is not what it used to be, but direct-to-consumer selling can bring it back. Brands can take control of their shoppers’ experience and wow them instead of hoping that resellers won’t make any missteps that end up turning shoppers away from their brand.

Even in the era of the Everything Store and fast, free shipping, shoppers still want a relationship with brands. After all, they are the experts on their products. Astound Commerce found that “59 percent of respondents preferred to do research directly on brand sites and 55 percent want to buy from brands directly (vs. multi-brand retailers).”

This is good news for brands, because on a retailer site with thousands of items or more, any brand’s products will always come up next to its competitors’. This forces unnecessary competition, especially when it comes to pricing.

How direct to consumer improves pricing and presentation

If a shopper is searching for a black down vest on a retailer’s site, for example, a higher-priced item that comes up might not convey superior quality and craftsmanship, but it could get tossed out of consideration before the brand can even prove why its price is warranted. In comparison, when selling direct to consumer, brands can do the work of getting shoppers to their site and inch them closer to checkout with excellent product content, reviews, and even promotions from time to time.

Going head-to-head with competitors is best avoided as it leads to price wars, and no brand wants to be a part of that. Selling direct to consumer erases one of the many barriers to sales.

Winning the sale creates a slew of benefits beyond just keeping more of the profit from each sale. For one, unboxing is a thing. YouTube stars make a living by simply opening product boxes for the world to see. As absurd as that may sound, a reseller simply can’t customize enough to provide the level of specialization that a brand can.

Retailers have their own unique way of packaging things, and that might not always fit with a brand’s image. For example, Amazon has come under fire multiple times for having a severe mismatch between product size and the packaging it comes in. They recently vowed to improve the product-packaging match up. But imagine being an eco-friendly soap brand, for example, and having single bottles sent in boxes that could easily fit a dozen. It will be hard for customers opening those boxes to not feel a deep sense of irony.

Improving the customer life cycle

Taking control of the presentation of products is merely the beginning. After customers take their items out of the box, the customer life cycle shouldn’t be complete. For brands selling direct to consumer, capturing that customer data is invaluable in terms of being able to get reviews and remarket.

A brand that sells through a big box retailer, for example,  might send the shopper who bought that black vest additional emails suggesting warm sweaters to go under it. But those sweaters could be from another brand and that cross-sell would automatically count the original brand out, even if the customer really enjoyed the initial product.

Don’t get me wrong—selling through distributors has its perks, but it also leaves brands without customer data, heightened competition, and limited remarketing capabilities. This goes beyond the online presence of brands as well. Opening a store, especially if it starts off as a pop-up and focuses on experiences, can also boost brand loyalty and sales. This is an opportunity to provide an immersive, full brand experience in-store that will keep shoppers coming back and encourage them to spread the word.

Final thoughts

It’s time for specialization in retail. As we’ve seen over the past few years, retailers and brands that fail to figure out what they do best and go all-in are the ones that end up in bankruptcy court. Mediocre retail is dead and being a Jack-of-all-trades in the age of Amazon is a recipe for disaster.

Brands that choose to sell direct to consumer are taking ownership of their niche and their future.

For more on customer loyalty, see Your Customers Are Talking. Are You Listening?

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

Comments

Angelica Valentine

About Angelica Valentine

Angelica is the Marketing Manager at Wiser. Wiser collects and analyzes online and in-store data with unmatched speed, scale and accuracy. She is experienced in strategy and creation for cross-channel content. Angelica is passionate about growing engagement and conversion rates through excellent content. Her work has also appeared on VentureBeat, Bigcommerce, Retail Touchpoints, and more. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City.

Marketing To Millennials: Four Questions Brands Must Answer

Rita Shapiro-Das

Is brand loyalty dead with millennials?

This question is setting off alarm bells in the retail space over the past few years as the concept that the same customers will keep returning to the same brand over and over again, whether because of cost, convenience, or mere consistency, fades away.

To remain competitive and relevant, brands need to adapt as consumer mindsets change. Millennials have a much different approach to brand loyalty and consumption – a company needs to align with their beliefs and values to earn their business.

Brand loyalty isn’t created overnight; it is a continuous journey. If brands haven’t already begun to recognize that millennials require an entirely different approach to doing business, they are already behind the eight ball.

