Industry Updates

Where is Retailing Headed? If You are in the Supply Chain, You Better Know

Written by Ken Kinlock
Published on Friday, 21 June 2013
Choices Direction ArrowsIn April, 2013, Mike Martz wrote about "Omni-Channel". It is all about the way we will be buying as a consumer. He sent an alert to eCommerce and the supply chain that it will have a BIG effect. To me, it sounded like a revolution was coming! I decided to learn more.
I took a look at an excerpt from a new book by Doug Stephens called "The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism". The retail that we know is going to change. Won't be tomorrow; might take a decade or two. It is all about data, processing power and connectedness.

The word retail comes from the Old French word retaillier, meaning cut up or divided up. Thus a merchant who bought a large quantity of one or more products, then divided it up into smaller quantities for resale to consumers, was called a retailer. Doesn't say anything about the retailer requiring a "brick and mortar" store. Consumers have always had to go SOMEWHERE to shop (store, internet, telephone, catalog, etc) because the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers controlled the show.

So which of these "destinations" to shop is going away? None of them! Instead a new destination is appearing: YOU! Stephens talks about a shopping experience at some point in the future. Your experience will be aided by your "digital assistant". This "digital assistant" can exist because the data about you exists (what you have bought in the past, your preferences, favorite colors, sizes, etc).

The days of buying on retailers terms will end. It will now be all about anywhere convenience and only-here experiences. If a brand does not adapt, customers will simply look elsewhere.

This is not about a shift from brick and mortar to eCommerce. Any way you buy, YOU are the destination. We won't see the difference between online and offline retailing. No more going to a brick and mortar to find the color you want is out of stock and on backorder. No more waiting half a day for a courier service because if you miss them, you must figure out how to get to their warehouse which is usually in the farthest corner of the airport.

Lot happening with delivery. Amazon is piloting delivery to 7-11 outlets. KIALA in France relies on local places in YOUR neighborhood (a newsstand in my case). ShopBox in the UK uses a "box" outside your house that even holds perishables. WalMart customers could soon be delivering your package.

What is the "digital assistant Mr. Stephens refers to? Now we have a "Personal Digital Assistant" (PDA). BusinessDictionary.com defines as " Powerful handheld computing device without a keyboard, but with a screen that reads the words written (drawn) on it with a pen-like stylus. Most PDAs have capabilities to take notes, write letters, keep records, perform spreadsheet functions, read bar codes (like QR codes), connect to networks to download and upload data, and synchronize its data with a desktop computer (or the Cloud)."

TechTerms.com says these are the little electronic devices you see people jotting stuff down on in public. Usually, when you see someone with a PDA, they will be holding it out far front of them for everyone to see. Fortunately, as PDAs become more common, more people will have them and we won't have to deal with the people who make sure everyone else sees that they have one.

Lexique, the Universcience Glossary take a more futuristic view on them: "The PDA has now become a high-performance multimedia accessory. Different models have different capabilities, but these days all PDAs have a color screen, sophisticated calendar and address book features, the capability of playing digital music, displaying photos and playing video sequences. PDAs can also connect to the GSM or GPRS mobile network, or to a local wireless network such as Wi-Fi so that they can be used to read e-mails and Web pages."

Now the $64 question. What is different about a smartphone and a PDA? At the end of the day, NOTHING. It is when they can access the huge databases being developed (Big Data) that their real value will occur. Nobody but Doug Stephens yet refers to "digital assistants" as either "she" or "he".

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