Categories
Fulfilment Technology

Give Customers Greater Control Post-Purchase, Argues Manhattan Associates

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


The most successful consumer-facing businesses today are those that uncover their customers’ needs first and then work backwards to provide the right experience. In theory, customer experience should have always been at the heart of retailers’ strategies from day one. After all, the whole point of retail is to serve the customer. But, let’s face it, for a long time, retailers were able to dictate the terms.

As Eddie Capel, CEO of Manhattan Associates, told me at the Manhattan Exchange in Berlin last month: “We got used to a no culture. Do you have my size? No. When might it be back in stock? Dunno. There was a lot of no in retail for a long time. Retail has turned into a ‘yes culture’.”

But what sparked that change? I was intrigued to hear his thoughts because this formed the very foundation of my and Miya Knights’ Amazon book, so I naturally had a few ideas of my own on the topic.

Eddie Capel, CEO of Manhattan Associates, says the retail industry has shifted to a ‘yes culture’

“Retailers did not have to worry about loyalty, but that has changed immensely now. Creating a ‘yes culture’ has become key, and Amazon and others have pushed retailers on service and delivery promises. Technology is helping to keep those promises,” Capel added.

I couldn’t agree more. As customers today, our tolerance for mediocrity is pretty low. We expect to shop on our terms. We no longer accept bland, vanilla retail experiences. Instead, we want the red carpet rolled out for us. We want a white-glove experience. We want to be wowed, surprised and delighted.

Retailers have made significant progress in blending the physical and digital worlds, but there is still more to do. In the whitepaper that I authored for Manhattan Associates, we found that just 6% of retailers that we surveyed have an accurate view of their inventory across their entire business 100% of the time. I have to admit, that figure shocked me given that we are living in this on-demand era where customers are hyper-informed and, in Capel’s words, retailers need to be “promise keepers”. How seamless of an experience can you offer if you don’t consistently know where your stock is?

Another area where I see room for improvement – and this was reaffirmed by the report – is returns. Even today, the post-purchase experience is often neglected. For example, only around half of retailers we spoke to allow customers to buy online and return in-store (46%) or buy in-store and return online (50%). 

Enabling this level of flexibility and cohesion will enhance the experience for the customer, but more needs to be done to stamp out returns from happening in the first place. The industry needs to collectively address its perennial problem. In recent years, retailers themselves have exacerbated this problem in an attempt to appease the customer – offering free returns and encouraging a buy-to-try mentality.

There is some progress being made, for example around sizing/fit among fashion retailers. Some have even gone to the extreme of charging for returns, very much uncharted territory for a sector where over one-third of purchases are returned. And let’s not forget, as counter intuitive as it may seem, those big returners are often a retailer’s most valuable customers.  

But it’s better for all parties to get it right in the first instance. Looking across the wider retail industry, another way to reduce the rate of returns is by giving customers greater control over fulfilment. As things currently stand, all control is lost once the customer places an order. If they want to change their delivery or edit their basket, it’s simply too late. It then becomes a return.

Giving customers more control post-purchase doesn’t just translate to a better customer experience – which ultimately drives greater loyalty – but it also has both economic and environmental benefits. Brian Kinsella, SVP, Product Management argues that customers should be granted a window in which they could change their mind on fulfilment method, for example switching from home delivery to click & collect and vice versa. Kinsella even believes that shoppers should be able to cancel an online order. Why? To drive down returns, or what he calls “unnecessary shipments”.

In Berlin, Kinsella also called out the importance of communication post-purchase. More retailers, for example, should be utilising real-time messaging with home delivery, again to simultaneously improve the experience for the customer while ensuring someone is in to receive the delivery.

Historically, retailers may have begrudged looking beyond immediate customer needs, but today it’s imperative that retailers proactively address pain points. They need to be continuously re-evaluating the customer journey, identifying and removing any new points of friction and ensuring that they are going above and beyond. The risk of inaction is simply too great.

Categories
Technology

Tech-Enabled Human Touch: Interview with Zebra Technologies

Paid partnership with Zebra Technologies


I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Mark Thomson, Retail Industry Director, EMEA at Zebra Technologies. In this interview, we discuss the benefits of automation, importance of associate experience and why the time has finally come for RFID.