Most importantly, is brand loyalty dead with millennials?

Marketing to millennials: 4 questions brands must answer

In 2016, I wrote about how I remain loyal to Starbucks regardless of their loyalty program. However, as I reflect on that now, I’m certain that’s the case with every retailer, whether it be consumer goods or food retail. As a millennial, I stay loyal to a few brands, but for the most part, I enjoy trying different things.

In this digital landscape where options are limitless, I choose the brands I patronize based on a few key items.

1. Does the brand align with my values and beliefs? 

This is one of the most important things I, along with most millennials, look for in a company and brand. For example, if an individual consumer is invested in helping the environment and is opposed to animal testing, they are more likely to seek out brands that don’t test products on animals and whose products are biodegradable.

Similarly, if someone doesn’t want goods that are made internationally, they are willing to spend a little more on things made within the country that they call home. With infinite options, there’s a brand that fits with everyone’s values. Companies need to understand that not everyone will be loyal to their brand, and work with that instead of trying to cater to every single person.

2. Does the brand provide consistency?

Millennials tend to select brands that have a proven track record of consistency, whether it be food retailers serving the same quality food on a daily basis, or consumer goods companies providing impeccable customer service. This concept in itself has made me loyal to a few select brands.

For example, I buy my eyeliner only from Sephora. There are, of course, many eyeliner options in the market, but I choose Sephora because it’s reliable, not costly, and works for me. It’s simple to restock on my favorites, so I don’t spend time shopping around since I have already found something that meets my needs.

On the other hand, I enjoy trying different food retailers. Although Starbucks is my preferred caffeine fix, trying different coffee brands broadens my pallet. Brands need to provide consistency to keep customers happy, and also understand that’s not where the customer journey ends.

3. Does the brand innovate?

Innovation is key to not only keeping customers happy but also in keeping them loyal to your brand. A company that is always innovating keeps customers on their feet. Apple is a great example of this. Apple is the epitome of innovation, and it enjoys massive brand loyalty because the company is continually evolving and encouraging users to grow as well.

As I noted earlier, brand loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. Apple has been honing this art since 1976. According to Forbes, “By creating an emotional connection with its customers, Apple has done the near impossible – it has acquired a loyal following.” This is a true testament to emotional connection driving brand loyalty. Regardless of software updates or device crashes, Apple customers stay loyal because they believe in the values and power of Apple.

4. Does the brand provide an experience?

Finally, millennials seek experiences over goods. We want to form an emotional connection with the brand, whether it be happiness, calmness, love, or something else, and to experience something. A few weeks ago I went to the Harney and Sons tea shop in New York City. In addition to selling tea, they have a small coffee/tea shop in the back of the store. This creates an experience: Customers can not only purchase the tea, they can also savor the products while working or relaxing with friends in the shop.

As brands and organizations learn these lessons, millennials are disrupting the digital landscape. It will be interesting to see how companies keep up with change in their efforts to turn millennials into loyal brand customers.

Why do consumers love or leave your brand? Download the free report. 

This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce.

Comments

Rita Shapiro-Das

About Rita Shapiro-Das

Rita Shapiro-Das is a detail oriented, entrepreneurial Marketing Manager who understands all the different aspects and components of growing a business.

How To Solidify Your Digital Core With The Right Retail Innovations

Lori Mitchell-Keller

It’s a digital-first world, and to keep up with the current industry pace, retail must be prepared to innovate. Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) commerce, robotics, and 3D printing have impacted all elements of the retail industry. A recent study by IDC Retail Insights finds innovation is at an all-time high, with more than $4 billion invested worldwide in retail startups over the past 12 to 18 months.

These new innovative technologies are central to the digital business transformation in retail. With more IT budgets invested in innovation, it has become imperative for retailers to leverage enabling technologies and new business constructs at scale.

While there are many factors that contribute to having a successful digital core, retailers need the right innovation in place to improve efficiency and deliver business value. By selecting, piloting, and scaling technical solutions to build a strong infrastructure, retailers will set themselves up for long-term success.

Identify priorities

Upgrading the shopping experience through organizational shifts and technology requires retailers to identify priorities and devise a strategy for implementation. These priorities likely include omnichannel commerce, operation strategy innovation, customer experience, as well as product and service advancement — all rated as the top business priorities for Western European retailers in 2017 based on the IDC study.

