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Why the ‘Democratization of Retail’ Doesn’t Apply Only to Consumers


This is the age of the empowered consumer. Energized by the rapidly accelerating global growth of mobile devices, shoppers now have immediate access to data on products, prices and competitive services. In addition to shifting the balance of power away from retailers and manufacturers, the spread of information and the growth of technologically sophisticated pure-play retailers have contributed to rapidly rising expectations about just how personalized and participatory the shopping experience can be.

This democratization trend has forced retailers to up their games considerably, both by creating connected, consistent touchpoints for shoppers and by providing a range of tools and techniques to help them curate the avalanche of choices they now have access to.

However, for retailers to keep up with the increasing number of Internet-connected devices (currently at nine billion worldwide, and projected to balloon to 50 billion before long), the “democratization” of data access, insights, and personalization also needs to extend into the retail enterprise itself. Only when executives, decision-makers, managers, and front-line associates have ready access to the information they need will retailers begin to catch up to their customers.

The Need for Persona-Based Workflows

One of the strongest examples of the drive for personalization within retail organizations is in the creation of user interfaces that provide role-based, or persona-based, workflows. This is one of the key elements of next-generation business applications now being used by operations teams throughout retail organizations.

Let’s take the example of a planner, who typically deals with a number of different systems including assortment, merchandising, forecasting, replenishment, and logistics. What the planner does not want to do within a user interface is to constantly be forced to move from application to application, screen to screen, and workflow to workflow.

Therefore, we’re seeking to provide a workflow that connects together all the elements that are part of a given business process. Such a workflow not only brings in all the analytics to support a given persona within the context of an application, but also ties in the tools for executing on the decisions that are made based on the insights – all within the same unified workflow.

Given such a solution, the planner would say: “It’s great that I’m making assortment decisions, but I see that I’ve got a stock-out question that I want to go solve. The analytics that are needed to inform my actions are presented to me, and I can then immediately go to launch the purchase order that solves the problem.”

We believe this shift to a persona-based user interface is the only way for a retailer’s knowledge workers to be able to cope with the increasing complexity that surrounds them – complexity that will only grow deeper as consumers demand more targeted assortments, personalized communications, and unique experiences as part of their shopping journeys.

Until recently, many retailers had spent significant time and talent writing custom solutions to manage many of the business processes they believed were unique to their organizations. However, mature retail applications now contain the established, industry-leading business processes that instill best practices throughout the retail business. Their availability dramatically reduces the need for custom programming, speeding implementations and allowing for easier integration and upgrades across the entire technology footprint.

As the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” Nothing will stop the information flowing into consumers’ hands or the ensuing democratization of retail it has fostered. The solution is for retailers to mirror the personalization and ease of use that shoppers now enjoy in their own internal applications, boosting the productivity and participation of their own people in the process.

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