Retailers have accelerated digital transformation strategies over the past few years. How have you seen the industry evolve?

Retail is in the process of redefining itself and we continue to see the repurposing of the physical store in this new digital world. You can leverage more aspects of a physical store compared to a purely online engagement. This is why retailers need to view their stores as assets, rather than just a weight of costs. It doesn’t matter if people buy while in the store; what matters is we influence them.

The industry is now in a more complex phase than at any other point in its history, but retailers don’t want technology companies throwing solutions at them. What they want to know: is who is doing it well? Who should we look at and how do we get there?

Ten years ago, everybody trekked off to New York in January [for the NRF show] because the US was leading the way in technology. I think that’s kind of changed now. European retailers have become trailblazers, especially when it comes to online adoption in places like the UK, Netherlands and the Nordics.

Mark Thomson, Retail Industry Director, EMEA at Zebra Technologies

Let’s talk automation. It gets a bad rap at times, so can you talk us through the drivers and benefits?

When I talk about automation and productivity solutions, I always get asked: “Doesn’t that just put people out of work?” Well, a lot of retailers are struggling to find people. It’s not a case of retailers wanting to reduce the staff they have, it’s just that they can’t attract people in the first place. People today don’t want to work a 40-hour-plus week in a retail environment, so retailers are left trying to find ways to improve productivity among their existing staff.

Also, with wages increasing rapidly, the cost per employee has also increased, meaning higher productivity is a key goal. Retailers are there to provide the goods, services, and experiences that consumers want, but they also need to make a profit for the business. And everywhere you look today – supply chain, fuel, lighting, labour – input costs are going up.

In conjunction with this, shoppers are increasingly choosing self-service options and retailers have to implement automation technologies to support that, from self-scanning to electronic shelf edge labels as well as robotics. All play a part, but staff will continue to be crucial in delivering the best experience, so I see a hybrid future.

I totally agree. Tech-enabled human touch is going to separate the winners from the losers going forward. How can mobile technology in particular improve the associate experience?

We have to move to a situation where all staff are connected – to communicate with other members of staff, to self-serve in terms of their scheduling, just to name a couple of examples.

Believe it or not, many store associates today are using WhatsApp groups to communicate. The retailers I’ve spoken to don’t officially allow it but they’re essentially turning a blind eye to it because that is currently the best way to boost productivity and collaboration. Store managers are still spending several hours a week creating rotas in Excel. And we’re still running and monitoring stores based on old measures, for example asking staff to leave their mobile phones in their lockers.

Staff want more flexibility. They want to choose if they want to work on Saturday night. They want to look for a shift rather than being told to work one. The bulk of today’s retail workforce have grown up with technology, so automation is well suited to meet their needs and, at the same time, it helps retailers to manage their productivity and profitability. It will generally make the workplace a better place to be because you’ll end up with happier customers.

Let’s explore that in more detail. Customer experience is becoming the new battleground in retail. How might the role of store staff need to change to support this shift?

There’s only one way to an amazing customer experience and that is staff experience. If you employ the right staff, train and incentivise them in the right way, and give them the right tools to get the job done… then they become your ambassadors. 

When a customer leaves the store dissatisfied, it’s usually due to 1 of 2 reasons: either they can’t find the product they’re looking for or the staff were unable to help. As an industry, we need to address this. Retail has become very operational and functional. It’s no longer somewhere people look to as a career. This has to change – how do you make retail an attractive career? There needs to be progression and it needs to be enjoyable.

But store staff today have more tasks than they did 5-10 years ago. Complexity and workloads for retailers have increased to incorporate not only store operations but also for online fulfillment, so staff are now tasked with serving customers while also handling collections, processing returns, etc. As soon as they get any free time, they’re filling gaps on the shelves. There’s no down time. A decade ago, it was a more relaxed environment. Still pressured but nothing like today. You can’t throw more staff at this problem, you need technology.

We want happy customers. We want to be able to predict exactly what those customers want. We don’t want to have too few products. We also don’t want to have too many. The more technology you add to your store, the more data you generate which you can then analyse further to improve the set-up, process, assortment and staffing.

Let’s close by discussing RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Has its time finally come and, if so, why now?

