Category Archives: New economy

The Dawn of Autonomous Cars, and the Demise of the Car Driving Experience

The phenomenon of fully autonomous cars has begun. “Self-driving cars without a human behind the wheel could run freely on UK roads from 2021, the chancellor is set to announce”, according to AutoCar. Unfortunately, by replacing human drivers with robot drivers, the end of a rather emotional relationship that we are having with cars, will begin.

Cars, for many people, are more than a just means to an end. “The type of car you drive tells a story about your personality. It may not be obvious, but people do share a lot of things in common with the cars they drive, and will choose a vehicle that represents their own particular talents and interests and reflect their values in life” suggests Joel Wong in TOC.

I wonder what autonomous cars can reveal about my personality?

Autonomous cars

Wikipedia defines an autonomous car (also known as a driver-less car, self-driving car, robotic car, autos) and unmanned ground vehicle, as a vehicle that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input.

Just like us, self-driving cars need to have sensors to understand the world around them and a brain that collects, processes and chooses specific actions based on information gathered. Therefore, autonomous cars are fitted with advanced tools to gather information, including long-range radar, LIDAR, cameras, short/medium-range radar, and ultrasound (Chris Giarratana, ReadWrite.com).

The data collected are analysed and by using complex algorithms and digital maps, the autonomous car is steered clear of mishaps and hopefully reach the destination it was programmed for.

The use of autonomous cars can have the following advantages and disadvantages (Paul Goodman, AxleAddict):

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

  •  No driver means more space and more entertainment;
  • No bad drivers, thus less road accidents;
  • Traffic could be coordinated more easily in urban areas to prevent long tailbacks at busy times;
  • Sensory technology could potentially perceive the environment better than human senses, seeing farther ahead, better in poor visibility, detecting smaller and more subtle obstacles, more reasons for less traffic accidents;
  • Speed limits could be increased to reflect the safer driving, shortening journey times;
  • There would be no need for drivers’ licenses or driving tests;
  • Autonomous cars could bring about a massive reduction in insurance premiums for car owners;
  • Efficient travel also means fuel savings, cutting costs.
  •  Driver-less cars would likely be out of the price range of most ordinary people;
  • Truck drivers and taxi drivers will lose their jobs, as autonomous vehicles take over;
  • A computer malfunction, even just a minor glitch, could cause worse crashes than anything that human error might bring about;
  • If the car crashes, without a driver, whose fault is it: Google/the software designer, or the owner of the vehicle?
  • Hackers getting into the vehicle’s software and controlling or affecting its operation would be a major security worry;
  • Reading human road signs is challenging for a robot;
  • How would the police interact with driver-less vehicles, especially in the case of accidents or crimes?

So, there are many pros and cons that we have to consider when we decide to buy autonomous cars. But sadly, there’s a lot that we will leave behind, like the feeling of driving a car…

Real cars and the joy of driving them

The ribbon of shimmering asphalt curved between the mountains of the Peloponnese and the azure Aegean, which glittered in the late afternoon sun. The engine of the Audi A3 growled – a satisfying, syrupy growl – as I pressed the accelerator. As the car started to shift, I realized in a moment of clarity that I was very, very happy

Pirelli & C


The nice feeling that you get when driving a car, as the narrative above of Pirelli & C suggests, may soon only be a faint memory because of autonomous cars. “Where’s the thrill?” asks Giancarlo Perlas in BenzInsider. He later proposes: “Self-driving systems will likely be optional at first, and mandatory later. By that time, the only way to feel the thrill of driving will be through VR simulators (that will become mainstream by the time) and casual games like the AllSlots’ Racing for Pinks.”

That’s scary – we’ll lose the sensation of driving a car because of robots doing it. And, wait for it – we then have to rely on robots to simulate the feeling of driving a car that we are craving for. It’s a strange place, this digitize world.

Cars and humans – like men and their horses…

A very long time ago, before cars and trains even, people had horses to get them from A to B. There were horses of all shape and sizes, most with an owner and many with a name. But it was how humans bonded with horses. “Both the horse and the human become attuned to each other’s physical and mental ways, thus developing the state of co-being” according to Horsetalk.co.nz. Then cars started replacing the horses.

“Car consumption is never simply about rational economic choices, but is as much about aesthetic, emotional and sensory responses to driving, as well as patterns of kinship, sociability, habitation and work” suggests Sheller, (2004). Sheller, in explaining the “feeling of cars” proposes that pleasure, fear, frustration, euphoria, pain, envy (i.e. emotional responses), to cars and feelings about driving are crucial to the personal investments people have in buying, driving, and dwelling with cars.

So, as previously with horses, humans did found a willing emotional partner in the form of their cars. And now the robot is starting to replace the car, and it is impacting on business. Viereckl, Ahlemann, Koster and Jursch (2015) had this to say about the ‘promise of autonomous driving’: “It’s a disruptive technology that will upend traditional auto industry structures, usher in new business models, and change the nature of the business. “

Concluding

It’s not easy to comprehend an emotional bond between robots and humans. Maybe it’s because robots can be learned to predict your behaviour. After all, who better than to ask Jeremy Clarkson for an opinion on autonomous cars: “I drove a car the other day which has a claim of autonomous capability and twice in the space of 50 miles on the M4 it made a mistake, a huge mistake, which could have resulted in death”, reported Holly Christodoulou, The Sun.

Like horses had to make way for cars, so will cars have to make way for autonomous cars. What a pity…

Read also: Retail and the Internet of Things

Notes:

Sheller, M., 2004. Automotive emotions: feeling the car, Theory, culture & society, 21(4-5):221-242.

Viereckl, R., Ahlemann, D., Koster, A. and Jursch, S. 2015. Connected Car Study 2015: Racing ahead with autonomous cars and digital innovation. Strategy& http://www. strategyand. pwc. com/reports/connected-car-2015-study

Image:

  1. Wikimedia

 

My Avatar and Me – Coping in the Virtual World

I got it when I discovered the virtual world, my avatar. It’s like jumping into an uncomfortable spacesuit and then free-falling from the physical world into the digital world. This is a world full of zeros and ones, to which they answer only yes or no, which should be only right or wrong. How on earth can we ever comprehend this abstract environment? We need to digitize ourselves. Hence may avatar and me…

What is an avatar?

Your Dictionary defines an avatar as something visual used to represent non-visual concepts or ideas. Or it may be an image that is used to represent a person in the virtual world of the internet and computers. Peachey and Childs, (2011)1 suggest that taking on the form of an avatar within a virtual world is resembling a literacy of crossing down from the real into the digital. Consequently, many of us created our first avatars when we start playing games online.

