Posts Tagged "technology"

Should Marketers Forget the Holiday Shopping Season?

Should Marketers Forget the Holiday Shopping Season?

It’s time for retailers to cut their dependence on holiday season shopping, and take advantage of opportunities to generate demand over a more sustained period of time.

When was the last time you stood in a pre-dawn line at a Black Friday doorbuster sale? If it was within the past years, you’re actually part of a dwindling minority of shoppers. Increasingly, customers are in shopping mode all the time, and deals that are restricted to a limited timeframe or buying mode are only a source of frustration.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, brand-building expert Denise Lee Yohn makes the argument that retailers are over-dependent on the holiday shopping season, as the retail landscape has shifted seismically in the past decade. “It no longer makes sense to rely on disproportionate revenue from the holiday season to make up for the softness in sales during the rest of the year,” she argues.

Accommodate the way people shop today

So what does this mean for marketers? Yohn suggests that it’s time for brands to rethink how they promote themselves during the holidays and beyond, with marketing dollars better spent accommodating the ways people shop now.

“Customers don’t want retailers to dictate their shopping schedule,” says Yohn. Shoppers at every price point are becoming more accustomed to buying whenever the interest strikes them. They often shop from their mobile devices or in the stores during post-season sales, rather than at times traditionally associated with peak retail activity.

In their book Absolute Value, Itamar Simonsen and Emanuel Rosen posit the idea that people are now engaging in what they call “couch tracking,” or “keeping track of what they learn about products from reviews, friends, and news items on an ongoing basis.” This means that customers are likely to have well-formed preferences long before they have a specific plan to purchase. “Therefore,” concludes Yohn, “it doesn’t make sense for retailers to try to influence product or brand decisions only during discrete windows of time.”

In case you need further convincing, Yohn also points out that a disproportionate emphasis on the holiday season isn’t to a retailer’s best advantage even from a logistic perspective. “The large fluctuations in demand wreak havoc on supply chain, labor management, and accounting.”

It’s time for retailers to cut their dependence on holiday season shopping, and take advantage of opportunities to generate demand over a more sustained period of time. Millennials and other shoppers are increasingly choosing to spend discretionary dollars on experiences like recreation, travel, and eating out, rather than on products like clothing and shoes. To keep pace, Yohn suggests that “a year-round approach would likely help retailers compete with restaurants and other experiences which people seek out throughout the year.”

How to better distribute your marketing dollars

Here are three key takeaways for retailers looking to put marketing dollars to better use:

1) Encourage year-round “self-gifting”

Millennials are nearly as likely to buy something for themselves as someone else during the holiday season. Encouraging this tendency year-round could lead to more consistent purchasing rather than waiting for a holiday occasion.

2) Delay holiday-specific messaging

This one may seem counter-intuitive, but not having a holiday-specific message during fall months will actually help you capture wider demand. You also buck the trend of creating deal-fatigue, as shoppers quickly get weary of holiday promotions that start in October.

3) Make technology your friend

Says Yohn, “The technology and analytics now exist for retailers to better predict what people want and when they want it, so they should use these capabilities to move away from the traditional seasonal approach.”

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Posts Tagged "technology"

80% of Executives Say that Procurement Isn’t Strategic Enough

80% of Executives Say that Procurement Isn’t Strategic Enough

Insights from the Procurement 2020 survey

This guest post comes to us from Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting, a boutique recruitment firm specializing in Supply Chain Management and Procurement.

it’s no secret that the world of Procurement is changing and fast. With automation, big data and burgeoning AI systems removing more and more of the profession’s “tactical” or “clerical” tasks, companies are calling on their Procurement teams to be more strategic, more nimble, and more innovative. They’re expecting their Procurement functions to deliver not just bottom-line cost-savings, but other sorts of value, adding to organizations’ overall competitiveness.

Procurement, you’ve come a long way, baby.