It’s a great question and one I get asked every year. Retailers across all sectors know the technology and at some point have looked into it. The drivers now are different, and I think this will see a renewed growth of adoption.

RFID enables greater confidence in store stocks allowing the store to be a distributed online fulfilment centre. Higher stock accuracy levels reduce overstocks, which improves the bottom line (critical at this challenging financial time). Customer satisfaction improves too, as they have better visibility of items available. Meanwhile, retail staff are able to quickly respond to out-of-stocks by ordering the product from another store or the DC and having it delivered (what we call “saving the sale”). Everybody wins. The technology is tried and tested but as the benefits and implementation elements hit multiple departments, the project needs high level support. When a project gets this, it’s transformational.

Mark and his team at Zebra have just launched a Retail Maturity Model to help retailers on their technology journey. Learn more about the roadmap and how it can help retailers to improve inventory visibility and labour management.

Categories
Consumer E-commerce Fulfilment Retail trends Technology

Recalibrating for the Next Normal

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


Greetings from Germany! I’m here at the Manhattan Exchange in Berlin and am super excited to share with you a new report that I’ve authored for Manhattan Associates: Recalibrating for the Next Normal.

The pandemic may have accelerated digital transformation strategies, but what comes next? We spoke to 3,500 consumers and 700 leading retailers across the US and Europe to get a better sense of the consumer landscape and the capabilities required as retailers recalibrate for this next stage.

The findings of this international research study highlight the need for retailers to continue to keep up with the pace of evolving consumer expectations. It also revealed a retail landscape where the lines between physical and digital commerce are becoming increasingly opaque and complicated. 

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Download the full report.

Categories
Amazon E-commerce

When Do We Stop Calling Amazon a Retailer?

A question I often get asked is what is Amazon? Amazon sells everything from nappies to treadmills, but it also produces hit television shows and provides cloud computing services to clients ranging from McDonald’s to NASA. Amazon is also a hardware manufacturer, payment processor, technology provider, advertising platform, virtual tour operator, ocean freight business, publisher, wi-fi system, delivery network, fashion designer, private label business and an airline.

Portland, Oregon, USA – September 2, 2019: An Amazon Air Boeing 737 landing at Portland International Airport on a sunny summer day.

It doesn’t stop there. Amazon is a supermarket (and now officially designated one here in the UK by the Competition and Markets Authority). It also operates America’s largest civilian surveillance network. Amazon is a pharmacy and healthcare provider and has dabbled in restaurant delivery, luxury goods and hair salons. It has even tried to cure the common cold (yes, really).

So, going back to the original question – what is Amazon? Certainly not just a retailer.

In fact, as Amazon continues to diversify its revenue streams, its retail division – as a percentage of sales – becomes less significant. In 2021, Amazon’s global net product sales amounted to $242 billion, representing 51% of Amazon’s total net sales (versus 87% a decade ago). 2022 will be the tipping point when most of Amazon’s sales come from services, not from shifting goods. Amazon is rapidly transitioning from merchant to infrastructure.

So let’s break that down a bit because, with the exception of Amazon Web Services (AWS), its services are heavily intertwined with its core retail operation. Remember, Amazon doesn’t own the majority of stuff that is sold on its marketplace, but instead takes commission on third-party sales and, in many cases, charges for shipping and fulfilment. This is by far its biggest “service” revenue stream: globally, sales from third-party seller services nearly doubled over the past two years to become a $104 billion business.

As third-party sales continue to grow as a percentage of total paid units, Amazon’s stated sales become less reflective of the gross merchandise volume moving through Amazon.

The pandemic has clearly cemented Amazon’s status as the indispensable route to market, as we’ve witnessed a swathe of shoppers, retailers and brands flocking to its platform. And, of course, as Amazon’s marketplace becomes more crowded, the need for visibility becomes more urgent. This has catapulted one of Amazon’s more nascent, but hugely promising businesses – advertising. For the first time ever, Amazon disclosed the size of its advertising business – at $31 billion it is bigger than the online advertising revenues of Microsoft, Snap and Pinterest combined.

It’s also worth comparing advertising to Amazon’s other revenue streams. Advertising, which is growing at around 60% annually, generates more sales than Amazon’s physical stores and it’s even bigger than Amazon’s Prime subscription business.

