The world around us is rapidly evolving. Fuelled by the ubiquity of digital devices and high speed internet, the technologies and modalities of doing business are getting obsolete by the day, while more advanced methodologies are replacing them. Every new wave opens up a window of opportunity for businesses to harness and leverage or to be left back flattened by the surge. Businesses must be nimble to identify every wave, shift gears and ride along the tip. And invariantly it’s the CIOs responsibility to identify these and build an organization internally that adapts, innovates and acts quickly. The CIO also acts as a filter and make the right bets while quickly weeding away technologies that fail to deliver.
For brands and retailers like us, in our transformation journey, it’s very important that we look at the business as a ‘whole’ and not channels in isolation, because solving for the whole can unlock greater value than sum of parts. The key is to weave a single thread that connects every aspect of the business to draw actionable inputs and insights. Thus, data remains at the center of any transformation journey that one undertakes. While the tech waves keep shifting the underlying data gathered over years remain the same and becomes more valuable with advancement in data mining techniques, statistics and AI. So, its worthy early on to invest in building the probes across online and offline consumer and business touchpoints to build and nourish a data repository that acts as the base for any greater vision that the CIO might have – the extent of success for future initiatives would be highly correlated to this.
The best way to analyse the impact of recent technologies on our business environment is to traverse along the value chain and understand how some of these are making a momentous shift in a newer direction. One of the primary goals for brands and retailers is around discovery and hence marketing effectiveness. From traditional modes of discovery like print, TV and OOH we have moved into an era of hyper targeting, social discovery and micro influencers. While each of these techniques have their pros and cons, the effectiveness of the overall campaign is a function of the interplay of these methods and how they work in tandem to amplify the brand / product and drive discovery. Tools to measure effectiveness and build attribution in the new seamless and connected world where an action on a social platform could drive sales in an offline store. The right set of tools and models in the hands of an innovative marketing team can work wonders for the brand. Interesting methods like gamifying discovery, community and micro influencer led discovery can be aided by technology.
“Identifying the user at the offline store and rendering personalized content via tech interventions could aid the store staff provide best of the class experience”
As the means of discover is shifting so are the modes of purchase; traditional means of shopping from offline retail stores is seeing a tectonic shift to digital and social purchase platforms. While this shift happens, the store still remains a critical component to the brand experience, and it’s important to invest in tech that elevate the experience at the offline stores and build a bridge to the online world. The solution is to build the right chemistry between the offline and the online worlds so that consumers get a seamless experience of the brand and is oblivious of the divide – this in the true sense helps build the single view of customer for the brand and a single view of the brand for the consumer.
Identifying the user at the offline store and rendering personalized content via tech interventions could aid the store staff provide best of the class experience, thus driving better conversion. In the online stores chatbots and AI could go a long way to substitute for assisted shopping behaviour. QR codes at the stores, shoppable videos, fitment tools, recommendation algorithms etc make the shopping experience richer and relevant for the consumer.
Another critical component that requires a solve is around the efficiency of inventory and its movement across manufacturing centers, warehouses, stock holding points and points of sale. Inventory is the lifeblood of our business, the right order and warehouse management systems coupled with intelligent replenishment tools can ensure that the right inventory is available at the right point of sale. The most efficient solution to this lies in using the right OMS to build a single view of inventory across all points of sale and warehouses, so that the demand and supply can always be matched and the organization does not have to work in inefficient inventory silos. The right solution can then power further advancements like endless isle, pick up at store, return to store etc with fungibility of inventory across online and offline channels. The OMS coupled with a WMS capable of handling retail, wholesale and ecom operation becomes the backbone of the supply chain framework capable of addressing all kinds of futuristic business requirements and growth.
Finally, its very important to have a holistic view of the solution architecture across the entire value chain, and to be aware of the capabilities and limitations of the various solutions that you choose. For identifying the solution might be the easier leg, the bigger challenge would be to integrate these varid solutions and weave a single solution fabric out of them; and this could get far more challenging if the solution scope spans across geographies and diverse business units. Irrespective of the magnitude of the task, the mantra is to have a larger vision, but go for the micro wins and quickly course correct based on learnings, and to always keep moving forward.