As we head towards Q3 2021, many Retailers and CPGs around the world are continuing to struggle. It’s clearly a very difficult time to be a CEO in the Retail sector, and despite many stand out results, the majority will be wishing for a better year going forward. Many things have changed, but the good news is that Retail and CPG will remain a cornerstone of our economy and society, which is more than can be said for some of the less fortunate industries.
If necessity is truly the mother of invention, one of the most positive take-outs from the number of disruptive global events is that they should have provided the impetus for numerous innovative transformational initiatives. As customer behaviour and customer expectations change rapidly, the challenges and opportunities for fast, flexible, agile, and future fit improvements are huge. Now is the time to redefine your outlook, with best in class no longer being the goal, as you need to be aiming for better than best in class – ‘of the future’. Otherwise, by the time you get there, you’ll be behind your competitors once again. To mis-quote Charles Dickens and capitalise on those opportunities; it is the worst of times; it is the best of times.
The fall of some of the biggest names on global High Streets over the past year has illustrated that even the best business models have been eroded by changing customer behaviours and expectations. The old ‘winning ways’ that defined the leaders of the sector for the last decade, are no longer enough to guarantee ongoing survival. Just doing more of the same, working harder, faster and for longer is not going to deliver the ‘Retailer of the Future’. As this series of blogs has explored, every role and every department of the business needs to change – and the scope and scale of that change demands vision and leadership from the very top.
The transformation will take many forms, and no two Retailers/CPGs will face exactly the same issues, nor respond in the same way. The solutions will be governed by the specific requirements of teams, locations, product lines and most importantly your customers. One constant though is that data and advanced analytics will become more and more fundamental to everything you do. Greater visibility, understanding and development of insights from integrated data across the entire enterprise must lie at the heart of every CEO’s strategy. Siloed departments and functions, each developing and protecting its own data, hamstrings the ability of Retailers/CPGs to react to the disruption in the market. Not to mention all the other challenges such as unnecessary additional storage/moving costs, reduction in real-time reaction ability, or difficulties in delivering one version of the truth.
The CEO of the future will avoid these mistakes, by investing in a data analytics platform that allows data to flow across the entire business. One that can handle hundreds of millions of queries per day, in a fully integrated and concurrent manner. As outlined previously
, you will need to reconnect the one Retail/CPG data brain to the entire organisation, in order to reap the numerous benefits and out-manoeuvre your competition. The CEOs of successful retailers of the future will be those that rise to the challenge and radically reorganise their businesses around big data and advanced analytics.
At this scale and complexity, automation will of course be critical to your transformation. The speed of response and the scale of data sets that need to be analysed put this requirement far beyond the capabilities of individuals or even department-level Machine Learning applications. CEOs, CFOs and CIOs need to work together to invest in analytic models that not just report on what’s happened, but to predict, suggest and implement changes to automatically keep performance and costs within pre-defined parameters. The roles of many within their organisations will change, refocused from reporting on what has already happened, to planning and strategizing for upcoming future opportunities.
CEOs must lead the evolution of a new customer/data driven, perhaps even obsessed, culture within their businesses. All roles at all levels across the enterprise will need to now view data as a means to constantly explore and experiment around how to create new value for customers, and at the heart of this transformation is the critical investment in an integrated enterprise data analytics platform. To process this data at scale, and at sufficient granularity to make predictions and decisions at individual product and store level, will require machine learning that can analyse hundreds of thousands if not millions of rows of data in seconds.
Deploying several hundred analytics models will no longer be good enough. The successful Retailer/CPG of the future will need to run millions of models every day. They will combine streams of data from online, mobile and cloud-based applications, with financial data from ERP systems. While at the same time, combining all of this with their customer data from CRMs, and ingesting and integrating additional data sources from 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data. Therefore, choosing proven technology, that is known to be the best in the business, while also having the lowest cost per query, will be critical to your success.
2020 ended up being a watershed year in the evolution of the Retailers and CPGs, and for their customers. The crucial role of data, and the need for integrated, automated, actionable insights that give the ability to quickly adapt and respond across the entire organisation, has been proven beyond doubt. The successful CEOs will take these lessons to heart and very quickly move from proof of concept to enterprise-wide adoption. 2020 may have very sadly seen the end of many much-loved Retailers and Brands, but also marks the beginning of the next generation, and the visionary CEOs that will lead them.