With online gaming, virtual worlds are three dimensional environments in which you can interact with others and create objects as part of that interaction. How do you do that? You appear as an avatar in the virtual world: an avatar is a virtual representation of you (a ‘virtual ego’) which can take on any shape or form as you so wish (Virtual Reality Society). Just like my avatar and me…

My avatar and me going shopping

Now we move from gaming to shopping. How will my avatar help me shopping in the virtual world? It can be done with the help of your online retailer… According to De Mesa, (2009) 2 brands can, by being three-dimensional and interactive, move past the ‘show me’ paradigm of other media and get into the ’touch me’ world of true interaction.

Take for example shopping online for clothing. From the start this was a potential minefield. “The issue of getting the correct size remains a serious drawback for buying clothing and footwear online. Sizes vary from brand to brand, and since you can’t try out the products before buying them, selecting the size is always a gamble”, says Tarun Mittal, YourStory.com.

However, the industry is pouring millions of dollars into developing and trying technological solutions. Augmented reality, avatars and algorithms that approximate your size based on measurements you provide are already in the marketplace (CBC News).

So, my avatar (and me) can now click on an app to select my body shape and click on a piece of clothing I want to try. My avatar will appear in a 3D image wearing the item in the comfort of my own home. That’s really cool, isn’t it!

How can using avatars help retailers?

Just as we are using avatars to ease into the virtual world, so retailers use avatars to target their audience better. They call these avatars personas. Retailers, for example, create personas to help them understand their customers better. “It’s not who comes to your website that is important it is how they behave when they get there that is key to your success”, say Jackson (2009) 3.

Jackson (2009) 3 also suggests when designing personas, retailers should look at a number of different sources of data to define how to get to their role models. These are:

  1. Demographic data – age, gender, geography (data acquired from customer surveys, CRM data or other sources).
  2. Customer psychographics – what the customer does in the pre-purchase phase found by looking at a number of different sources in addition to the demographic data, such as web analytics keyword data.
  3. Market data – such as how the branding and market place effects the decisions of the persona. Web analytics keyword data, Google Trends and data from doing a competitor analyses are good sources of information.

Once a retailer has all the data about her customers, she can create an avatar or persona for customers that are interested in a specific product or product line. Below is an example of a completed buyer persona.

Concluding

The advent of the internet and technological advances thereafter have plunged us all in a new world. It’s a new world with a new economy and new rules – for most an exciting though scary space. By creating avatars and personas, machines and humans can meet on common ground – each wearing a spacesuit to make sense of one another.

Notes:

1Peachey, A. and Childs, M. 2011. Virtual worlds and identity, In: Reinventing ourselves: contemporary concepts of identity in virtual Worlds, 1-12, Springer London.

2De Mesa, A. 2009. Brand Avatar: Translating virtual world branding into real world success, Springer.

3Jackson, S. 2009. Chapter 6: Developing and Measuring Motivational and Behavioural Personas, In: Cult of Analytics: Driving online marketing strategies using web analytics, Routledge.

Images:

  1. slidesharecdn.com
  2. Pixabay

Read also: Chatbots in Retailing – a Fact or a Fad?

Customer Centricity – Now is the Opportunity to know your Customers Better

Customer centricity means that retailers should align products and services with the needs of their most valuable customers 1. Said Peter Drucker more than 50 years ago: “it is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.”

Although Drucker’s rationale was spot-on, until recently, adopting customer centricity was a step too far for most companies.  Historically, firms have tended to be product-centric.  As a result, firms were more internally oriented, with their attention focused on selling superior products rather than on being oriented toward the purchasers and users of those products 3.

However, the advent of the internet and Web 2.0 all changed that.

The digital disruption provides an opportunity to focus on  customer centricity

The impact that digitization has on the retail industry is recognized by most commentators as “disrupting”. In fact, retailers have to reconsider the impact of technology on their usual business strategy and aim at implementing digital transformation; otherwise, chances to succeed are miserable, according to ELEKS writing in Medium.com.

The digital disruption is however not always bad news for the retail industry. Digital technology has made it easier to remove the friction points customers have with your business. As a result, the processes are more seamless, straight-through transaction path agnostic of the engagement medium, says Grant Pattison, Senior Manager, Marketing & Sales Technology, IAG.

Retail shoppers are treated with digital surprises when visiting their favorite stores. They ‘re overwhelmed by all the new gadgets and retail technologies such as touch screens, smart fitting rooms and augmented reality that make their shopping experience better. Indeed, data collected via IoT devices and sensors inside the store will help retailers track shopper movement, predict behavior and develop more interactive experiences that appeal to all the senses, concurs Alison Wiltshire, guest author in Internet Retailing.

However, the customers are paying for their experiences. Every time they enjoy the technology, they give something away about themselves to the retailer. The data that the retailer gathers is like gold dust. In fact, retailers are now using predictive analytics and other technologies, along with new organizational structures, to both anticipate and influence customer behavior 4.

So retailers that adopted digital technology have all the means to achieve customer centricity. Not really…

Moving from a culture of product centricity to one of customer centricity

It doesn’t make sense for retailers to use the latest technology to improve their customer’s shopping experiences when everything they are doing is centered round their products. It’s not the products that are important; it’s the customers that are most important!

The true essence of the customer centricity paradigm lies not in how to sell products but rather on creating value for the customer and, in the process, creating value for the firm 3. In other words, customer centricity is concerned with the process of dual value creation.

Your customers rather want to learn that your products add value for them instead of being suffocated about the benefits of the products. Therefore retailers need to communicate their value proposition in the omnichannel; through their websites and in social media networks and in store, suggests Douw G Steyn, Bricks2Clicks.co.za.

So how do you get your company to focus on customer centricity? Ehssan Abdallah article in Heidrick & Struggles’ blog mentioned five essentials of customer centric cultures:

  1. A customer-centric talent agenda. Executives need to determine how to build and sustain their company’s capacity to deliver customer service aligned with the company’s purpose.
  2. Meaningful customer service values. Retailers should ask the following questions to frame and define the organization’s customer service values but also better ensure that employees at all levels can understand and articulate how their actions contribute to success:
    1. What are our customers telling us they need?
    2. How can we harness analytics to drive day-to-day behaviors and processes?
    3. How can we connect customer service values to our organization’s purpose?
  3. Empowered employees. Employees should be encouraged to use their authority wisely, and thereby sending a strong signal to all the stakeholders of the company’s “whatever-it-takes” philosophy to delight its customers.
  4. A strong sense of accountability. In moving toward an empowered customer-centric culture that leverages talent effectively, leaders must select indicators to gauge performance and track progress for both behaviors and outcomes.
  5. Leaders who “walk the talk”. When executives promote customer service values, it sends a strong signal throughout the organization that management recognizes the customer as central to its existence.