But a new survey of 200 C-Suite executives from a variety of industries and functions presents a rather dispiriting picture of the Procurement function today – or at least how it’s perceived. Held by Management Consulting firm Ayming, the survey explores a wide base of opinions from some of business’s top leaders – CEOs, CPOs, COOs, and CFOs – about the value Procurement has to add, and where it’s going to be in 2020. The survey, titled Procurement 2020, has lots of interesting insights, showing where Procurement is knocking it out of the park – and where it’s striking out.

The biggest headline takeaway? 83% of executives surveyed say that their Procurement function is not entirely strategic – meaning they don’t think it’s crucial to business leadership, and that it isn’t a key input when making high-level strategic decisions.

It’s a rough verdict, one showing that as much progress as the field is making, a lot of that development – the chance to be a true partner to business at the highest level – is still unfulfilled potential. Some of the other data is relatively damning as well: only 28% of executives surveyed viewed Procurement as a core aspect of their strategy. More than half (51%) of the executives do not consider their Procurement operating models to be effective as they stand today.

Interestingly, this last number breaks down differently across industries:

  • Retail executives had the highest confidence in their Procurement function, with 43% of retailers considering their Procurement operations to be highly effective – and 18% considering them to be somewhat effective. Retail also had strong marks in terms of its strategic value from Procurement, with 79% of executives saying that its Procurement operations were “mostly or entirely strategically focused.”
  • 27% of Manufacturing companies viewed their Procurement operations as highly effective – with 24% considering them to be somewhat effective. The Manufacturing industry also led the way in terms of strategic value, with 91% of Manufacturing executives saying that their Procurement operations were highly strategic.
  • 21% of Technology companies, as well as only 21% of Healthcare companies, viewed their Procurement operations as highly effective.
  • Dispiritingly, only 15% of Financial Services companies considered their Procurement operations to be highly effective.

The numbers represent a large base of dissatisfaction with how companies are prioritizing, training and supporting their Procurement departments. 44% of CEOs, as well as 44% of CFOs, consider their Procurement functions either very or somewhat effective. 52% of COOs gave a “very or somewhat effective verdict,” compared to (perhaps unsurprisingly) 56% of CPOs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, very large companies – most able to leverage a shared service model and consolidated spend – were most likely to report that they received a very high amount of value from Procurement: 36%.

Despite the survey saying that Procurement still has a long way to go, the broad base of executives surveyed often indicated a deep interest in helping the function get there. 48% of companies surveyed have either reorganized their Procurement function in the past 5 years, or are in the middle of reorganizing it, with a full 20% planning to reorganize Procurement in the next 24 months.

There are some other interesting and divergent opinions when it comes to how companies are seeking to increase their Procurement function’s effectiveness:

  • 68% of executives surveyed believed that if Procurement gets involved earlier in new product creation, as well as long-term strategy, it’ll be able to add more value.
  • 82% of CEOs believe that employee training and upskilling is a key way to improve Procurement effectiveness. In contrast, a 38% of CEOs believe that Procurement-specific technology is the answer.
  • A large percentage of CPOs (90%) believe that upgrading technology is key to improving Procurement strategy (compared to 76% of CEOs), but across different industries there’s some disagreement about the best way to drive further value from Procurement: In the Financial Services, Transportation, Retail and Technology sectors, executives saw people and skills development as the biggest opportunity to add more value through Procurement, whereas Manufacturing executives saw reorganization as the best opportunity.

We tend to think that surveys like this are an opportunity for the field rather than an indictment. And despite some of the more negative responses, we happen to know tons of Procurement departments who are excelling and creating true strategic value for their stakeholders. But if these surveys are anything to go on, there’s much more to be done. We encourage you to dig into Ayming’s survey, as there’s a lot more data we only briefly covered here.

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Posts Tagged "technology"

The Collaborative Economy and the Wild Success of Peer-to-Peer-Based Sharing


Some believe that the collaborative economy is the biggest game-changer in the business sector since the Internet. You might ask, exactly what is a collaborative economy? Researchers Alexandra Samuel and Jeremiah Owyang define the term in their informative, 28-page report, The New Rules of the Collaborative Economy, as “an economic movement where common technologies enable people to get the goods and services they need from each other, peer to peer, instead of buying from established corporations.”

