Blog originally featured in Supply & Demand Chain Executive business magazine on July 7, 2015.
Information flows quicker and easier than it ever did before. Long gone are the days when we heard about yesterday’s news in the morning paper. Asking someone for directions seems like a quaint ritual of our parents. Asking a hotel concierge for dining recommendations feels like a chore.
Finding and comparing products online is far more frustrating than it needs to be. Especially if you’re trying to find the online version of a product you found in the store. There is almost no correlation between the offline product world and the online product world. I can say this confidently, because I found out from personal experience recently. Continue reading
I recently had a chance to speak with Philip Britt who was writing an article for Enterprise Apps Today about the 9 Tech Trends Transforming Retail. There is one area in particular that we discussed I thought I would spend some more time on here today – the Cloud.
The retail industry is facing a host of challenges today; new regulations (such as EU 1169 in Europe), changing shopping behaviors (Mobile and Online shopping), an increased demand for access to product information (thank you Smartphones), and shifting buying power (Millennials beginning to outspend Baby Boomers). Any one of these challenges over a five-year period would put stress on the infrastructure that most retailers rely on. All 5 at once are causing them to transform the way they operate their business, and the infrastructure they use to do it.
I think it is fair to say that commerce has always been a very social activity. Marketplaces have been a gathering place for people for thousands of years and word of mouth has always been a huge influence on what people buy. But as more and more people engage in social networking activities and platforms (1.3 billion people use Facebook every month), there is a new opportunity to provide commerce as part of people’s interactions in social networking activity.
E-commerce as a sales channel for the retail industry continues to grow. Currently, e-commerce accounts for about 6% of overall retail sales, and about 11% of the top 30 product categories, according to Forrester. The growth rate of e-commerce sales is currently estimated around 15% annually, much higher than that of traditional in store sales.
But, with that said, many look at that one metric, e-commerce sales and can be mislead because it is relatively small at 6%. So even with good growth, it will remain a very small, niche “channel” in the minds of many retailers.
Digital technologies are transforming the way we shop. E-commerce and smartphones have raised the expectation consumers have about their shopping experience. One of those expectations is around personalization. Amazon knows what brands I buy, what type of product I’m searching for, what special events I have in my life, what types of new products I might find interesting, and many other things. This allows Amazon to create a very personalized experience for me as a shopper. Product recommendations and deals often resonate very well with me, and encourage me to make a purchase.
We’ve talked a lot about how the retail industry is going through a transformation in this blog. The consumer, and their desire to make informed purchase decisions are driving most of this change. As retailers begin to adapt to the connected consumer, many of their systems will begin to change in order to support the experience the consumer is demanding. The one system change that will likely take the lead in this change is the Point of Sale (POS).
Retail stores are doing everything they can to entice consumers to visit their location, and forego shopping online. The theory is that a superb in-store experience, combined with instant fulfillment, will make even the savviest connected consumer spend more time and money in the store. For this to happen however, there is a bar for convenience that has been set by the e-commerce industry that must be matched – checkout.
The Mobile Product Information Gap
Online sales in the U.S. totaled $263 billion dollars in 2013, an increase of almost 17% from 2012 according to the US Census. According to research firm Javelin, mobile commerce accounted for almost $60 billion, representing 188% growth from 2012. While this impressive growth in mobile commerce represents a tremendous opportunity for the retail industry, it also represents a huge challenge.
The Harvard Business Review ran a great blog post: The Future of Shopping. The post pointed out that every 50 years or so, retail undergoes a major transformation.
Every 50 years or so, retailing undergoes this kind of disruption. A century and a half ago, the growth of big cities and the rise of railroad networks made possible the modern department store. Mass-produced automobiles came along 50 years later, and soon shopping malls lined with specialty retailers were dotting the newly forming suburbs and challenging the city-based department stores. The 1960s and 1970s saw the spread of discount chains—Walmart, Kmart, and the like—and, soon after, big-box “category killers” such as Circuit City and Home Depot, all of them undermining or transforming the old-style mall. Each wave of change doesn’t eliminate what came before it, but it reshapes the landscape and redefines consumer expectations, often beyond recognition. Continue reading