Prime, which is very much the glue of Amazon’s ecosystem, is a service that is about to get more expensive for shoppers, at least in the US. Amazon recently announced a fee hike of $20 annually, which should help to achieve two things. Firstly, it will soften the blow of rising shipping and labour costs that Amazon and the rest of the industry is grappling with. Secondly, Amazon has been in major spending mode recently, and in relation to Prime, the fees will help to offset Amazon’s extra investment in digital content in addition to some of the more logistically complex promises such as “free” same-day grocery delivery.

Prime fee hikes were inevitable and, in my opinion, are we are likely to see a similar hike here in the UK later this year. It’s a delicate balance at a time when household budgets are being so severely squeezed, but Prime has become a way of life for many. The nature of its bundle proposition has become wildly relevant for today’s shopper – Amazon added over 50 million new Prime members globally throughout the pandemic. We’ll see some attrition of those newly acquired, perhaps more hard-pressed Prime subscribers, but I imagine the vast majority of members are far too wedded to the brand and broader ecosystem to even blink an eye.

Of course, it’s not just the revenues generated from services linked to the success of its core retail division – third-party seller fees, advertising and Prime subscriptions – that are poised for solid future growth. But we have to remember that Amazon is a technology company at heart. AWS may only account for 13% of global sales but it remains the cash cow of the business. Its remarkable growth has been fuelled by the pandemic-driven acceleration of cloud adoption, and there is no sign of this slowing down with further expansion planned in the Asia-Pacific region and Canada.

With Amazon, things are not always what they seem. Amazon is quietly becoming the rails that the retail and many other sectors run on. Its moves are designed to strengthen other aspects of the business. For example, Amazon continues to explore the lucrative world of licensing its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers, such as Sainsbury’s. But its checkout-free systems are naturally underpinned by AWS so an increase in demand for Just Walk Out technology also bolsters Amazon’s most profitable business segment. 

So, no, Amazon is not a retailer but a tech company that is becoming increasingly reliant on services as a means of driving topline growth. It just happens to sell a lot of stuff in the process.

Categories
Uncategorized

IWD: Interview with Manhattan Associates

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


In celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD), I spoke to two of Manhattan Associates’ female leaders – Ann Sung Ruckstuhl, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, and Heather Mahan, Vice President, Professional Services. From balancing careers with motherhood to overcoming imposter syndrome, we candidly explore some of the challenges that women in business face and share inspirational ideas for change among future female leaders.

Can you name a female role model and how she has influenced your career?

HM: My very first professional experience was at a Fortune 300 chemical manufacturing company. My manager led the quality department and was one of a few female directors in the company. To this day more than 25 years later, I think about and strive to emulate her leadership style, her presence among her peers and her senior management team, her pragmatism, and her confidence.

In a company of engineers and chemists, mostly men, she with her journalism degree brought up female leaders and built balanced-gender and high-performing teams. I didn’t realize at the time what an influence she would have on me but looking back now I am beyond grateful that she was my first boss.

What is the most important piece of advice you have ever been given?

ASR: To move up, you have to be willing to move laterally or even down occasionally for the right opportunities. Keep your eyes on the prize but pace yourself. There are many ways to the top.

“IWD means celebrating and recognizing the significant contributions that women have made to our societies at large. It is an invitation and call-of-action to women of all ages to dream big, speak up and take actions.” – Ann Sung Ruckstuhl

What are the biggest challenges that women in business face today?

ASR: I see two big challenges for women in business today. First, a self-defeating attitude which causes women to constantly second-guess ourselves before reaching for the stars. We tend to over-prepare, under-appreciate our abilities, and end up “not putting our names in the hat” for that next opportunity or promotion. Second, a general lack of C-level sponsors who are willing to coach and give women a shot at the top c-level jobs.

HM: Being a mom and a woman in business is a juggling act. Women still often carry the majority of kid duty, from getting groceries and planning meals, to laundry, to homework help, to shuttling to practice and rehearsal, to making and taking doctor and dentist appointments. The shift in duties at home has not happened as quickly as the shift in our hours at the office, and women in business are challenged to be everything to everyone.

