There was a lot of discussion coming out of retail’s biggest yearly event, the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Annual Convention & Expo about some key technology drivers like analytics, supply chain collaboration, and mobility. Also known as “Retail’s BIG Show,” January 14-15 in New York City, the event hosts over 25,000 global retailers with representation from more than 80 countries.
We caught up with Amin Shahidi, HP Enterprise Services Vice President for Consumer and Retail Industries, afterwards, to get his thoughts on what was being discussed and what some of the impacts will be for the retail industry in the days and months to come.
Ken Howard: What were some of the business drivers that you focused on at NRF?
Amin Shahidi: There are basically four key drivers that we talk about in the new retail agenda:
1) Analytics for enterprise action – a lot of analytics is being deployed in siloes. There is a need to develop an enterprise-wide view of those actions and identify readiness for action. Retailers have been buying optimization suites for pricing, merchandising, space optimization, and customer analytics. They just don’t cut across the enterprise. They do the analysis but each department acts on their own.
2) Influence customer experience and choice everywhere – This is about identifying what are the experiences that drive transactions across all channels and then driving that experience to make it more productive for the retailer. Channel evolution and competitive intensity across all channels are driving the need for increased interactivity in stores, omni-channel maturity, deeper integration and faster innovation.
3) New horizons for supply collaboration – This area has traditionally been supply chain-focused. Procurement, sharing forecasts, item info, item sales and movement data between retailer and the suppliers. So far, that’s been the context of this collaboration. But today the context goes beyond this. There is a lot of content that is required to support the rich customer experience across all channels and most of this comes from the suppliers. There are a lot of supplier actions that are happening in the retailers’ space. Today, that collaboration mechanism doesn’t incorporate all of these emerging requirements from product development to in-store support to content distribution to content syndication. So that’s where we see additional opportunities for the retailers. This is about the extended touchpoints that the retailer has with its suppliers that haven’t traditionally been managed or have been locked up siloes.
4) The fourth focus area is that complexity of retail environment is not going away. Part of the cost competitiveness of every retailer is around managing the costs. A clear retail agenda remains the focused on achieving de-complexity of the back-office, supply chain and store operations and by rationalizing the enterprise portfolios and of applying leverage by incorporating strategic external capabilities, services and assets, perhaps via cloud services.
KH: What were some of major take-aways from the NRF this year?
AS: Mobile continues to dominate. As you walk the concourse and talk to people, almost every offering has a mobile aspect to it. It’s not that there a lot of new mobile offerings. It’s more that a lot of the traditional areas of functionality now have mobile adjuncts.
Additionally, there was a lot more this year about customer data – customer insights – customer segmentation. And also what I call retail planning solutions which cover in one suite the various aspects of planning including merchandising/pricing/planning space.
KH: Analytics are getting a lot of attention, but so far, it’s been focused more on the big players. Do you think that this is something that will become more accessible across all levels of the industry?
AS: All of these offerings are trying to level the field. Certainly the early movers have been building these analytic abilities. As these technologies are becoming better known, they are making their way into packaged solutions.
But I have to say that a lot of the analytics applied thus far has been fairly limited. For example, some of these early implementations with online retailers have revolved solely around the collection of data about your purchase and then continuing to supply you with targeted promotions about that same item. Knowing your purchase history for only one product from one channel becomes a hindrance. The challenge is to get a 360-view of the various transactions that the shopper makes across all channels, including those not in your eco-system.
If you look at entrants in the marketplace, for example, getting a quality of service survey linked with segmentation of the customer, versus collecting Facebook data and segmenting according to that, you begin to see more robust types of analytical capabilities emerging.
KH: Any other insights?
AS: Generally speaking, there is a lot of interest in near-field communications (NFC) payments. There are still conflicting models that are shaking out. So I think we’ll be watching that space for some time.
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