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Retail in the Digital Age

eCommerce has shaped the landscape in the retail market. It is compulsory to have online and offline experience for your customer. Depending on the market segment retailers have adopted different strategies to handle online and offline. You can optimize this strategy, but this is not the strategy for the digital age where information for the customer and the retailer is the key.

The traditional retail market is under pressure from the manufacturer, with flagship stores and direct online sales through the manufacturer online portals. At the time of writing this article, this business model created only a fraction of the sales figures as in the prevailing retail business. But this could change faster as new platforms for connecting manufacturers with their customer will arise. The game to win the market share is about convenience for the customer. Customers looking for a more convenient shopping experience, which merges offline and online beyond cross-channel sales. Customers require the information for the decision, which they perceive as valuable information.

To be ahead of your competitor or define your market niche you must be upfront in the definition of customer satisfaction. Logistics and warehouse management will be in the near future a commodity which can be bought.

With the upcoming capabilities of personal assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google assistant, we will see a merge of offline and online within our old brick and mortar stores. This merger allows bringing information from both worlds together to help to reduce the qualification effort within the counter employees. To bridge the gap between offline and online and use the full power of personal assistants even in the offline and online world, the need for a holistic information model is evident.

Your good old product model, which you have extended over the years, will not allow you to bridge the gap between offline and online business.

Many retailers have a setup eCommerce as a dedicated department, which must take care for all the information enrichment necessary to attract customers in the online world. This department must deal with the data given from your classic business model and often struggle with the inflexibility and incompleteness of the data model. This department can’t solve the information gap.

Bring instore navigation to the customer requires more information than your classical retail product model. Linking the curiosity for new products and what you can achieve with them in real time with the customer through his smartphone or virtual interaction is not built into your current IT landscape. This requires a fundamental shift in the information model and how data is maintained in through the organization.

To develop the business model which unites offline and online, your organization must follow this unification in processes and organizational structure. The definition of a business model, which is highly influenced by the technology, is no longer manageable as a demand from your business units to your technology department. This requires tight interaction between the customer focused business, purchasing department and not at least the technology experts. These group together defines the demand. To provide a holistic information model where each touch point is able to derive his information from it and do only little enrichments specific to his touchpoint. This requires a new organizational structure to maintain these data, to provide the necessary capabilities for customer interaction.

The future of a brick and mortar store lays in the vision of having a farmer and craftsmen market, where you could ask each producer about his product. But all this driven by AI technology to grow the trusted feel in your customer of buying the right product. All this with a global technology stack and an organization which can reflect on the local attitude.

This vision can only come live if your information model provides all the necessary data and can deal with the input provided. As in the case with the personal assistant, it is always necessary to understand what question can be raised in the context of the sales and service. If the question is not known, the answer can never be given.

At the end, it comes to the point: Does your information model provide the right data or only data. Don’t see it as an IT challenge, it is a business challenge.

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