Retailers have always understood how important their data is and historically have spent significant amounts of money building repositories. The question on every retailer’s mind is – “How do I use my monstrous stockpile of data and to do something that truly helps me to serve my customers?”
I recently attended RBTE (Retail Business Technology Expo), one of the world’s preeminent retail technology events in London. Many of the solutions presented at the conference highlighted that more data was needed to provide today’s consumers with a positive and memorable shopping experience. The customer is now in control. Gone are the days when you could put products on shelves, put advertisements in the paper and expect people to show up. Some very creative vendor solutions extolled the need for connecting with customers using in-store sensors, mobile applications, wireless mesh networks, RFID and even virtual reality to achieve seamless experiences that mimic those that are online. The term we continue to hear at Profitect that embraces that idea is unified commerce.
The problem however is that all that means is more data! It hasn’t eliminated the base problem of how to bring in all of this data and turn that information and insights into something that help make the customer experience differentiated and compelling. Retailers are wrestling with how to bring all this data into one manageable place. How do they create a unified system that interrogates, analyzes and acts with all of these solutions and data? The vision of IoT is the promise that a retailer someday will be able to deliver customer experiences that provide exactly what the customer wants, where they want it, and when they want it. Amazon with their voice controlled Echo device is a view into the future. Voice is a very human way to interact with a computer and in the possible near future, in a store setting as well. Amazon’s Echo has to do some very complex things to make the customer experience simple. It first, of course, has to figure out what you are saying, but behind the scenes leverage its mind-blowing algorithms to make decisions. Shopping is one of the areas ripe for voice, requiring the ability to know the customer, their preferences, past purchases, product availability, alternative choices and so on. This technology requires direct access to huge amounts of data along with the ability to execute the most compelling action. This is unified commerce.
Retail stores provide a unique ability to extend the online experience in a physical world with people. That means you have people in your stores that know your customers, but also more importantly provide customers with advice and recommendations about your products that help them make great purchasing decisions. Innovative retailers should be looking to provide customers with the same Amazon Echo like experiences tying together their online explorations in the store when they want to go solo. To orchestrate this theater, you need to be able to make your data operational!
Behind the scenes, you need to have tools that utilize this unified commerce capability without the need to pour through reports. Store employees need help delivering on the promise of an experience continuum by having assistance that directs them to areas that need attention, like having the right product displayed, as well as the assortment in stock that the customer is looking for. Retailers that understand where this is all going will be the winners. Operational orchestration using a vast amount of data is available today if you know where to look. The plethora of data solutions at RBTE provided many ways to analyze, visualize, and even predict what might happen and even where to investigate problems which may be about to surface, but they don’t provide prescriptive and simple actions on what needs to be done. The trick is not just to know something, but to correctly act on it with the most compelling action time and time again across all stores, we call it excellence in the ordinary. James Newton from ASDA co presented with our CEO how ASDA has replaced their complex reporting at stores with Profitect: https://youtu.be/OGMhBey5rU4