Can you share a time you encountered a challenge as a woman in business and how you overcame it?

ASR: The biggest challenge I encountered in business came as I embarked on motherhood. There were so many moments of discouragement that made me want to step off the fast track. Having to return to work in less than 6 weeks after childbirth, figuring out how to continue to nurse while traveling for business, worrying about quality childcare; there were so many obstacles to overcome. My saving grace was having a supportive husband, a network of friends and trusted paid help who provided the necessary “infrastructure” to make work and life possible.

HM: One of the most common challenges I’ve faced and continue to face is having to work a little harder than male counterparts to establish credibility. I remember being barely 25 when I was sent to Sao Paulo to support a troubled project start up. It took a solid three days until any of the leaders at the site would even acknowledge me, much less listen. However, by the end of the week I had a queue of supervisors asking me for help solving their problems. They begged me to stay an extra week, and when I did eventually fly home, they sent me home with hugs and gifts. 

“We need to seek out talented women and mentor them early and often.” – Heather Mahan

What is your proudest professional moment to date?

HM: Two years ago, Manhattan launched Manhattan Active Warehouse Management, our new warehouse management system, versionless and born in the cloud. I led the team that implemented that new solution successfully for our first customer, through COVID, labour shortages, and the supply chain disruption that was 2020. That implementation more than any other in which I’ve participated brought together colleagues from nearly all parts of our organization. Together we delivered value beyond expectation for our customer and in the process ignited the market for our innovative new technology.

How can we encourage more women into leadership positions?

ASR: The desire to lead must come from within. For those who are not interested in leadership positions, it is ok. For those who are interested, we can encourage them to take next steps by doing a couple of things. First, make yourself available for coaching, mentoring, skip-level 1:1s and informational interviews. Second, be your authentic self and share your experiences, routes to leadership, and useful life hacks freely. Actions speak louder than words. Women learn from each other naturally; interactions and benefits go both ways indeed.

HM: As one of a handful of senior female leaders at our company, I try to be highly visible and available for any conversation about career progression, how to balance work and family, and provide input on hard problems, off the record or on. I am transparent about how hard it is sometimes: stressful for me, hard on my husband, and unfair to my three girls when I am traveling or working long hours. But I encourage women that they can find their way and their leadership makes a difference. We also need to provide flexibility in assignments, travel requirements, and office schedules.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would you tell her?

ASR: Don’t be so anxious about wanting more – more intellectual stimulation, more travel, more experiences, more friends, more kids, more love, more money, more physical fitness. Pace yourself. You’ll get all that you need, just not all at the same time. So rejoice with what you have, just keep an eye out for that next aspiration.

How can the supply chain industry encourage more women to make it their long-term careers?

ASR: First, inspire women to be a part of the solution by highlighting the multi-faceted challenges facing the supply chain industry – from warehousing, transportation, automation, robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, omnichannel retail, environmental sustainability, social responsibilities, ethical business practices to change management – all exciting areas for career growth as well as opportunities to help build a better society.

Second, support women to stay in the industry by providing family-friendly policies including childcare, elderly care, training, proactive career planning and flexible work arrangements.

If you could wave a wand & change one thing for the next generation of female leaders, what would it be?

HM: I would make it possible for moms to have the option to go back to work and keep climbing without concern for their child’s well-being or a financial burden.

ASR: When it comes to that next promotion or career change, be “gender blind” and stop second-guessing yourself. You can do it.

#IWD #Manhinfluencer

 

Categories
E-commerce

The Quick Commerce Boom Shows No Sign Of Abating

Quick commerce, rapid delivery, serving the ‘instant needs’ market. Call it what you’d like, but the uber-convenience boom has arrived and is here to stay.

What was perhaps initially seen as a pandemic pivot will have lasting implications for the retail industry and its supply chains. Forget same day or one-hour delivery; 15-minute delivery of groceries is rapidly becoming the norm in many urban areas around the globe.

But is there really a need for it? Are grocery orders really that time-sensitive? And how financially sustainable is this model? In this blog for Manhattan Associates, we delve into some of these topics and explore what 2022 might bring.