Strong, customer-centric cultures offer organizations an organic, and sustainable, avenue to better results. Not according to some commentators.

Reasons why customer centricity may not be working (a different opinion…)

Jack Springman, a director at Digital Springboard didn’t make customer centricity part of his objectives this year. Here are his reasons:

  1. Customer-centricity is too vague a term to be useful. What does customer-centricity mean, specifically? How do you define it? How do you know when an organization is genuinely customer-centric?
  2. Customer-centricity is not measurable. If you can’t measure it, you can’t deliver it. So how do you measure centricity? You can’t.
  3. It’s a means, not an end (and one that could be counterproductive). Improving the customer experience is an end; customer-centricity is a means. So even if you could measure centricity, which should be subsidiary to what you are trying to achieve.
  4. Staff-centricity versus customer-centricity. There is a relationship between staff satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Unhappy employees may battle to be customer centric.
  5. Customer value requires all stakeholders to be looked after. Of course, no business can exist without customers, but nor can any but the very smallest survive without staff or suppliers or perhaps partners.
  6. Reduced prioritization in the strategic agenda. Think about the impact in other parts of the organization, especially as customer centricity is supposed to be an organization-wide commitment.

Jack suggests that in place of customer centricity, firms should create value for customers in a way that also creates value for the business.

Concluding

After all of this, it’s not about the company. It’s about the customer. Jack Springman rightfully said that no company can exist without customers. So, if you want to keep your customers and get some more, you must know what their needs, wants and demands are. Of course, if you add value for your customers, then they will return the complement.

And yes, with aid of digital technology unsurmountable bits of data are collected from our customers for us to utilize.  After all, customer’s first point of interaction is mostly nowadays a machine or robot…

Shouldn’t we rather have a customer/ robot focus from now on?

Read also: The Value Proposition for Bricks and Clicks Retailers

Image: Flickr.com

 

Notes:

1 Lemon, K.N. and Verhoef, P.C., 2016, Understanding customer experience throughout the customer journey, Journal of Marketing: AMA/MSI Special Issue, 80:69–96.

2 Drucker, P.F, 1954. The practice of management: A study of the most important function in America society, Harper & Brothers.

3 Shah, D., Rust, R.T., Parasuraman, A., Staelin, R. and Day, G.S. 2006. The path to customer centricity. Journal of service research, 9(2):113-124.

4 Van den Driest, F., Sthanunathan, S. and Weed, K. 2016. Building an insights engine, Harvard Business Review, 94(9):64-74.

Fast Adapting Customers Leave Inert Retailers Behind

Fast adapting customers are leaving obstinate retailers in droves. Hence the headlines dominating retail news portals are about thousands of retail stores closing their doors. That’s happening because retail customers are adapting quickly and easily to the digital world of today.

Many retailers, on the other hand, aren’t keeping up with the changing buying habits of their customers. Indeed, they are ignorant at best and stubborn to keep on doing what they did for decades…

The sad result is that retail brands are disappearing. The Centre of Retail Research reports that during the first eight months of 2017, 35 companies failed in the UK, closing 1,194 stores and affecting 10,611 workers.

There may be many reasons for retailers closing down. However, it may be because the retailers fail to react to the opportunities and threats of the digitized world…

How fast adapting customers are on top of the world

Tech savvy retail customers have never had it better. It doesn’t matter whether they are shopping online or at their favourite Bricks and Mortar store. They can do either shopping effortlessly. In fact, retail customers can shop how and wherever they want in the omni-retail channel. The benefits for adapting retail customers in the omni-retail channel are:

  • Omni-channel retail is customer focused. It is a powerful strategy adopted by retailers for improving customer experience, says Brad Arsenault (FithQuadrant).
  • Retail customers expect the same basic brand experience across all channels. Omni-channel retail allows customers to buy from any channel.
  • The fast adapting customers feel more valued. They have a seamless journey from online to offline and is more likely to return to the brand who they feel gives them a fully personalised experience.

Retail customers in the digital world expect every retailer to offer them the greatest shopping experience they’ve ever had. If retailers can’t achieve that, they’ll probably soon close their doors (if they haven’t already done so). As result thereof, retailers should change the way they’re doing business to keep up with their fast adapting customers, or perish…

How can retailers keep up with their fast adapting customers?

Start right now to change the direction of your business, a turnaround – 180 degrees. Yes, you should get out of that box (the one you’ve been hiding in for decades…), and think out of the box! More importantly, you should be the revolutionary leader (or at least appoint one). Disrupt and destroy the old culture of your business. Burn your vision and mission statements. Therefore, appoint leaders that are humble, adaptable, visionary and engaged. Let go of the rest…

Then, find out what shopping experience your customers most want. And give it to them!

Concluding

Do what you have to do now! Oh, and good luck!

Read also:

  1. Success in the Digital Age Requires Extraordinary Retail Leaders
  2. How successful are Retailers in the Omnichannel?

Image:

Bricks2Clicks

 

Voice-Activated Shopping an Effortless Customer Experience

Is voice-activated shopping the digital outcome that retailers need to offer their customers an effortless shopping experience? Or is it taking AI and machine learning a step too far?

Humans are what we are because of our ability to speak with one another, to listen what’s said, to comprehend the info and to react on what we perceive. We also like to be part of a group, to socialize. Said MacFarlane 2, (2014): “Because our evolutionary heritage provides us with genetic material open to forces and influences from the physical environment, we also require a social environment for brain development and for the acquisition of skills such as speech and written communication.”

So we learn from others and learn others by using our voices. But that is now changing. Now, after millions of years of being humans, we’re learning machines how to listen to voices, to recognize and analyze the message and then to respond in a ‘sensible’ way.

So, if you’re still able to speak, say Hallo! to voice-activated shopping. Because, according to Hailee Sosnowski’s post in DigitalCommerce, voice search is projected to account for half of online searches by 2020.

What is Voice-Activated Shopping?

Voice-activated shopping (VAS) means that a customer can use his or her natural voice to control technology whilst shopping. There is no need to touch anything and the customers can do voice-activated shopping by using their smartphones. VAS is already adopted by some retailers.

