How Augmented Reality Will Revolutionize Retail

How Augmented Reality Will Revolutionize Retail

This summer, we saw millions of people leave their homes and head out into the wilds of their parks and neighborhoods — all in pursuit of virtual monsters. We speak, of course, of Pokemon GO, which for many individuals represented their first taste of augmented reality (AR). For many retailers, the sudden and startling success of Pokemon GO begs a very particular question — if a single AR application can convince millions of Americans to get up and walk for hours on end, what might it do for the workforce? As it turns out, a new generation of workers is entering the labor force, and they’ve grown up using unimaginably advanced technology. From a cross-disciplinary point of view, we see that enabling workers with technology they’ve grown accustomed to can unlock extraordinary benefits. For example, when field service technicians are provided with high-technology assists, they’re able to achieve an 80% first-time fix rate. Can AR technology help power similar gains in the field of retail? One of the most common applications for augmented reality thus far has been assistance with the training or performance of complicated tasks. As an example, an experimental AR application for the US military has been developed to help technicians perform service on vehicles and equipment. The technician wears a pair of glasses with a built-in camera while working on a system. The glasses will identify the vehicle, throw a digital overlay for specific parts, and then provide instructions for installation, de-installation, and maintenance. This system is similar to the one currently used by GM to train their factory workers — and it most likely...
For Big-Box Retailers, Investment, and Training Pays Off

For Big-Box Retailers, Investment, and Training Pays Off

It takes a human being to pick, sort, pack and ship box after box of inventory – and increasingly, the data shows that companies treating those human beings well see the highest level of success. It used to be a truism that employees of big box chains worked long hours for low pay. Retailers assumed that they needed to keep employee costs low so they could defray the high cost of intensified logistics. As it happened, however, this approach made logistics — and even basic retail operations — costlier, less efficient, and less likely to earn customer loyalty. Here are two stories about how big-box retailers, Costco and Walmart, were able to succeed in the marketplace by investing in their employees. Do Rising Wages Equate to Corporate Success? In an age where service workers across the country are going on strike for a $15.00/hr minimum wage, Costco employees make $20 on average (before overtime). The starting rate is lower, but it was recently raised — from $12 per hour to $13.50 for entry level employees. Commensurate with the pay increase, Costco also announced that it was opening 30 new warehouses, that it has acquired 1.3 million new cardholders, and that it had registered a 4% increase for in-store sales. Clearly, Costco isn’t hurting too much. Without a comparison, however, it’s difficult to separate correlation from causation here. Does Costco’s focus on employee investment directly link to stronger sales? One could perhaps argue that Costco’s strength as a retailer has nothing to do with their treatment of employees — that Costco succeeds in spite of treating its employees well, not because...
The Omni-Channel Effect: How Retail, Distribution, and Manufacturing Are Evolving

The Omni-Channel Effect: How Retail, Distribution, and Manufacturing Are Evolving

The term “omni-channel” is being used to the point that it’s becoming a marketing buzzword — but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. As omni-channel trends take hold of the retail industry, supply chain managers must take notice. Providing customers with consistent experiences throughout the research, shopping, purchasing, and fulfillment processes (regardless of channel) is almost a necessity today. However, supply chain processes of the past won’t be sufficient in the age of omni-channel. If you want to keep pace with omni-channel trends, your supply chain processes have to adapt. The Omni-Channel Challenge The world’s largest retailers are accelerating their efforts to implement omni-channel functionality such as ship to home/return to store, online order/in-store pickup, and anytime/anywhere access to inventory. The experience from order processing to fulfillment all the way through pickups and returns has to be seamless or customers will simply move to your competition. This places significant pressure on supply chain managers who have to redefine their planning designs and segmentation capabilities. Proper segmentation allows you to isolate inventory levels against plans and helps you pick up the shifts across channels that are difficult to see without analytical tools. Not only that, proper segmentation enables you to rebalance inventory as you notice overstocked conditions in one segment versus understocked conditions in another. However, none of this segmentation is possible without visibility into service requirements. Understanding how to sync deployment with demand makes it possible to keep up with omni-channel challenges. The problem is that planning and segmentation are easier said than done as supply chain processes transform. Putting an inventory optimization solution in place will help...
Closed-Loop Product Lifecycle Management: Deliver Inspired Products in Fashion and Retail

Closed-Loop Product Lifecycle Management: Deliver Inspired Products in Fashion and Retail

In the fashion industry, new product development is a dynamic process that is highly dependent on seasonal demand. Traditionally, the full development cycle of a new product occurs at least twice a year on short schedules. In the past decade the revolution of “fast-fashion” has caused retailers to develop products at a frenetic pace. This movement is changing the face of the global apparel industry and placing more pressure on retailers, forcing them to deliver ten fashion collections a year, versus the traditional four. Decreasing customer attention spans along with increasingly varied purchase options fuels shortening delivery schedules. Whether it’s digitally purchased through social media, or by mobile methods, customer expectations are shifting. To remain competitive, fashion and retail developers must either rise to the challenge or fail as a business. That path to success ultimately points to an integrated product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. Developing at a Frenetic Pace In a recent survey conducted by Aberdeen Group, inefficient collaboration was the overriding theme for fashion and retail companies at 57%, with siloed departments second at 36%. They were 54% more likely to list poor collaboration as a challenge over companies not in the fashion industry. By its very nature, the fashion industry moves quickly, requiring flexibility across the entire organization. A disjointed company, weak in collaboration and working in siloed departments, will be slow to react to changing market sentiment. Notably, data quality was listed as a challenge for retailers, demonstrating that insight and visibility into product development data and activities is a strong differentiator. Data-driven decision making keeps retailers smart and connected to the process, affording them...
Salesforce Acquires Demandware

Salesforce Acquires Demandware

On June 1, 2016, Salesforce announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Demandware. This announcement comes close on the heels of NICE Systems acquiring inContact and Vista Equity Partners acquiring Marketo. Demandware is an e-commerce platform that helps retailers manage content on their sites, plan and execute promotions, optimize prices, and personalize web experiences. Many of these capabilities already exist in the Salesforce ecosystem, however they are dispersed across products such as Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Analytics Cloud. With yesterday’s announcement, Salesforce takes a step towards bringing the technical capabilities retailers need to manage digital conversations together in a unified platform. It also reflects the company’s roadmap for building vertical-specific cloud solutions. The first of these two were Financial Services Cloud and Healthcare Cloud, both of which were announced during Dreamforce 2015. Once Salesforce has successfully integrated Demandware’s capabilities into its current cloud-based offerings, we can surely expect the company to announce a “retail cloud.” A retail cloud aimed at blending traditional CRM and e-commerce capabilities would be attractive to retailers currently struggling with the integration of numerous point solutions. Indeed, according to Aberdeen’s latest customer experience management study, the lack of systems integration is the top challenge keeping retail executives up at night, especially when it comes to designing personalized interactions across multiple channels. We should also look at this acquisition in the context of the current competitive landscape. In 2013, SAP acquired Hybris – another large commerce platform provider. This was a move that enhanced SAP’s CRM capabilities aimed at supporting retail organizations. Oracle, for its part, has also been enhancing its retail capabilities over the past few years through acquisitions of companies like BlueKai, Endeca and Maxymiser. Launching a...
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