Select and pilot

Before selecting a solution to pilot, it’s important for retailers to consider use cases and technologies worth exploring. These decisions can be made by considering customer archetypes or analyzing demographic information, then evaluating the technology through pilot testing before a decision is made. Through this real-world recognition of what it takes to define the transformational opportunities, deliver extended business benefits, and gain deeper industry insight and capabilities, retailers can identify what solutions will work best for their customers.

Implement and scale

Once the technology or new business model adoption is underway, retailers can start to see the high-level results of implementation from revenue, campaign performance metrics, or social engagement. Other benefits can include further insight into the customer and loyalty chain through active users, number of visits, or increased traffic conversion and transaction value. From there the process is to expand the usage of the technology, whether it’s in other areas of the organization or to construct new and bigger goals.

Shoe brand Aldo began implementing a new business model that digitally enhanced the customer experience by merging e-commerce with in-store capabilities. Using IoT and mobile technology, Aldo created an interactive and integrated store touch point that links to a mobile app. This new customer experience included product wish lists, high-resolution product images and descriptions, social media sharing, and the ability to purchase items in sizes, colors, and styles that are not physically present. By offering an adaptive customer experience, Aldo is providing high levels of engagement to shoppers and has started seeing increased conversions as a result. This success has led them to begin planning for future growth, like site redesign.

Technology has never been more critical to business model transformations. The first step to achieving such a transformation is by adopting a solid digital core as an innovation foundation, in support of a retail platform based on technologies that encompass the business strategy, human engagement, and information monetization.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value by reading Accelerating Digital Transformation in Retail.

This blog was originally featured in Retail TouchPoints

Comments

Lori Mitchell-Keller

About Lori Mitchell-Keller

Lori Mitchell-Keller is the Executive Vice President and Global General Manager Consumer Industries at SAP. She leads the Retail, Wholesale Distribution, Consumer Products, and Life Sciences Industries with a strong focus on helping our customers transform their business and derive value while getting closer to their customers.

The Blockchain Solution

By Gil Perez, Tom Raftery, Hans Thalbauer, Dan Wellers, and Fawn Fitter

In 2013, several UK supermarket chains discovered that products they were selling as beef were actually made at least partly—and in some cases, entirely—from horsemeat. The resulting uproar led to a series of product recalls, prompted stricter food testing, and spurred the European food industry to take a closer look at how unlabeled or mislabeled ingredients were finding their way into the food chain.

By 2020, a scandal like this will be eminently preventable.

The separation between bovine and equine will become immutable with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will track the provenance and identity of every animal from stall to store, adding the data to a blockchain that anyone can check but no one can alter.

Food processing companies will be able to use that blockchain to confirm and label the contents of their products accordingly—down to the specific farms and animals represented in every individual package. That level of detail may be too much information for shoppers, but they will at least be able to trust that their meatballs come from the appropriate species.

The Spine of Digitalization

Keeping food safer and more traceable is just the beginning, however. Improvements in the supply chain, which have been incremental for decades despite billions of dollars of technology investments, are about to go exponential. Emerging technologies are converging to transform the supply chain from tactical to strategic, from an easily replicable commodity to a new source of competitive differentiation.

You may already be thinking about how to take advantage of blockchain technology, which makes data and transactions immutable, transparent, and verifiable (see “What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?”). That will be a powerful tool to boost supply chain speed and efficiency—always a worthy goal, but hardly a disruptive one.

However, if you think of blockchain as the spine of digitalization and technologies such as AI, the IoT, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and drones as the limbs, you have a powerful supply chain body that can leapfrog ahead of its competition.

What Is Blockchain and How Does It Work?

Here’s why blockchain technology is critical to transforming the supply chain.

Blockchain is essentially a sequential, distributed ledger of transactions that is constantly updated on a global network of computers. The ownership and history of a transaction is embedded in the blockchain at the transaction’s earliest stages and verified at every subsequent stage.

A blockchain network uses vast amounts of computing power to encrypt the ledger as it’s being written. This makes it possible for every computer in the network to verify the transactions safely and transparently. The more organizations that participate in the ledger, the more complex and secure the encryption becomes, making it increasingly tamperproof.