Laura Agadoni (JLL) remarked the following about voice-activated shopping: “Right now it’s being used for ordering groceries, pizza or coffee. For consumers there’s no driving to stores, logging onto a computer, or pulling out smartphones to open an app. They simply say what they want to one of the new voice activated devices coming onto the market from the likes of Google and Amazon.”

Take the example of Alexa, the AI-based personal assistant from Amazon. With Alexa in your kitchen, adding an item to your Ocado order is a breeze, says Holly Godwin (OcadoTechnology). Run out of biscuits and have a friend coming for tea? – Just tell Alexa “Alexa, ask Ocado to add biscuits”.

Alexa converts the audio stream into a command (for example, “add to trolley”) and a search term (such as “biscuits”). Alexa most probably will find exactly what you want, because Ocado has ‘trained’ Alexa to recognize the top 15,000 commonly search terms from Ocado.com.

How will Voice-Activated Shopping affect the retail market?

In today’s age of digital driven technology, it’s no shame to ask how voice-activated shopping may further disrupt the retail market. However, there is no consensus about what the opportunities or challenges of VAS are for retailers.

Opportunities using VAS (OnlyRetail.com)

  • More sales. Amazon found that sales of its Echo devices increased nine fold compared to 2015. Also, they also spend 10% more and their buying frequency went up by 6%.
  • Shopping for customers is now effortless. VAS allows householders to buy groceries just by talking to the fridge.
  • Gathering data for an omnichannel approach. Voice-enablement could be the unifying force omnichannel has been missing.
  • Investing for the future. It’s been reported that 55% of 13- to 18-year-olds use voice search every day, so clearly there is an appetite (Emma Lyons, Campaign US).
  • Speed of ordering. The ability to immediately order household essentials is the most obvious use for voice-enabled retail.

Challenges using VAS

  • “It’s still quite a new market and quite complex, so it requires advice and people will want to come talk to someone who can explain how it works, so we see it as an opportunity in that respect,” according to Grace Bowen, RetailWeek.com.
  • Tailoring search algorithms for Voice-enablement. “We know that shoppers will not go past the second or third page of a Google search result – voice will be like that on steroids” (Luke Tugby Retail Week).
  • Acceptance of VAS. Older generations may take a bit more convincing to adopt voice-activated technology.
  • Universal use of VAS in retail. A big question is whether voice recognition technology can work for all retail. What about fashion? Consumers can’t very well order a “black dress,” for example, and get exactly what they want, wonders Laura Agadoni (JJL).

Concluding

Speech has been argued to be the most natural and comfortable way to communicate 1. So it came as no surprise that it is now integrated in AI technology. So, what do commentators say about voice-activated shopping technology?

“Voice recognition technology is the next iteration of online shopping as consumers increasingly prize ways to complete chores or get the information they need easily and quickly,” Laura Agadoni (JJL).

“The convenience of voice search makes it instantly attractive to consumers, but it also introduces new complexities that retailers who want to survive the age of voice must fully understand,” Hailee Sosnowski, paid search planner, BKV (DigitalCommerce360.com).

My advice? Are your business performing as planned? If not, revisit your business’s digital marketing plan and identify the problem areas. If the most important reason why your business is losing sales is that your customers seeks VAS, then do VAS!

Read also: Artificial Intelligence – Digital Outcomes or Digital Disruptions for Retailers?

Notes:

1 Kääriä, A.  2017. Technology acceptance of voice assistants: anthropomorphism as factor, Master’s Thesis, University of Jyväskylä.

2 MacFarlane, A.E. 2014. Voice activated: exploring the effects of voices on behaviours., PhD Thesis, University of Canterbury.

Image:

Flickr.com

Marketing Automation is enabled by Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Chatbots

“Marketing automation is growing – sizzling fast, announced Michael Jans recently in his blog AgencyRevolution.com. In fact, there are eleven times more B-B companies using marketing automation than were in 2011 (VBInsight). Most visible marketing automation for retail customers are chatbots.

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), coupled with the proliferation of messaging apps, are fuelling the development of chatbots.  Artificially intelligent chatbots or conversational agents can be used to automate the interaction between a company and customer.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation, in general, complements interactive and direct marketing with the help of automation and further on in CRM and email marketing 4. The goal of marketing automation is to target the right customer with the right content 1. To achieve this goal, the optimization of customer data – e.g. name, contact information, transactional data is critical. Consequently customers can be targeted with the right message. Therefore marketing automation allows marketers to respond instantly to identified opportunities in real-time even outside the marketing plan.

This use of marketing intelligence provides valuable management insights to markets, customers and campaigns and leads to enhanced efficiency. Also, this same use of data enables customers to receive personalized, relevant messages and offers at appropriate times. As result of this, customer experience is improved significantly. Indeed, Sarah Burke of Spokal concurs: “Marketing automation is a super effective tool when it’s used to supplement our marketing efforts in an attempt to make the lives of our customers even better”.

However, marketing automation is facilitated by Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence

Techopedia defines Artificial intelligence (AI) as an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and reacts like humans. AI is becoming part of our lives ever more. Today we can ask a computer questions, sit back while semi-autonomous cars negotiate traffic, and use smartphones to translate speech or printed text across most languages. For AI to work properly, the machines or robots needed to be ‘learned’.

Machine learning is the process that offers the data necessary for a machine to learn and adapt when exposed to new data. Nello Cristianini suggests we should think of it as training a machine: “It depends on the other two methods by reading mined data, creating a new algorithm through AI, and then updating current algorithms accordingly to “learn” a new task.”

For most retailers and marketers in the digital economy, the intelligent ‘machines’ of choice are chatbots. However, chatbots are dependent on a host of interconnected and emerging technologies, many of which rely on machine learning and require massive amounts of data 3.

The use of data to enable Marketing Automation

Douw G Steyn, owner of the Bricks2Clicks (this blog) had this to say about Big Data: “One of the fall outs of the digitization of business is the massive amount of data that are everywhere. Every time a customer makes a purchase online or registers online, data is generated. The data can potentially tell you almost everything about consumers.”

Randy Bean in MITSloan commented on the use of Big Data with AI: “The impact of Big Data goes well beyond simple data and analytics. Big Data and AI in combination are providing a powerful foundation for a rapidly descending wave of heightened innovation and business disruption. While the first wave of Big Data was about speed and flexibility, it appears that the next wave of big data will be all about leveraging the power of AI and machine learning to deliver business value at scale.“

Data mining can find the answers to questions that you hadn’t thought to ask yet. What are the patterns? Which statistics are the most surprising? What is the correlation between A and B? (upfrontanalytics.com).