Peer-to-peer engagement is a powerful one, and it’s demanding that many traditional companies take note. Take Airbnb for example. This past summer, 17 million people stayed with an Airbnb host, compared to 47,000 people five years earlier in the summer of 2010. The company has revolutionized travel for millions of people, and it has shaken up the hotel industry.

Another game-changer is Uber. The ridesharing service was reported to hold 46% of total paid car rides in the first quarter of 2015, with taxis, limos, and shuttle services falling from 85% in the first quarter of 2014 down to 53% in 2015. There is no doubt that the car service industry is forever altered.

Samuel and Owyang report several interesting findings regarding the collaborative economy. For one, they found that 51% of Americans engaged in a sharing service via mobile apps or websites in 2015. And secondly, each of the defined categories — e.g., goods, services, money, transportation, and space — saw increases in consumer usage from 2014 to 2015, including crowd-funding (from 6% to 14%), spaces to stay (from 7% to 17%), and pre-owned goods (from 34% to 44%).

What does peer-to-peer offer that traditional companies can’t? Some people find these services helpful when they are engaged in a “spending fast,” or when they challenge themselves not to buy anything new for a year. At this point, however, most consumers say they’ll go with whichever route offers convenience, brand names and services, and a savings of 25%. So, the trend toward a collaborative economy could reverse if the conditions were right.

Some companies are adjusting quickly, realizing that the traditional equation of business to consumer (B2C) operations is shifting. For example: West Elm is curating and selling items from Etsy; BMW started Drive Now, an on-demand car-sharing service; and Home Depot rents tools and construction vehicles. Companies may only need to be aware, adjust, and enhance rather than start their own, new collaborative business.

The report provides for three paths to competing in the new collaborative economy:


It’s no surprise that consumers are driven by price. Keeping an eye on the price points of items and the charge for services offered is critical for all businesses, whether sharing or traditional. After all, half of Americans are swayed by items that are 25% cheaper than competitors’ prices.


People want things to be easier, clearer, simpler. One-third of conventional consumers will consider switching to sharing services if convenience is offered. Subscription offers that deliver on a regular basis and renting options are top on the wish list for convenience-seekers.


Like a lot of consumers, sharers like well-known names, and this gives traditional companies an advantage if they can add a sharing option to their current offerings. Crowd-funding and collaboration during early start-up phases, however, can help new sharing companies to build their brand and gain a loyal following.

Though not entirely revolutionary, a collaborative economy might mean better prices, convenience, and perhaps the added bonus of peer-to-peer engagement (e.g., recycling, helping, doing good). Traditional companies, be ready — a change is rolling in.



Posts Tagged "technology"

The Human Factor: Why Technology Needs Humans

technology and humans

The world has changed drastically in the past few decades with the reach of technology. Many of us remember a time before cell phones, personal computers, and the Internet. I can recall learning about the World Wide Web during my senior year of high school. A librarian explained to me how research would drastically change in the future and how information could be accessed electronically. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what she meant, and not for lack of trying. Maybe if I had watched more Star Trek I would have better understood.

I also recall being in college and writing a letter to a Swedish friend, trying to explain to her that I had an email address and that we could write to one another through a computer. I gave her my new handy-dandy email address. She wrote back saying she didn’t know what the @ sign was. Clearly she, and all other Swedes, figured it out. We all did, didn’t we?

The Recovering Technoholic

In an interview with strategy + business University of Michigan professor, Kentaro Toyama, has some fascinating things to say about technology and its role in our future. The former Microsoft executive, who previously championed technology as the answer to nearly all problems, refers to himself as a “recovering technoholic”.  As a way of introduction he says, “Think about technology as the engine of a car, and society as the driver. In many cases, we’re trying to build a faster and faster engine without paying attention to whether the driver knows where the car is going. This is what happens, for example, when we embrace the belief that using technology for global communication can create greater understanding among people.”