Why does blockchain matter for the supply chain?

  • It enables the safe exchange of value without a central verifying partner, which makes transactions faster and less expensive.
  • It dramatically simplifies recordkeeping by establishing a single, authoritative view of the truth across all parties.
  • It builds a secure, immutable history and chain of custody as different parties handle the items being shipped, and it updates the relevant documentation.
  • By doing these things, blockchain allows companies to create smart contracts based on programmable business logic, which can execute themselves autonomously and thereby save time and money by reducing friction and intermediaries.

Hints of the Future

In the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was in its infancy, we had no idea that the internet would become so large and pervasive, nor that we’d find a way to carry it all in our pockets on small slabs of glass.

But we could tell that it had vast potential.

Today, with the combination of emerging technologies that promise to turbocharge digital transformation, we’re just beginning to see how we might turn the supply chain into a source of competitive advantage (see “What’s the Magic Combination?”).

What’s the Magic Combination?

Those who focus on blockchain in isolation will miss out on a much bigger supply chain opportunity.

Many experts believe emerging technologies will work with blockchain to digitalize the supply chain and create new business models:

  • Blockchain will provide the foundation of automated trust for all parties in the supply chain.
  • The IoT will link objects—from tiny devices to large machines—and generate data about status, locations, and transactions that will be recorded on the blockchain.
  • 3D printing will extend the supply chain to the customer’s doorstep with hyperlocal manufacturing of parts and products with IoT sensors built into the items and/or their packaging. Every manufactured object will be smart, connected, and able to communicate so that it can be tracked and traced as needed.
  • Big Data management tools will process all the information streaming in around the clock from IoT sensors.
  • AI and machine learning will analyze this enormous amount of data to reveal patterns and enable true predictability in every area of the supply chain.

Combining these technologies with powerful analytics tools to predict trends will make lack of visibility into the supply chain a thing of the past. Organizations will be able to examine a single machine across its entire lifecycle and identify areas where they can improve performance and increase return on investment. They’ll be able to follow and monitor every component of a product, from design through delivery and service. They’ll be able to trigger and track automated actions between and among partners and customers to provide customized transactions in real time based on real data.

After decades of talk about markets of one, companies will finally have the power to create them—at scale and profitably.

Amazon, for example, is becoming as much a logistics company as a retailer. Its ordering and delivery systems are so streamlined that its customers can launch and complete a same-day transaction with a push of a single IP-enabled button or a word to its ever-attentive AI device, Alexa. And this level of experimentation and innovation is bubbling up across industries.

Consider manufacturing, where the IoT is transforming automation inside already highly automated factories. Machine-to-machine communication is enabling robots to set up, provision, and unload equipment quickly and accurately with minimal human intervention. Meanwhile, sensors across the factory floor are already capable of gathering such information as how often each machine needs maintenance or how much raw material to order given current production trends.

Once they harvest enough data, businesses will be able to feed it through machine learning algorithms to identify trends that forecast future outcomes. At that point, the supply chain will start to become both automated and predictive. We’ll begin to see business models that include proactively scheduling maintenance, replacing parts just before they’re likely to break, and automatically ordering materials and initiating customer shipments.

Italian train operator Trenitalia, for example, has put IoT sensors on its locomotives and passenger cars and is using analytics and in-memory computing to gauge the health of its trains in real time, according to an article in Computer Weekly. “It is now possible to affordably collect huge amounts of data from hundreds of sensors in a single train, analyse that data in real time and detect problems before they actually happen,” Trenitalia’s CIO Danilo Gismondi told Computer Weekly.

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2018, will change Trenitalia’s business model, allowing it to schedule more trips and make each one more profitable. The railway company will be able to better plan parts inventories and determine which lines are consistently performing poorly and need upgrades. The new system will save €100 million a year, according to ARC Advisory Group.

New business models continue to evolve as 3D printers become more sophisticated and affordable, making it possible to move the end of the supply chain closer to the customer. Companies can design parts and products in materials ranging from carbon fiber to chocolate and then print those items in their warehouse, at a conveniently located third-party vendor, or even on the client’s premises.