“Intelligent machines need to collect data – often personal data – in order to work. This simple fact potentially turns them into surveillance devices: they know our location, our browsing history and our social networks. Can we decide who has access, what use can be made of the data, or whether the data gets deleted for ever? If the answer is no, then we don’t have control” says Nello Cristianini in the New Scientist.

Chatbots as interactive conversational platforms

By definition, a chatbot is a computer program that responds to natural language text and/or to voice inputs in a human like manner 2. Chatbots can run on local computers and phones, though most of the time they are accessed through the internet (Chatbots.org). Moreover, the effectiveness of Chatbots is depended on the quality of the source data and how well they are programmed. They are after all robots! And robots need to be learned…

Once a customer starts to interact with a chatbot, the chatbot’s software identifies the customer. The chatbot will then have the demographic information of the customer, her purchasing history – such as what products she’d purchased most frequently, what time of the year she does most of her shopping, and when last did she purchased? The scope and depth of information can be never-ending.

The  of a typical conversation between a chatbot and a retail client (image: Chatbotsnewsdaily)

Eric Samson writing in Entrepreneur.com mentioned 7 benefits using chatbots as marketing tools

  1. Customer service – by providing the chatbot option for customers, you will lower the stress of dealing with customer service and increase customer satisfaction with your brand.
  2. Consumer analysis – chatbots can play a large role analysing customer data, and optimizing sales and marketing strategies in light of this analysis.
  3. Personalized ads – another chatbot strategy that’s proven to be successful is the creation of personalized ads.
  4. Proactive customer interaction – chatbots are ideal for “reach out” initiatives. To do this, the accompanying action should be something small, like inquiring whether or not the customer needs assistance.
  5. Site feedback – chatbots are great for reaching out to customers via simple questions and the gathering of feedback. This strategy is useful, especially for website optimization.
  6. Lead-nurturing – using the information that chatbots collect about a customer, you can create customized messaging that guides the consumer along his or her “buyer’s journey,” ensuring movement in the right direction that achieves higher conversion rates.
  7. Maintain a presence on a messenger act via a chatbot – by maintaining a presence on a messenger app via a chatbot, you can save money while simultaneously remaining available for your customers 24 hours a day.

According to Chatbot Conference, the 3 main disadvantages of chatbots are:

  1. Too many functions – most of developers strive to create a universal chatbot that will become a fully-fledged assistant to user. But in practice functional bots turn out not to cope with the majority of queries.
  2. Primitive algorithms – AI chatbots are now considered the best as they can respond depending on the situation and context. However, complex algorithms is required for this purpose. Meanwhile, only IT giants and few developers possess such powerful technological base.
  3. Complex interface – talking to a bot implies talking in a chat, meaning that a user will have to write a lot. And in case a bot cannot understand the user’s request, he will have to write even more. It takes time to find out which commands a bot can respond to correctly, and which questions are better to avoid. Thus, talking to a chatbot does not save time in the majority of cases.

Concluding

With Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots there aren’t a clear ‘pecking order’. The Upfront Analytics Team explain it as such: “Data mining, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are so intertwined that it’s difficult to establish a ranking or hierarchy between the three. Instead, they’re involved in symbiotic relationships by which a combination of methods can be used to produce more accurate results.”

The speed at which technology is moving forward – “software is developing software” and “machines are building machines” an affordable, practical usable chatbot for customer care and marketing is not far away…

Read also:

  1. Predictive Analytics helps Retailers to make sense of Big Data
  2. Chatbots in Retailing – a Fact or a Fad?

Notes

1 Mattila, J. 2016. Customer experience management in digital channels with marketing automation, Master Thesis, University of Oulu, Department of Information Processing Science.

2 D’Haro, L.F. and Lue, L. 2016. An Online Platform for Crowd-sourcing Data from Interactions with Chatbots. Proceedings of WOCHAT, IVA.

3 Etlinger, S. 2017. The conversational business: How chatbots will reshape digital experiences, Altimeter.

4 Sandell, N. 2016. Marketing automation supporting sales, Master’s Thesis, University of Jyväskylä.

Image

Pixabay

 

3D Printing Technology for Retailers – An Opportunity or a Waste of Money?

3D printing technology for retailers is now emerging as an outcome for small localized retailers that are facing closure. However, as it is with most disruptive technologies, the advantages that 3D printing offer for retailers should be weighed against its potential pitfalls.

Although the 3D printing technology has been used for a number of years, it has been mostly on an industrial scale. Meanwhile, the price of desktop 3D printers has started to come down resulting in an average annually growth rate of 170% since 2008 1. The door is now starting to open for innovative retailers to include 3D printing technology into their business models. As a result, brave small retail store owners have already started using in store 3D printing.

3D printing is a game changer in retailing, according to Richard Kestenbaum, contributing for Forbes. Richard writes: “Last week Ministry of Supply installed a machine in its Boston store that can make a garment on demand in 90 minutes (with finishing done offline after the garment is created). The machine can be set to make garments all day and night or it can be instructed to make a garment to a specific customer’s design, allowing customers to customize the colors they want in the garment.”

Let’s have a look how 3D printing works…

How does 3D printing works?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control  (Wikipedia). According to Berman (2012), 3D printers work in a manner similar to traditional laser or inkjet printers. Rather than using multi-colored inks, the 3D printer uses powder that is slowly built into an image on a layer-by-layer basis. All 3D printers also use 3D CAD software that measures thousands of cross-sections of each product to determine exactly how each layer is to be constructed 2.

3D printing uses such raw materials as plastics; resins; super alloys, such as nickel-based chromium and cobalt chromium; stainless steel; titanium; polymers; and ceramics. Examples of products that are manufactured by 3D printing includes artwork, automotive parts, ductwork for a mobile hospital, sand cores for automotive engine block castings, architectural models, dental bridges, jewellery, ball bearing assemblies, and gear assemblies 4. But how can retailers use 3D printers to their advantage?

3D Printing technology for retailers – a 3D-printed product out of a desktop printer

What are the opportunities of 3D printing technology for retailers?