Disrupting the disruptors

First, let’s acknowledge that we live in a ubiquitously connected world. A world that is digitally accessible with amenities on tap. A world where we can while away the hours consuming digital content, a world of home comforts and infinite choice. A world with instant access to millions of products to buy, songs to listen to and movies to watch.

We may be living in an on-demand era, but when it comes to grocery shopping missions, up until recently, it was primarily the weekly food shop that was done online. The top-up grocery shop was still very much an analogue experience.  

The unparalleled disruption caused by the pandemic not only accelerated online grocery adoption, but it also created an entirely new channel – we are finally witnessing the digitization of the top-up shop.

The 15-minute supermarkets – the likes of Gorillas, GoPuff, Getir and Zapp – have come in all guns blazing, boldly debuting their new brands and elevating the customer experience to new heights, seemingly unfazed by the crowded, low-to-no-margin nature of this industry.

These rapid delivery platforms are essentially acting as a 21st century version of the corner shop, catering to those convenience/crisis-led shopping missions – shoppers who need an ingredient or two for tonight’s dinner, who have run out of nappies or beer, or perhaps are quarantining and struggling to get a suitable slot with one of the big grocers. They are disrupting the status quo and redefining immediacy. Niche, but highly relevant in the current climate.

While shoppers will always say yes to faster delivery and better service, you do have to wonder whether this small segment of the grocery channel is worth disrupting? And I say “small” for three reasons:

1) As above, 15-minute grocery delivery caters to niche shopping missions – top-up, ‘for tonight’ and food to go;

2) Let’s face it, this kind of model requires significant population density and will therefore be largely limited to cities;

3) Despite best efforts to democratize it, ultra-fast delivery is a premium service catering to time-poor, and often cash-rich, shoppers.

According to IGD, the quick commerce sector is currently worth £1.4 billion in the UK, with the opportunity to more than double in size to £3.3 billion – still a distinctively small slice of a £200+ billion sector.

Boom or bust

So is the hype around quick commerce justified? Or will this become another pandemic innovation that quietly fades away as we settle into yet another new normal?

My view is that rapid delivery, in some shape or form, is here to stay. In recent years, the supermarket price wars have been superseded by the delivery wars. Fifteen-minute delivery takes this to the next level, one in which the mainstream supermarkets – and even Amazon – would not historically venture towards.

Why not? Because this model is messy. You are promising customers the moon on a stick and one bad experience can be detrimental to the brand. It is an unproven and wildly capital-intensive model, requiring hyper-proximity to the customer (if you’re going to deliver within 15 minutes, you’d better be within a mile or two). Not unlike the hard discounters, you also have to significantly sacrifice on range in order to make the economics stack up.

But time is a precious commodity and the ultra-fast delivery providers have now ripped the plaster off. This is convenience on steroids. It’s a deepening of the democratization of white glove service, a trend that had long been brewing pre-COVID.

To some, quick commerce perhaps represents a dystopian future where we never need to leave our sofa when we run out of bread. To others, it’s a case of going back to the future – the milkman of the digital age.

Regardless, it would be difficult to wean customers off now that they have had a taste of this uber convenience, leaving the market with no choice but to follow. We have already witnessed the start of the inevitable consolidation within this nascent sector, as well as an increasing number of partnerships with the grocers themselves. In 2022, we could very well see the acquisition of a rapid delivery provider by one of the major supermarkets.

Quick commerce will remain a niche segment of the online grocery channel, but certainly one not to be ignored with much wider implications for retail supply chains.

Whether it’s the practical processes associated with microfulfilment (such as automation and the integration of man and machine), transportation modelling for the ‘last mile’ or the broader concept of moving supply chains closer to consumers, the impact of quick commerce may be felt far beyond its immediate sphere of operations into 2022 and beyond.   

Categories
Amazon E-commerce Technology

New Book Explores Amazon’s Pandemic Power Grab

The COVID crisis has upended shopping habits and forever changed the world of retail, according to the second edition of Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer Will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce. Authors Natalie Berg and Miya Knights argue that while COVID sounded the death knell for many businesses, one retailer in particular has come out stronger: Amazon is hands-down the undisputed winner of the pandemic.

