Retail industry conversation about innovation inevitably focuses on the brick & mortar store, eCommerce, or consumer-facing technologies. Meanwhile, the staid distribution center is undergoing its own transformation.
I can remember when voice-guided picking was the new thing and how space-age it seemed to have order pickers being directed by the computer behind the headset each person wore. Today, that kind of technology has become boring when we see the robotics and automation that is sweeping across distribution centers. There are case-picking robots, piece-picking robots, robots that bring merchandise to humans, and even completely automated distribution centers. Drone technology has warehouses too, with different solution providers tackling slotting errors, out-of-stocks, and other operational issues.
Some wholesalers and distributors are even acting as outsourced eCommerce fulfillment centers for their retail customers, orders being passed from the retailer’s online ordering site to the distribution center for fulfillment to the customer’s home.
And while maybe not as sexy as robotics, the latest AI and machine learning powered optimization technologies are providing significant value to distribution centers as nearly everything can be optimized, from slotting layout to order picking, in-bound product deliveries to out-bound deliveries, and even the delivery routes. AI and machine learning tech is tailor made for demand forecasting and inventory optimization as the distribution center level.
The CART team is seeing all this and more as we coordinate Innovation Program events for larger, self-distributing retailers and for significant wholesalers and distributors across different product lines and categories.
If you’re a self-distributing retailer or a dedicated wholesaler / distributor give CART a call to learn about what’s new. And if you’re a solution provider relevant to distribution, check in with us to learn about the Innovation Program events we’ve got coming up.
Gary Hawkins, CEO, Center for Advancing Retail and Technology
I see a lot of solutions that focus on the fast moving consumer goods retail sector - retail like supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, and discount stores. And when I say a lot I mean hundreds and even over a thousand solutions each year. And while many of these solution providers are challenged to effectively and efficiently communicate their value proposition, retailers can do more to help.
Technology providers love to talk about features and functions, about how what they have built uses the latest hot technologies, and so on. Retailers would be well served to help focus the presenter on:
1) What problem is the solution provider solving for the retailer or what opportunity is being presented?
2) Get the solution provider to clearly call out what resources are required from you the retailer to deploy the solution?
3) How is the solution provider pricing their capability? Can they provide you an ROI calculation? Is it based on real experience at other retailers?
4) Can the solution provider give you a referral from another retailer who has used their solution?
5) For very young companies and startups, explore their level of resources and funding. The last thing you need is to get excited about some new capability only to find the solution provider lacks the wherewithal to deploy all your stores.
Lastly, and you can do this early in your meeting, seek to understand if the solution provider knows your business. We encourage solutions to visit the retailer’s stores before any meeting to gain an understanding of how the stores operate, etc. Solution providers seeking to sell you something that fail to understand your business are sending a signal.
Staying on the cutting edge of technology is important for most business owners. Over the past few years, there has been a definite shift towards data-driven marketing and customer service. Companies around the world spend about $57 billion on data technology each year.
Once you have gathered data from your clients, figuring out how to use it is challenging. One of the best ways to use this information is to improve the customer experience. Focusing on making your customers happy will allow you to keep them loyal for years to come.
Here are some of the ways big data can be used to improve the customer experience.
1. Data Can Be Used to Target Your Marketing
Developing a successful marketing strategy is one of the most challenging parts of being a business owner. The only way to make this process easier is by using the power of customer data. Looking at metrics like click-through rates can give you an idea of what your audience responds to.
Failing to understand who your audience is and what they want can lead to lots of problems with marketing. Many businesses use customer sales and geolocation data to target their audience. Providing customers with coupons or sales information based on this data can help you increase your bottom line.
Understanding more about the data and how to use it is easy with a bit of research. If you are looking for more information about creating predictive models with the data you have collected, check out this DaniWeb post.
2. Avoid Problems When Customers Contact Your Company
For most business owners, taking calls or answering emails from customers is something they do daily. If you are looking for a way to improve customer calls, then monitoring metrics like how long it takes your team to handle these calls is important.
Usually, a business owner will see problems based on these metrics and devise a plan to fix them. Sometimes, training your team on how to handle this type of customer communication can remedy any issues you may be dealing with.
3. Take Customer Feedback Seriously
When collecting consumer data, don’t forget to look at the various reviews your business has received. If you see the same complaint from consumers, chances are you need to address this problem.
With all of the different online reputation management programs on the market, staying updated on any negative reviews about your company is easy. Using this data to improve the customer experience is essential when trying to achieve long-term success in your industry.
4. Appealing to Consumers on an Emotional Level
Some of the most successful marketing campaigns on the planet use emotion to convey their message. Finding out how your audience feels about certain topics is important when trying to develop a winning marketing campaign.
Finding this information is easy if you look at data from social media comments, call transcripts or even surveys you have conducted. This data may show that you need to soften your language or tone when marketing to certain parts of your audience.
Using a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing will create lots of issues. Therefore finding out more about how your audience feels is so important to developing a customized plan of attack.
5. Track the Success of Certain Products or Services
As a business owner, you will be required to make important decisions regarding the direction of your company regularly. Trying to make these decisions based on a “gut feeling” is a bad idea. When trying to figure out what products or services you need to invest more money into promoting, be sure to look at the data you have collected.
Not only can you find out how popular a product or service is with sales data, you can look online to see what your customers are saying about them as well. Providing your audience with what they want is a recipe for success.
Using Data is a Must For Modern Business Owners
Trying to gain a competitive edge in your industry is impossible without the use of data. With the help of customer data, you can figure out where you need to improve and how to increase the number of quality sales leads being generated.
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