Cremona, et al. (2016) identified the following points on how 3D printing may influence a firm’s strategy:

  • Process innovation:
    • Delivery time of the product: the time to market is extremely reduced, to the extreme that it might become real time.
    • Product development process: is optimized because adjustments are made in a faster and less costly way.
    • Quality and flexibility: is under the control of the retailer with 3D printing.
    • Satisfaction of the single customer demand: personalized products are added to the platform.
  • Customer’s value:
    • Brand awareness: a close collaborative relationship is established between the retailer and the customers thanks to usability testing.
    • Customer’s loyalty: offering customized, personalized products may help clients to feel special.
  • Product platform enhancement:
    • Pushing the limits of traditional manufacturing machines: now new products can be developed also in a different approach and materials are added instead of subtracted.
    • Personalized modules: products can be designed and delivered exactly how the customers want them.
  • Sustainable competitive advantage:
    • Differentiation strategy: carrying out projects on demand makes the retailer to perform a differentiation strategy. It aims at delivering the most technologically advanced product, which is a unique solution with a unique design for each customer.
    • High specialized production know-how: allow companies to actually integrate 3D printing in the product life cycle. In doing so, an additional service is provided.

The most important strategic advantages that 3D printing offer small local retailers are customization, personalization and control over the supply chain. But what are the pitfalls of 3D printing?

What are the pitfalls of 3D printing technology for retailers?

3D printing is in the introduction phase of its life-cycle in the retail industry. Subsequently there will be a lot of surprises (good and bad) as the technology gets adopted more widely.

Shaleen recently blogged in inkjetwholesale.com.au the following of disadvantages of 3D printing:

  1. Scale and size limitations – you can’t print multiple objects of the same type at the same time.
  2. The absence of economies of scale – because every object or product is printed individually.
  3. Cost of buying and setting up a 3D printer – the initial cost still remains something of a roadblock for most businesses and individuals.
  4. 3D printed objects may require heavy duty post processing – it isn’t only the lack of polish that is the problem but also the possible dimensional inaccuracy.
  5. Large scale adoption of 3D printing will result in significant job losses – every new invention ends up taking away jobs amongst the masses.

According to Beck and Jacobson (2017), legal implications may include what is exactly a product, who is the manufacturer, what is the marketplace, and who should be potentially liable for a defective 3D-printed product (once “product” is defined).

At the end of the day, the most important aspect of 3D Printing technology for retailers is whether the customers will accept or reject it.

What do customers think of 3D printing technology in retail stores?

Retail Customer Experience recently reported results of a survey by self-service solutions company Interactions on what shoppers want from retail technology. The study, “What Shoppers Want from Retail Technology,” surveyed more than 1,000 adult shoppers. Of those polled, 84 percent expect retailers to successfully use tech features and functionality to boost the shopping experience and 62 percent are motivated to shop after an initial human greeting when entering a store. Importantly is what the respondents said about 3D printing in shops…

“According to the survey, 95% of shoppers said they were eager to buy products that were 3D printed, and 79% said that they would even spend more money at a store that offered product customization through 3D printing.”

Wow, really? I think we should end (or start) here…

Concluding

Lastly, 3D printing technology for retailers is a genuine disruptive digital technology that may (or will) turn the retail industry upside down. There are many recent examples of disruptive technologies that changed the rules of the retail game. As the costs of buying and setting up 3D printing technology are getting less, more retailers will adopt the technology. Indeed, if you invest now in the technology, you’ll be an early adopter and enjoy (localized) market leadership. Consequently, you’ll have to battle through the growing pains of the technology. On the other hand, by waiting a bit longer, laggard retailers my get 3D printers for a bargain, but at that time, probably, the customers will already be with the pioneers.

Video: The 3D printing process

Notes

1 Li, Y., Linke, B.S., Voet, H., Falk, B., Schmitt, R. and Lam, M. 2017. Cost, sustainability and surface roughness quality – A comprehensive analysis of products made with personal 3D printers, CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology, 16:1-11.

2 Berman, B. 2012. 3-D printing: The new industrial revolution, Business horizons, 55(2):155-162.

3 Cremona, L., Mezzenzana, M., Ravarini, A. and Buonanno, G. 2016. How additive manufacturing adoption would influence a company strategy and business model, MIBES Transactions, 10(2):23-34.

4 Conner, B.P., Manogharan, G.P., Martof, A.N., Rodomsky, L.M., Rodomsky, C.M., Jordan, D.C. and Limperos, J.W. 2014. Making sense of 3-D printing: Creating a map of additive manufacturing products and services, Additive Manufacturing, 1:64-76.

5 Beck, J.M. and Jacobson, M.D. 2017. 3D Printing: What Could Happen to Products Liability When Users (and Everyone Else in Between) Become Manufacturers, Minn. JL Sci. & Tech., 18:143.

Images and video

  1. Commons.wikimedia.com; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D_print_in_process_(9437659715).jpg
  2. Proto3000

Success in the Digital Age Requires Extraordinary Retail Leaders

The carnage intensified last year. “There were 15 shop closures a day across the UK in the first half of 2016 and the number of new openings has fallen to the lowest level for five years” writes Graham Ruddick, senior business reporter at The Guardian. And the carnage is continuing this year. “Brick and mortar stores are suffering due to competition from online sales and the closures just keep coming” according to Daniel Kline in MotleyFool. What is happening? Where are the retail leaders?

The advent of eCommerce, mobile shopping, interactive social media and marketing automation caused a ‘digital disruption’ in the retail industry. However, many established retail brands failed to adapt to the fast changing behaviors and high demands of their consumers. The digital age has come for them and moved on. As a result, retail leaders that couldn’t cope with the disruption have capitulated. But what type of retail leaders does the sector need during these turbulent times?

Retail leaders in the digital age

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal 1. But how can retailers lead and influence their staff during this digital disruption? Maybe it’s time to challenge retail leadership says Ken Silay, Partner, Innovator’s Equation. Ken suggests writing for Innovative Retail Technologies that “The truth is retail is run by old thinking and old metrics” and “difference between the old and new thinking in business creates a gap in retail leadership that will continue to get wider”.

Dr Ganesh Shermon, Managing Partner for “R for C Talent Management Solutions” (North America) recently highlighted the challenges retailers face. He said that retailers are confronted with dramatic managerial changes, given the convergence of the human mind, (Intellect), behavioral psychology (Cognitive), smart machines, and deep learning science and knowledge (Neural networks) as the basis for management actions. That’s really a mouth full!

The truth is that the old way of leading a retail business does not work anymore. But what should retailers do to get their businesses on par with the digital age?