In addition to minimizing their shipping expenses and reducing fulfillment time, companies will be able to offer more personalized or customized items affordably in small quantities. For example, clothing retailer Ministry of Supply recently installed a 3D printer at its Boston store that enables it to make an article of clothing to a customer’s specifications in under 90 minutes, according to an article in Forbes.

This kind of highly distributed manufacturing has potential across many industries. It could even create a market for secure manufacturing for highly regulated sectors, allowing a manufacturer to transmit encrypted templates to printers in tightly protected locations, for example.

Meanwhile, organizations are investigating ways of using blockchain technology to authenticate, track and trace, automate, and otherwise manage transactions and interactions, both internally and within their vendor and customer networks. The ability to collect data, record it on the blockchain for immediate verification, and make that trustworthy data available for any application delivers indisputable value in any business context. The supply chain will be no exception.

Blockchain Is the Change Driver

The supply chain is configured as we know it today because it’s impossible to create a contract that accounts for every possible contingency. Consider cross-border financial transfers, which are so complex and must meet so many regulations that they require a tremendous number of intermediaries to plug the gaps: lawyers, accountants, customer service reps, warehouse operators, bankers, and more. By reducing that complexity, blockchain technology makes intermediaries less necessary—a transformation that is revolutionary even when measured only in cost savings.

“If you’re selling 100 items a minute, 24 hours a day, reducing the cost of the supply chain by just $1 per item saves you more than $52.5 million a year,” notes Dirk Lonser, SAP go-to-market leader at DXC Technology, an IT services company. “By replacing manual processes and multiple peer-to-peer connections through fax or e-mail with a single medium where everyone can exchange verified information instantaneously, blockchain will boost profit margins exponentially without raising prices or even increasing individual productivity.”

But the potential for blockchain extends far beyond cost cutting and streamlining, says Irfan Khan, CEO of supply chain management consulting and systems integration firm Bristlecone, a Mahindra Group company. It will give companies ways to differentiate.

“Blockchain will let enterprises more accurately trace faulty parts or products from end users back to factories for recalls,” Khan says. “It will streamline supplier onboarding, contracting, and management by creating an integrated platform that the company’s entire network can access in real time. It will give vendors secure, transparent visibility into inventory 24×7. And at a time when counterfeiting is a real concern in multiple industries, it will make it easy for both retailers and customers to check product authenticity.”

Blockchain allows all the critical steps of the supply chain to go electronic and become irrefutably verifiable by all the critical parties within minutes: the seller and buyer, banks, logistics carriers, and import and export officials. Although the key parts of the process remain the same as in today’s analog supply chain, performing them electronically with blockchain technology shortens each stage from hours or days to seconds while eliminating reams of wasteful paperwork. With goods moving that quickly, companies have ample room for designing new business models around manufacturing, service, and delivery.

Challenges on the Path to Adoption

For all this to work, however, the data on the blockchain must be correct from the beginning. The pills, produce, or parts on the delivery truck need to be the same as the items listed on the manifest at the loading dock. Every use case assumes that the data is accurate—and that will only happen when everything that’s manufactured is smart, connected, and able to self-verify automatically with the help of machine learning tuned to detect errors and potential fraud.

Companies are already seeing the possibilities of applying this bundle of emerging technologies to the supply chain. IDC projects that by 2021, at least 25% of Forbes Global 2000 (G2000) companies will use blockchain services as a foundation for digital trust at scale; 30% of top global manufacturers and retailers will do so by 2020. IDC also predicts that by 2020, up to 10% of pilot and production blockchain-distributed ledgers will incorporate data from IoT sensors.

Despite IDC’s optimism, though, the biggest barrier to adoption is the early stage level of enterprise use cases, particularly around blockchain. Currently, the sole significant enterprise blockchain production system is the virtual currency Bitcoin, which has unfortunately been tainted by its associations with speculation, dubious financial transactions, and the so-called dark web.

The technology is still in a sufficiently early stage that there’s significant uncertainty about its ability to handle the massive amounts of data a global enterprise supply chain generates daily. Never mind that it’s completely unregulated, with no global standard. There’s also a critical global shortage of experts who can explain emerging technologies like blockchain, the IoT, and machine learning to nontechnology industries and educate organizations in how the technologies can improve their supply chain processes. Finally, there is concern about how blockchain’s complex algorithms gobble computing power—and electricity (see “Blockchain Blackouts”).