The Internet has brought benefits to the world in innumerable ways –from the outreach afforded to fundraising efforts, to convenient banking, to the ease of communication, to unprecedented amounts of research that can be scoured from the warmth and comfort of one’s living room. However, there is a darker side. Toyama goes on to cite examples such as the Internet that North Korea has built which is exclusive and oppressing, or the way ISIS has used the Internet for recruitment and the promotion of terrorism.

The leaders in the field, Toyama says, may have convinced themselves that technology is going to save the world. But technology is man-made, and it must be fostered and monitored with care. “The reality is that powerful technologies will work in exactly the direction we point them in. Almost paradoxically, as more technology becomes available, human judgment and wisdom matter more.”

Soft Skills Needed

Many studies have found that employers put weight on interpersonal skills. We all know the story of the brilliant scientist, engineer, artist, or entrepreneur who can’t control his temper, maintain a sense of order, or understand social norms. With the age of technology comes online learning and social media. Soft skills, such as empathy, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration, are necessary to the future, especially a future that plans to invest so heavily in technology, which does not feel and does not fully understand the human condition. Even President Obama has spoken about this,  “I’m calling on our nation’s governors and state education chief to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.”



Posts Tagged "technology"

Intelligent Technologies Can Be Game Changers for Distribution Centers

intelligent technologies and distribution centers

As more warehouses and distribution centers turn to intelligent, high-tech solutions, it is important to take advantage of technology to optimize the efficiency and ultimately increase the revenue of your business.

Smart technology now stretches into virtually every aspect of our lives, so it should come as no surprise that distribution centers worldwide are finding unique ways to leverage these smart technologies to increase efficiencies, reduce operating costs, and improve safety. A closer look at today’s available technology shows just how intelligent the tools for the materials handling, logistics, and supply chain industry have become and the transformative impact they can have on operations. Innovations such as voice tasking, warehouse robotics technology, microprocessors, and the talking lift truck are fundamentally changing the way business is being done. Those who stay on top of these innovations gain an invaluable lead on the competition.

One such company realizing significant benefit from employing new technologies is Genco Supply Chain Solutions. Looking to improve routing and slot optimization while simplifying the receiving and retrieving processes at their 200,000-square-foot facility, Genco started using the Total Trax Sky-Trax Solution. TotalTrax Smart Truck Solutions turns traditional material handling vehicles into smart trucks. Image processing technology transmits images to a centralized monitoring system, giving supervisors real-time access to the warehouse. Genco’s results after implementation: a 12% increase in facility throughput, 99.9% inventory accuracy, a 20% increase equipment utilization, and a reduction of more than 50% in training time.

“With gained visibility to inventory and vehicle movement, we are now able to analyze each operator’s performance, including the amount of idle time and time spent with no load,” Cary Cameron, Genco’s vice president of strategic technologies, said in a press release. “The data and reporting Sky-Trax provides allows us to analyze the root cause [using Lean Six Sigma] and measure processes we’ve never been able to see before.”

Value is delivered in increased accountability and visibility as supervisors can make critical dispatching decisions in real-time and review historical data for improving operations. In numbers, the use of smart trucks for automatic inventory tracking routinely translates into 30% higher productivity. Drivers can focus on what they do best: driving. Customers can also count on substantial labor savings and improved OSHA safety compliance as a result of the uninterrupted monitoring of the warehouse.

As more warehouses and distribution centers turn to intelligent, high-tech solutions, it is important to take advantage of technology to optimize the efficiency and ultimately increase the revenue of your business. Keeping up with this kind of innovation can help any organization achieve better business results. Even more importantly, you should make sure your organization uses its smart system for a breadth of capabilities and applications to ensure getting the most out of it.

Is your business using smart technologies? If so, which ones have had the biggest impact?