With crisis comes opportunity – for Amazon at least. While many retailers muddled their way through the pandemic, Amazon propelled itself into new industries, made blockbuster acquisitions, launched new products and brands, and doubled down on technology. The retailer hired hundreds of thousands of employees, unveiled new store formats, turned disused malls into warehouses, and even added a couple of new markets to its roster. A key theme of this crisis is that the strong will emerge stronger.

“Amazon’s business model may not have been intentionally built for a pandemic, but it has turned out to be highly relevant in such a climate,” said co-author Natalie Berg. “Amazon is seemingly invincible these days. The pandemic-induced shift towards a more digital world has strengthened every aspect of its business – retail, cloud computing, advertising, Prime and Alexa.”

Amazon is now firing on all cylinders. It has woven itself into the fabric of our everyday lives and, in the absence of regulatory intervention, will continue to benefit from post-pandemic tailwinds,” concluded Berg.

The authors argue that the pandemic has afforded Amazon a unique opportunity to tighten its grip on consumers and bolster its broader ecosystem by:

  • Reinforcing its status as the indispensable route to market
  • Further embedding itself in consumers’ homes
  • Accelerating its vision as a technology vendor

Co-author Miya Knights added: “The second edition underlines Amazon’s seismic digitally-enabled impact on the retail landscape. Technology has always moved at breakneck speed, but the added catalytic effect of the pandemic has only spurred Amazon’s ambitions to use its tech advantage to consolidate and grow its dominant market position.”

Knights continued: “This is a crucial time of transition for new CEO Andy Jassy as he is tasked with convincing lawmakers that Amazon’s ubiquity is good for the economy – and for democracy as a whole. His number one job will be ensuring Amazon doesn’t go from disruptor to disrupted.”

The book also advises how retailers can co-exist with Amazon and identifies six key retail trends being accelerated by the pandemic:

  1. The demise of ‘status-quo retail’
  2. Digital transformation: COVID will finish what Amazon started
  3. The digital store: frictionless shopping and no-touch checkout
  4. The store as a fulfilment hub: the future of e-commerce is stores
  5. The democratisation of white-glove service
  6. The shift to conscious consumption

With the first edition now translated into more than a dozen languages, Amazon is an invaluable resource for discovering the lessons that can be learned from the retailer’s unprecedented rise to dominance.

To arrange an interview with Natalie or Miya, or to request a sample chapter, please email hello@nbkretail.com.

About the authors:

Natalie Berg is a Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail, a consultancy specialising in retail strategy and future trends. Regarded as one of the world’s Top 20 retail influencers, Natalie has led research and given talks on a range of industry topics including: reimagining retail for the post-pandemic digital era, store of the future, the convergence of physical and digital retail, customer loyalty and discount retailing. She is a regular TV and radio commentator and her views on retail have been published in the FT, Guardian, BBC and The Times, among others. Natalie is also a guest contributor for Forbes and Retail Week.

Miya Knights is Global Content Strategist at poq Commerce, with 25 years’ experience as an analyst, journalist and editor specializing in retail enterprise technology use. Based in Sussex, she is the owner and publisher of Retail Technology magazine and has appeared on the BBC, Channel 4 and Euronews and commented in The TelegraphThe Times and The Financial Times among others, as well as regularly speaking at or moderating industry events. She has also been recognised as the 2021 Arts & Media Senior Leader by the Black British Business Awards. 

Additional files:

Amazon book cover (high res)

Natalie Berg headshot

Miya Knights headshot

–ENDS–

Categories
Amazon Fulfilment

Co-op Becomes The Latest Supermarket To Run On Amazon’s Rails

The ultimate frenemy, Amazon has added another major British supermarket to its roster. Co-op shoppers can now do their full grocery shop on Amazon, with access to the supermarket’s range of 3,000 items and “free” same-day delivery for Prime members. The service will initially be available in the Glasgow area before expanding across the UK in the coming months, as Co-op aims to double online sales by the end of the year.

Co-op joins the likes of Morrisons, Booths and Amazon’s own Whole Foods Market as supermarket chains now accessible via Amazon’s platform. So why are retailers increasingly content to overlook the huge competitive threat posed by the e-commerce giant? Three reasons: Amazon’s reach, technological prowess and fulfilment capabilities.