Blockchain Blackouts

Blockchain is a power glutton. Can technology mediate the issue?

A major concern today is the enormous carbon footprint of the networks creating and solving the algorithmic problems that keep blockchains secure. Although virtual currency enthusiasts claim the problem is overstated, Michael Reed, head of blockchain technology for Intel, has been widely quoted as saying that the energy demands of blockchains are a significant drain on the world’s electricity resources.

Indeed, Wired magazine has estimated that by July 2019, the Bitcoin network alone will require more energy than the entire United States currently uses and that by February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

Still, computing power is becoming more energy efficient by the day and sticking with paperwork will become too slow, so experts—Intel’s Reed among them—consider this a solvable problem.

“We don’t know yet what the market will adopt. In a decade, it might be status quo or best practice, or it could be the next Betamax, a great technology for which there was no demand,” Lonser says. “Even highly regulated industries that need greater transparency in the entire supply chain are moving fairly slowly.”

Blockchain will require acceptance by a critical mass of companies, governments, and other organizations before it displaces paper documentation. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue: multiple companies need to adopt these technologies at the same time so they can build a blockchain to exchange information, yet getting multiple companies to do anything simultaneously is a challenge. Some early initiatives are already underway, though:

  • A London-based startup called Everledger is using blockchain and IoT technology to track the provenance, ownership, and lifecycles of valuable assets. The company began by tracking diamonds from mine to jewelry using roughly 200 different characteristics, with a goal of stopping both the demand for and the supply of “conflict diamonds”—diamonds mined in war zones and sold to finance insurgencies. It has since expanded to cover wine, artwork, and other high-value items to prevent fraud and verify authenticity.
  • In September 2017, SAP announced the creation of its SAP Leonardo Blockchain Co-Innovation program, a group of 27 enterprise customers interested in co-innovating around blockchain and creating business buy-in. The diverse group of participants includes management and technology services companies Capgemini and Deloitte, cosmetics company Natura Cosméticos S.A., and Moog Inc., a manufacturer of precision motion control systems.
  • Two of Europe’s largest shipping ports—Rotterdam and Antwerp—are working on blockchain projects to streamline interaction with port customers. The Antwerp terminal authority says eliminating paperwork could cut the costs of container transport by as much as 50%.
  • The Chinese online shopping behemoth Alibaba is experimenting with blockchain to verify the authenticity of food products and catch counterfeits before they endanger people’s health and lives.
  • Technology and transportation executives have teamed up to create the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a forum for developing blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.

It’s likely that the first blockchain-based enterprise supply chain use case will emerge in the next year among companies that see it as an opportunity to bolster their legal compliance and improve business processes. Once that happens, expect others to follow.

Customers Will Expect Change

It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain becomes a competitive driver. The question for today’s enterprises is how to prepare for the shift. Customers are going to expect constant, granular visibility into their transactions and faster, more customized service every step of the way. Organizations will need to be ready to meet those expectations.

If organizations have manual business processes that could never be automated before, now is the time to see if it’s possible. Organizations that have made initial investments in emerging technologies are looking at how their pilot projects are paying off and where they might extend to the supply chain. They are starting to think creatively about how to combine technologies to offer a product, service, or business model not possible before.

A manufacturer will load a self-driving truck with a 3D printer capable of creating a customer’s ordered item en route to delivering it. A vendor will capture the market for a socially responsible product by allowing its customers to track the product’s production and verify that none of its subcontractors use slave labor. And a supermarket chain will win over customers by persuading them that their choice of supermarket is also a choice between being certain of what’s in their food and simply hoping that what’s on the label matches what’s inside.

At that point, a smart supply chain won’t just be a competitive edge. It will become a competitive necessity. D!


About the Authors

Gil Perez is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Tom Raftery is Global Vice President, Futurist, and Internet of Things Evangelist, at SAP.

Hans Thalbauer is Senior Vice President, Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain, at SAP.

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

Comments

Tags:

Four Retail Technology Trends To Take Off In 2018

Shaily Kumar

Over the past few years, technology has seen a significant shift from cyclical, invention-led spending on point solutions to investments targeting customer-driven, end-to-end value. The next wave of disruption and productivity improvements is here, which means a huge opportunity for digital-focused enterprises – if you are following the right roadmap.

