Taking stock: What it takes to be an intelligent retail enterprise

  • Posted on April 2, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
how to develop an intelligent retail enterprise

Bots, blockchain and more at NRF 2019
This year at NRF, Avanade’s walk-in demo lab created a lot of buzz. Why? We showcased several platforms and applications designed to help retailers become experience-centric intelligent enterprises by embracing a customer-centered growth strategy through the power of data and artificial intelligence (AI).

Intelligent retail is a rare mix of foresight, agility and ingenuity
To become forward-thinking and fast-moving organizations, retailers need to deal with a core issue: due to the lack of data unification across legacy systems (POS, transactional), many are already behind on their digital transformation journeys.

A closer look at the data dilemma
The reality is that only 18% of CEOs believe they have a single, full view of their customers’ wants and needs. Most retailers are far from being truly connected, struggling with siloed data, poor data quality, limited resources to interpret analytical outputs, absence of a clearly articulated analytics strategy, and a limited software toolset to support their ambitions.

Recent research from Avanade and Incisiv

These challenges prevent retailers from using data more strategically; in fact, less than 30% of companies are able to convert data into actionable insights to impact future performance – even though data is unanimously considered the biggest business asset.

Based on our extensive work with retailers, Avanade has identified three levels of organizational maturity:
1. Streamline and connect the supply chain
2. Align marketing and campaigns to actual delivery execution
3. Create new revenue streams and business models while improving both the customer and employee experience.

The fact is… most retailers are still at level one in terms of becoming an intelligent enterprise, and that’s backed up by the research conducted by Avanade and Incisiv.

How, then, do you reimagine your business to create an intelligent and engaging retail experience – for both customers and employees?

Data and AI rapidly reveal customer insights
Retailers need the right capabilities to sense and predict, act rapidly or change course quickly, and amplify the valuable power of their human capital. Data and AI are the underpinnings of success. According to recent research by Adobe & Narrative Science, nearly half of digitally mature organizations have a defined AI strategy, and more than half of companies with an innovation strategy are using AI to identify opportunities in data previously missed.

With the power of AI, it’s entirely possibly to not only identify high-value customers, but to also understand and predict what makes them feel special. This allows for moving away from broad brushstroke customer engagement strategies and develop highly targeted ones, such as new product previews, exclusive events, personalized product design with data, high-end “clientelling,” and proactively meeting unmet customer needs or providing incentives for social media engagement. Intelligent segmentation allows you to act on events in real-time, deliver truly personalized experiences, engage customers and elevate the digital and physical experience – online, in-store, everywhere - defying any physical/digital boundaries.

In short, AI allows for leaping ahead – and using dark data – to move beyond forecasting to unlock algorithmic efficiencies and leverage data to improve retention and loyalty.

It’s not all up to AI
The path forward lies in augmenting the human workforce with a digital workforce. As RPA, Intelligent Automation and AI are becoming more mainstream, it is crucial for organizations to become intentional about what #futureofwork means for their workforce. Begin with an integrated vision for transformation that leverages emerging technologies as levers. Then work tirelessly to develop a growth mindset and innovative culture within the organization so “change” is something that people embrace rather than fear. You cannot build a digital workforce without full buy-in from the human workforce!

Sure, platforms can cull through data, rapidly identify patterns and assist in data-driven decision making. But it will be important for this capability to be in the hands of trained employees that understand how these tools will reshape their work. Repetitive, manual work can be automated with automation, but it will be a shift in mindset AND skillset of an organization that will build the adoption that delivers real business outcomes.

Automation, which includes technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Intelligent Automation and Robotics process automation are not a “plug and play” solutions. It is a balance of human centered design (process design, program design, technical design, even UX design) with strong change management that leads to exponential benefits.

For more formation about leveraging AI to create your path forward, I can recommend the Microsoft AI for Retail playbook, and the following concepts showcase Avanade’s work exploring innovation to unlock an “intelligent” retail approach.

Avanade Digital Retail Innovation demos at NRF 2019
Avanade showcased several demos at NRF, all of which use data and analytics in connected ways to address the four pillars of digital transformation: engage customers, empower employees, optimize operations, and improve products and services.

  • Intelligent Revenue Growth - An intelligent connected analytics solution that pulls together systems and allows management to track predictions across common retail functions: market analysis, price, promotions, campaign personalization and even product placement and assortment optimization.
  • Oltiva Gems - A clienteling application that provides a centralized view of online and offline activity to give staff the ability to track and holistically manage all customer-related activities and products, while creating an engaging in-store customer experience.
  • Connected Operations + HoloLens Experience - A real-time data visualization solution that utilizes machine learning, predictive analytics and intelligent alerts to optimize remote operations management, including a mixed reality experience for enabling an interactive virtual 3D view of onsite operations.
  • Blockaccino - A blockchain-based platform and mobile application that tracks the coffee journey through its entire lifecycle, from bean to brew. It illustrates how your supply chain can be improved and how to provide customers with product insights.
  • Retail HR “Sally” Bot - A chatbot solution that empowers store associates by helping to answer questions related to scheduling, training, payroll, benefits, etc. This bot is available across a variety of interfaces and can be integrated with smart speaker devices.
  • First Class Cabin Design + HoloLens Experience - Makes the next generation of product design a reality by empowering designers with cutting edge AI technologies to customize individual components of a first-class airline cabin and visualize the generated designs in a mixed reality environment.

Are you interested in developing an intelligent retail enterprise to increase customer and employee satisfaction, optimize operations and drive profits? Please contact me to schedule a call or arrange a retail innovation workshop or demonstration to unlock the power of innovation for your retail enterprise.

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