Read my full article on Forbes

Categories
Technology

Point of Sale: Achieving Customer Nirvana

Paid partnership with Manhattan Associates


Imagine a world where shoppers can walk into a clothing store, scan the price tag on a dress, and complete payment on the spot. Imagine a world where virtual stylists allow shoppers to seamlessly pay by link, or a world where instore shoppers collecting their online orders aren’t just handed a package but are greeted with personalised recommendations to complement their purchase.

This world isn’t so far off, according to Manhattan Associates Solutions Executive Joe Kamara. “We’ve built a unified platform that brings the best of traditional Point of Sale (POS), order management and store operations together so you can orchestrate these different flows.”

In conversation with Natalie Berg, Retail Analyst and Founder of NBK Retail, Kamara said that the next generation POS is being accelerated by the pandemic-driven shift to digital. While in crisis mode last year, retailers quickly pivoted to ensure that stores could continue serving customers via click & collect and kerbside pickup, while simultaneously processing online returns instore. Kamara believes that this behaviour will outlast the pandemic, reinforcing the need for retailers to ensure they are equipped with the right tools to seamlessly serve the customer across multiple touchpoints.

Considering POS as part of the customer experience journey

For many retailers around the globe, this is becoming basic hygiene. Even in the years leading up to the pandemic, the role of POS was being drastically redefined as the industry adapted for the digital era.

  • Pre-purchase – traditionally, retailers took a store-only view of the customer and the sharing of data and shopper preferences across channels was limited. Today, there is an enterprise view of the customer, and retailers have full visibility into purchase history as well as sharing of digital data.
  • Purchase – when it came to out-of-stocks, the experience used to be “filled with roadblocks and friction”, according to Kamara. Today, however, thanks to retailers’ endless aisle capabilities, shoppers can make a single purchase for items that are available both in and out of the store.
  • Post-purchase – it’s difficult to cast our minds back to a time when stores would not accept online returns, given the ease and proliferation of choice today when it comes to returning goods purchased online.

The industry has come a long way to meet the needs of the 21st century shopper who wants to shop on their terms, irrespective of device or channel used. But, as we witness a post-pandemic acceleration in the convergence of physical and digital retail, it’s imperative that retailers continue to move the dial, removing any remaining friction points from the instore experience. This is no time for complacency.

For example, if we go back to the perennial problem of out-of-stocks, it’s hard to believe that even in this day and age, only a small minority of retailers are capable of offering in-store purchasing from another store’s inventory. From a customer experience perspective, this feels entirely unacceptable given the industry’s broader efforts to digitize the physical store. Not only do retailers risk losing the sale but it can be detrimental to brand loyalty in the long-term too.

The future of e-commerce is stores

Recognizing that the role of the store is no longer limited to selling, it’s essential that bricks and mortar retail is repositioned as a hub for fulfilment. The benefits are clear: retailers with store fulfilment options see higher revenue growth (114% increase when click and collect is implemented and 60% increase when ship from store is implemented). The future of e-commerce is stores.

In order to meet customers’ supercharged expectations, retailers must adopt a sell/fulfil/engage anywhere mentality. However, when it comes to future-ready POS implementation, retailers often make three common mistakes, according to Kamara:

  • Adopting a store-only plan, damaging future agility
  • Minimal investment in change (e.g. limited budget for user training; limited project communication plan)
  • Selecting a “proven” vendor with old technology

All too often, retail organisations are still thinking in silos. Instead, Kamara recommends that retailers develop a unified commerce roadmap (POS + order management), make a clear plan for organisational change and select the right vendor capable of delivering on the long-term.

You can find out more about Manhattan Associates’ POS solutions here.

#BeMorePOS #ManhInfluencer

Categories
Amazon

Bye Bye Bezos

The changing of the guard at Amazon. After more than a quarter of a century at the helm, Amazon’s founder CEO Jeff Bezos is handing over the reins to former AWS boss Andy Jassy. In this interview with BBC World, I discuss with Sally Bundock the two key challenges that Jassy will inherit – the threat of regulatory action to curtail Amazon’s dominance and ensuring that Amazon does not go from disruptor to disrupted in the future.

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And some good news! The second edition of my and Miya Knights’ book Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer Will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce is now available for pre-order.