Strategies that leaders should consider in the Digital Age

Prof Kamal Kishor Jain, Head of HR and Business Psychology Department at IIM Indore, recently said digital age leaders need to acknowledge the limits of their expertise. Additionally, the leaders should build a reliable network of knowledgeable experts to help them navigate through their choices. Prof Jain suggests the following:

  • Speed – is the most distinguishing characteristic of the digital age. No matter how fast you are moving to transform your business; the depressing reality is that you still probably aren’t moving fast enough.
  • Knowledge creation – we need to become more right brained to compete and survive. Leadership is not a noun, it’s a verb. The real charismatic leader is one who disseminates knowledge into his subordinates.
  • Primarily leadership qualities – leaders should be daring, caring and sharing. ‘Failing fast’ and ‘falling forward’ are critical precursors to success in the digital era. Such disruptive change requires leaders to be caring about people are affected by such changes. It is only by caring that a leader can elicit support from followers.

The Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, an initiative of IMD business school and Cisco, and HR consultancy metaBeratung, have identified four competencies (HAVE) that business leaders need in order to excel in the era of digital disruption:

  • Humble – in an age of rapid change, knowing what you don’t know can be as valuable in a business context as knowing what you do. Therefore, digital leaders need a measure of humility, and a willingness to seek diverse inputs both from within and outside their organisations.
  • Adaptable – in a complex and changing environment, an ability to adapt is critical. The global reach of digital technologies has opened up new frontiers for organizations, shrinking once insurmountable continental divides and erasing traditional boundaries between territories. Dealing with the cultural and business impacts of this requires adaptability.
  • Visionary – in times of profound disruption, clear-eyed and rational direction finding is needed. Therefore a clear vision, even in the absence of detailed plans, is a core competency for digital leaders.
  • Engaged – painting visions for the future, successfully communicating these visions and being adaptable enough to change them, requires constant engagement with stakeholders. This broad-based desire to explore, discover, learn and discuss with others is as much a mind-set, as it is a definable set of business-focused activities or behaviors.

How can leaders change their retail business to digital?

It is impossible for retailers to change overnight from doing their things the old way to embracing the digital economy. Indeed, the process must get started and in quick time. Therefore, the ability to digitally re-imagine the business is determined in large part by a clear digital strategy supported by leaders who foster a culture able to change and invent the new 3.  Kane et al proposed the following strategies for retailers to use getting their business to the digital age:

  1. Create a strategy that transforms – when developing a more advanced digital strategy; the best approach may be to turn the traditional strategy development process on its head.
  2. Get the right people for job – just as important as developing talent is reducing the risk of losing it.
  3. Take risks – to boost risk taking in their companies, executives need to change their mind-sets.
  4. Sparking new ideas – many new ideas arise through collaborative efforts among people of different backgrounds.
  5. Telling the story – storytelling is becoming a popular means of gaining employee buy-in and organizational traction for digital transformation.

After all, it will probably require an extraordinary retail leaders to facilitate the move of their businesses from analogue to digital.

Watch this video: “A successful leader must be a global leader, says Marshall Goldsmith.”

Concluding

“If something isn’t working within your organization, challenge it. And if your leadership steps on your challenge, find someone to work for who isn’t afraid of a challenge. An organization that doesn’t try to define their future isn’t moving forward anyway” advises Ken Silay. Therefore, if you are one of the retail leaders raising your hand to lead your company into the digital age, make sure that you have the right qualities.

Read also:

Crossing the digital threshold – adding Clicks to Bricks for sustainable retail outcomes

Notes

1 Saint, S., Kowalski, C.P., Banaszak-Holl, J., Forman, J., Damschroder, L. and Krein, S.L. 2010. The importance of leadership in preventing healthcare-associated infection: results of a multisite qualitative study, Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 31(09):901-907.

2 Shermon, G, 2017. Bringing disruptions into the workplace, Human Capital, p44. March, 2017.

3 Kane, G.C., Palmer, D., Phillips, A.N., Kiron, D. and Buckley, N., 2015. Strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation. MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte University Press, 14.

Image and video

wikimedia.org; Big Think

 

Chatbots in Retailing – a Fact or a Fad?

Retailers are frequently yelled at by frustrated customers, or, if things go well, they are commended. That’s part of the emotional exchange that comes with a retailer’s job description. However, chatbots may change all of that.

A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. In other words, sales assistants in a number of retail businesses are now robots. To this end, bots can help retailers in many other ways.

“Chabots are seen as easy and fun ways to help customers achieve an outcome. You’ll encounter them on web sites, social media and even on your smartphone. Say hello to Siri, Allo and Alexa, to name a few”, writes Christine Crandell recently in Forbes.

Siri, Allo and Alexa are computer characters which, through natural language-style dialogs with humans, perform various tasks, such as answering questions, helping them to navigate websites. “They can either look like a human being, or a digital avatar, an animal, alien or may have an image that does not look like a living creature at all” according to ChatBots.org

Apart from retailers not having to face angry customers anymore, the bots allow Bricks and Clicks retailers to catch up on lost sleep. A chatbot is a handy aid for retailers with online customers when their bed time arrives.  “We’d all like to be all things to all customers, but even the most dogged marketer has to sleep sometime”, according to TargetMarketing magazine. The fiction of chatbots has now became a reality as many retailers has bought into the technology.

How chatbots can be used by retailers

Chatbots can be used in many ways by retailers. Nicki Baird (Forbes) suggests that chatbots can do everything – from interacting with customers about new products, to helping them to figure out the trading hours of your shop. Furthermore, leverage chatbots the ubiquity of messaging apps and allows retailers to conduct one-to-one conversations with customers in real-time. Besides, retailers have the opportunity to make money with chatbots.

Ross Simmonds (Crate, Hustle and Grind), identified seven ways retailers can make money with bots:

  1. Bots as a Services (BaaS) – help people and teams to be more productive. They can manage tasks or tackle communications challenges – by replicating business models already in use;
  2. Bots plus sponsored and native content – native or sponsored content is a model in which brands pay to have their content distributed by media companies directly into their channels;
  3. Bot leveraged affiliate marketing – for example: retailers can develop a bot that offers tips and tricks on how to stay healthy and use affiliate links to send people to fitness products that have affiliate links associated with them;
  4. Bots for research – there are bots that you can pay to do the research for you.
  5. Bots for lead generation – may act as a lead generator with an initial focus on content. Chatbots designed to deliver insights and information to users who are looking for advice or information can be lined up with products that the retailer offers;
  6. Pure retail sales bots – the user will make the purchase directly through a chat with the bot and it will act similar to a transaction from a typical website;
  7. Cost per conversation/task – as bots become more sophisticated, people may be willing to pay to have conversations with the bots that can help them with various challenges in life.

