Retail needs to go from analog to digital on the backend

Quick poll: How many of you have a story you can share about accidentally making an online purchase? Maybe it happened late at night or it was the result of an inadvertent Google Home command and before you knew it, you had the entire boxset of Game of Thrones DVDs at your front door? Digital storefronts make it incredibly easy – maybe sometimes too easy – to make online purchases anytime, anywhere.

 

That easy experience goes beyond DVDs of shows you’ve already binge watched. Think about this: Do you even need to go to the grocery store anymore? Why bother, when there are services that will bring whatever groceries I select right to my door, with a few taps on my phone? Or, I can take it a step further, and not even waste the time making a list of what I need and instead rely on a meal-planning service to send me all the right items, prepackaged and ready to cook. No need for thinking!

 

Even clothing is not exempt from these ultra-simple, ultra-fast experiences. Why head to the mall when a personal stylist can tell me what I want and need, sending the best products to my doorstep within a day or two? Better still, why buy when instead I can find my designer favorites on Pinterest and rent or subscribe.

 

Our lives as consumers are definitively digital, totally mobile and completely connected. Welcome to the New Retail Economy.

 

But what’s crazy is that this model isn’t translating across the retail industry. In this world where the consumer version of me expects things instantly, professionally, as a retailer and product developer, we are living in a universe of complicated spreadsheets, endless email threads and long lead times. It’s all so analog and, by today’s standards, pretty much ancient.

 

The retail industry needs to take a page from the book of the modern consumer and invest in some better buying habits. A few places we can start:

  • Come up with better backend interfaces: The tools we’re using, whether old-school PLMs or just plain Excel, aren’t exactly works of art. Let’s stop with the plainness and clunkiness of those options in favor of some slicker, easier tools that we might actually enjoy using. To be creative and dream up cool new product ideas, we need some visual inspiration and a simple approach.
  • Enable real collaboration: Enough with the endless emails. We all have inboxes that are way too full and there are much better ways to communicate in 2017. Why not use our own social media-esque community heavy on images, or a conversation thread similar to Slack to share our ideas? If we’re all about social media in our personal lives, we should use the same principles in our professional ones.
  • Make it all mobile: There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able share ideas with my peers on the go, in one dedicated, central place. The first thing I pick up in the morning is my smartphone, so I should be able to directly connect with my retail community from an app right on my home screen.

 

Learn more about how retailers need to change the way they buy with our whitepaper The B2B retail revolution: Rethinking how brands create and shop for products.

About Kamal Anand

Product Technology Strategist

Kamal Anand has deep experience in supply chain and global sourcing software development. He drives the Bamboo Rose product technology strategy. Kamal is an avid traveler and enjoys playing the role of soccer coach and Lego builder with his 2 sons.