Technology trends have significant potential over the next few years. Establishing a digital platform will not only set the stage for business innovation to provide competitive advantage, but it will also create new business models that will change the way we do business. Technology trends in 2018 will lay the foundation for the maturity of innovative technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning and will prepare both businesses and shoppers to be ready for their consumption.

Like any other industry, retail is being disrupted. It is no longer enough to simply stock racks with alluring products and wait for customers to rush through the door. Technological innovation is changing the way we shop. Customers can find the lowest price for any product with just a few screen touches. They can read online reviews, have products sent to their home, try them, and return anything they don’t want – all for little or nothing out of pocket. If there are problems, they can use social networks to call out brands that come up short.

Retailers are making their products accessible from websites and mobile applications, with many running effective Internet business operations rather than brick-and-mortar stores. They convey merchandise to the customer’s front entry and are set up with web-based networking media if things turn out badly.

Smart retailers are striving to fulfill changing customer needs and working to guarantee top customer service regardless of how their customer interacts with them.

2017 saw the development of some progressive technology in retail, and 2018 will be another energizing year for the retail industry. Today’s informed customers expect a more engaging shopping experience, with a consistent mix of both online and in-store recommendations. The retail experience is poised to prosper throughout next couple of years – for retailers that are prepared to embrace technology.

Here are four areas of retail technology I predict will take off in 2018:

In-store GPS-driven shopping trolleys

Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s now enable their customers to scan and pay for products using a mobile app instead of waiting in a checkout line. The next phase of this involves intelligent shopping trolleys, or grocery store GPS: Customers use a touch screen to load shopping lists, and the system helps them find the items in the store. Customers can then check off and pay for items as they go, directly on-screen. These shopping trolleys will make their way into stores around the last quarter of 2018.

Electronic rack edge names

Electronic rack edge names are not yet broadly utilized, but this could change in 2018 as more retailers adopt this technology. Currently, retail workers must physically select and update printed labels to reflect changes in price, promotions, etc. This technology makes the process more efficient by handling such changes electronically.

Reference point technology

Despite the fact that it’s been around since 2013, reference point technology hasn’t yet been utilized to its fullest potential. In the last few years, however, it’s started to pick up in industries like retail. It’s now being used by a few retailers for area-based promotions.

Some interesting uses I’ve observed: Retailers can send messages to customers when they’re nearby a store location, and in-store mannequins can offer information about the clothing and accessories they’re wearing. I anticipate that this innovation will take off throughout 2018 and into 2019.

Machine intelligence

The technological innovations describe above will also provide retailers with new data streams. These data sources, when merged with existing customer data, online, and ERP data, will lead to new opportunities. Recently Walmart announced it would begin utilizing rack examining robots to help review its stores. The machines will check stock, prices, and even help settle lost inventory. It will also help retailers learn more about changing customer behavior in real time, which will boost engagement.

Clearly, technology and digital transformation in retail have changed the way we live and shop. 2018 will see emerging technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence using structured and unstructured data to deliver innovation. As technology develops, it will continue to transform and enhance the retail experience.

For more insight on e-commerce, see Cognitive Commerce In The Digital World: Enhancing The Customer Journey.

Comments

Shaily Kumar

About Shaily Kumar

Shailendra has been on a quest to help organisations make money out of data and has generated an incremental value of over one billion dollars through analytics and cognitive processes. With a global experience of more than two decades, Shailendra has worked with a myriad of Corporations, Consulting Services and Software Companies in various industries like Retail, Telecommunications, Financial Services and Travel - to help them realise incremental value hidden in zettabytes of data. He has published multiple articles in international journals about Analytics and Cognitive Solutions; and recently published “Making Money out of Data” which showcases five business stories from various industries on how successful companies make millions of dollars in incremental value using analytics. Prior to joining SAP, Shailendra was Partner / Analytics & Cognitive Leader, Asia at IBM where he drove the cognitive business across Asia. Before joining IBM, he was the Managing Director and Analytics Lead at Accenture delivering value to its clients across Australia and New Zealand. Coming from the industry, Shailendra held key Executive positions driving analytics at Woolworths and Coles in the past.