“Thanks to big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, as well as the proliferation of messaging apps, retailers finally have the tools (including chatbots) to get the right messages to their customers”, suggests Craig Alberino in TotalRetail. However, the chatbot hype is not favored by everyone…

Consumers that use  chatbots can complete a purchase in a minute or two. Have a look at the video from Kore:

The future use of chatbots

Although the use of chatbots is getting much attention nowadays, not everyone is excited about it. Jon Evens writing last year in The Walrus reminded us of the “Eliza effect: “Humans unconsciously assume that software which communicates conversationally has much more intelligence and sophistication than is actually present.

Inevitably, the software eventually fails to match that assumption, disappointing and frustrating the user who unconsciously expected more.” Consequently, your frustrated customers may want to communicate (again) in person with you. Because the computer does not understands… Above all, what is good and bad about chatbots? Quora.com responded as follows:

The Good Things about Chatbots The Bad Things about Chatbots
1.       Chatbots are a good alternative for mobile apps 1.       Chatbots have a high error rate
2.       With bots, nothing new needs to be learnt 2.       Chatbots don’t put people first
3.       Bots are capable of providing a great user experience 3.       Bots are limited in their capabilities
4.       Chatbots as the factotum for all business needs 4.       Chatbots aren’t as intelligent as humans

Concluding

In summary, are chatbots the “silver bullets” that retailers can use to compete in a digitized retail environment? Or will it be another fad with demanding customers not getting assisted properly? I suppose we have to wait and see. However, Leo Sun (fool.com) recently asked: “Were the social network’s chatbot ambitions ahead of their time?”

Importantly, this is after Facebook is reportedly scaling back its chatbot efforts on Messenger after the programs failed to fulfill 70% of users’ requests. Consequently those requests couldn’t be handled without human agents, and bots built by outside developers “had issues” because the “technology to understand human requests wasn’t developed enough.”

Finally, perhaps Dale 1, (2016) sobering comment can be noted by all: “If we want to have better conversations with machines, we stand to benefit from having better conversations among ourselves.”

Additional reading:

  1. Artificial Intelligence – Digital Outcomes or Digital Disruptions for Retailers?

Note:

1 Dale, R. 2016. The return of the chatbots. Natural Language Engineering, 22(5):811-817.

Image and video:

  1. Pixabay
  2. Kore

How successful are Retailers in the Omnichannel?

Bricks and Clicks (B&C) retailing is with us for more than two decades. The adding of the online channel to their physical business has allowed retailers to survive and grow even during tough trading conditions.  However, a recent report by Andria Cheng in eMarketer suggests that B&C retailers are struggling to the get their omnichannel strategies to work.

Andria refers to a 2016 survey of about 350 retail and consumer goods CEOs in countries such as the US and China. The survey was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for JDA, a supply chain software provider for retailers from Ann Taylor parent company Ann Inc. to grocer Albertsons. Several worrying aspects about the use of the omnichannel in the retail industry came to the fore with this survey.

How effective are Bricks and Clicks retailers using the omnichannel?

The reasons for retailers to become Bricks and Clicks were discussed previously by this author: “Crossing the digital threshold – adding Clicks to Bricks for sustainable retail outcomes”.  However, the implementation of an omnichannel retail strategy seems not that straightforward.

Results from the survey commissioned by PwC (reported by eMarketer) indicated the following:

  • More than half of retailers haven’t started implementing, are struggling to define or don’t even have plans to develop a “digital transformation strategy”.
  • Only 10% of CEOs say they are able to make a profit while fulfilling omnichannel demand because of delivery and other supply chain complexities.
  • 75% of retail executives said their online operating costs as a percentage of sales have seen either “significant” or “some” increase in the past 12 months. One key driver of that increase: 74% of retailers said customer returns are hurting profit to “a great extent” or “to some extent.”
  • CEOs, especially those in the soft-lines (like apparel) and hard goods (like appliances) sectors, said that their greatest concern is inventory exhaustion, or “out of stock.” Out of stock is a big problem hurting retailers’ ability to convert sales when consumers visit stores.
  • More than half (51%) of respondents said they offer or plan to offer pick up in store in the next 12 months.
  • With the high costs of free shipping and other delivery offers, 33% of survey respondents said they would offer same-day delivery in 2017, down from 44% last year. Meanwhile, a third of respondents said they plan to increase the minimum order value. The percentage of retailers offering specific delivery time slots also has declined.
  • Almost three-fifths of retailers surveyed said they have no plans to reduce their store investment and said their online sales are “additional” sales that aren’t hurting their physical store sales.
  • Automation and internet of things rank lower on their investment list for now, even though these are the areas that are gaining ground as retailers consider them “true game changers,” according to the survey.

Digital technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and self-service technology (SST) are for long now available for retailers to use.

How to add digital technology seamlessly to your retail business

Digital communication technology is part of the retail setup and is here to stay.  However, retailers are reluctant to adopt the technology for a number of reasons. Retailers should consider the following when deciding to add digital:

  1. Visualize what your business will achieve by adding digital and how your customers will respond to it;
  2. Develop a business plan to integrate the digital with the physical operations of your business;
  3. The integration will cost you money – find out how much and where the funds will come from;
  4. Before your spend a cent on it – discuss and argue the process with all the stakeholders – allow everyone to have their say;
  5. If possible, do a quick survey with your customers to get their opinion on the matter;
  6. Once everyone has agreed with the integration, develop and implement an integration strategy;
  7. Measure the results and make corrections as the process moves forward;
  8. If you lose money continuously, start again or discard the process.

Most of the reactions of the CEOs coming from the PwC survey can probably be because they didn’t plan properly. To be honest, failing to plan is planning to fail.

A strategic planning session

Concluding

The digitization of retail is as revolutionary as it gets. Not only that, it is disruptive. Integrating the digital with the physical is no more ‘a nice to have’. Retailers ignoring the revolution facilitated by digital communication technology, and driven by their customers 1, will fail. Strategic planning may help retailers to do the integration orderly and seamlessly. Only then retailers can enjoy success in the omni retail channel.

Note:

1 Picot-Coupey, K., Huré, E. and Piveteau, L. 2016. Channel design to enrich customers’ shopping experiences: Synchronizing clicks with bricks in an omni-channel perspective–the Direct Optic case. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 44(3):336-368.

Further reading

  1. How do Customers Respond to Self-Service Technology in Retail Shops?
  2. Artificial Intelligence – Digital Outcomes or Digital Disruptions for Retailers?
  3. Retail and the Internet of Things

Images:

  1. Flickr.com
  2. Wikimedia