We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with JDA Software GVP Product Strategy Todd McCourtie to discuss the future of brick-and-mortar stores. Successful retailing comes down to one thing: getting the right product into shoppers’ hands. That may sound simple, but success requires inventory accuracy, efficient sales associates and the flexibility to quickly adapt to shoppers’ needs in near-real time. That said, thanks to today’s emerging retail technology solutions I’m convinced that the retail industry’s future has never looked brighter! –Stacey Shulman
Q: To start off, what are some of the challenges you see brick-and-mortar retailers facing that technology solutions can help solve?
A: Today’s retailers are looking for answers to the same questions that have always challenged the retail industry. How do I manage my inventory? How do I deliver a great customer experience? Moreover, how do I optimize my workforce for maximum results? Technology can help here, but what has really emerged is that as some retailers have tried to solve these challenges they’ve ended up cobbling together islands of technology. So it’s been very difficult for them to get that full 360-degree view of the store that leads to actionable results. I think that’s where we see opportunities emerging through technology solutions that can seamlessly support retailers with their immediate problem, which is how can they make sure they’ve got their inventories in the right place in the store.
Q: Can you talk a bit about how improving inventory management can solve several retail issues at once?
A: There’s a couple things. First, it’s not just a missed sale if the inventory is not in its place, but it affects the customer experience. Whether a retailer offers an inviting and easy-to-understand sales process is completely irrelevant if the product isn’t on the shelf. So, to me, that’s where it starts. If retailers have inventory visibility they can start to do localization because they’re seeing the real-time demand. A great example that focuses on localization is the question of why do sweaters arrive at Phoenix, Arizona, stores in May? It makes absolutely no sense. If near-real-time inventory management solutions are in place, then retailers have insights into the buying habits of individual stores and communities. They can then instantly replenish inventory, or not, based on the demands they’re getting from the store.
Q: How are JDA and Intel technology solutions uniquely positioned to address the localized inventory management solutions you mentioned?
A: I was hoping you’d ask! I’m excited to share that JDA and Intel have teamed up to offer retailers an intelligent technology solution to help manage and overcome age-old business challenges: the JDA Store Optimizer, supported by the Intel Responsive Retail Sensor. It tracks inventory accurately, so you always know where items are located and how many are in stock while also automatically updating store associates’ tasks. Having near-real-time inventory data makes it easy to run lean, save time and money and replenish products as needed with little risk of shortages, overstocking or preventable returns. The JDA Store Optimizer then uses this precise inventory data to automatically identify, prioritize and assign tasks that sales associates need to carry out to optimize operational efficiency, while freeing the store manager to spend more time making decisions that will improve store performance and increase revenue.
To put it simply, we know the future of retail because we’re building it with Intel. So we see the problems of today and both companies see what we need to do to solve them, but with an eye to the future.
Q: Data security is a hot topic these days. How is that being addressed with this retail technology solution?
A: When we deal with privacy, we always talked about opt-in [being] enabled right into the platform. From an application provider perspective, the core platform is built from the ground up with security in mind. We also want to make sure that data can be isolated per application, so that if a retailer has their specific set of data they’re bringing, it’s only for them and they know they can trust that verified data. So, that kind of end-to-end security is built in from the ground up. Then there’s end-to-end data encryption, as well, to help guarantee the security and privacy of the data.
Q: What about privacy? How is that being addressed with this solution?
A: From my perspective, privacy is very personal. Some people are completely OK with giving that away; other people are very guarded about it. Only 43 percent of shoppers say they are comfortable giving up personal data to a retailer — even if it is to improve their shopping experience. This is a relevant and prescient issue to retailers today. And so, when we’ve tried to approach it, we’ve said there needs to be a way to opt in; a loyalty program is a great way to do that, for example.
Q: Can you give us an example of some of the early results you’re seeing from a retailer that has piloted the JDA Store Optimizer?
A: I certainly can. We’re working with a specialty retailer in North America and are excited to see that we’re getting enormous response. I just received an email stating how pleased the associates are in that environment because they’re able to spend more time focusing on relevant customer engagement and that’s great news for us to hear. We know that this is so important from data that we have about customer behavior. Most consumers say that they want associates who are more knowledgeable and will leave a store empty-handed if they do not get the right person with knowledge to help them with purchasing products. A recent study shows that two in three shoppers who tried to find information within a store say they did not find all the information they needed; when they were unable to find the complete information, 43 percent of customers left the store frustrated; 22 percent said they were less likely to buy from that retailer and 41 percent more likely to shop elsewhere. It is so important to have engaged, knowledgeable and able sales associates and the JDA Store Optimizer enables sales associates to get back to the business of being available to customers rather than just running around the store in search of inventory.
Q: How do you see artificial intelligence coming to bear and being a part of this platform in the future?
A: Artificial intelligence can help us precisely because we don’t live in a static world. If store shelves were always perfectly stocked and arranged then we probably wouldn’t have much of a need for it. But we live in reality. People buy things so the stock is changing constantly. Things are shuffled as people look at them. Customer behavior enables an opportunity to use pattern matching and artificial intelligence to really go look at those environments and say, hey, these events have happened where there’s a $5 item covering a $100 item that was really supposed to be on display; let’s have an associate go fix that to give me insight into the ROI of an endcap. Was it actually stocked properly? Did people interact with it? I think we can learn over time, make it much better and make that store truly responsive. In a way, the store itself is learning. The platform helps the store learn so it can keep up in near-real time with the changes that are happening in consumer behavior and the retail environment. Moreover, there’s no lag time. You’re not being caught unaware.
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