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Archives for October 2013

Wal Mart and Amazon - the Technology Battle

By Herb Shields | 10/21/2013 | 9:09 AM

Readers of my most recent posts on the subject of current trends in retailing may be interested in the New York Times front page article in the October 20th edition titled “To Catch Up Wal Mart moves to Amazon’s Turf.”

The article discusses how Wal Mart, in an effort to compete with Amazon’s on-line presence has established @WalmartLabs, the headquarters of its on-line operations in San Bruno, California.  Competition between Wal Mart and Amazon is taking place, not just with customers, but also for engineering and technical talent to continue to improve their positions in SEO, on-line sales, same day delivery, etc.

As I discussed in my August 13th post on the subject of same day delivery, Wal Mart and Amazon are both competing in offering this service, not just with themselves, but other familiar names such as E-Bay and Google.  The NY Times article provides a lot of interesting information on the @WalmartLabs operations.  Clearly, competing for the retail consumer has taken on new dimensions as technology continues to develop.

Omnichannel Retailing

By Herb Shields | 10/14/2013 | 7:12 AM

I attended the CSCMP Chicago Roundtable program on this subject on October 10.  The program was held at the Motorola Solutions Innovation Center in a Chicago suburb, more about the center later.

A panel of industry experts each gave a brief statement of their views as to why Omnichannel is an important issue for supply chain companies in the consumer products area or those companies that serve them in any way.  Then they answered many questions from the audience on this topic.

Robert Howard of Kurt Salmon moderated the discussion and started by recognizing how mobile devices have changed the retail experience for consumers and thus the retailers themselves.   Today’s retail customer may be texting, tweeting, and comparing prices with other retailers while he/she is shopping in your store.  This is the basis for the concept of Omnichannel marketing.  Bob also pointed out that there is a big gap between the retailer’s view of consumer satisfaction in the retail environment and the view of the actual consumer.

Rick DiMaio of Office Depot talked about some of the initiatives that Office Depot has underway to give control to the retail customer.  He cautioned that features such as same day delivery (see my blog from August 13) need to be evaluated based on its cost versus the consumer benefit. Rick then mentioned that he sees retailers looking for potential partners – 3PL’s, delivery services, and even other retailers – to be able to meet consumer expectations cost effectively.

 Mike Wohlwend from SAP Americas raised what I thought was a very interesting question – will same day delivery drive companies to more U.S. manufacturing?   Mike discussed how SAP is working with its clients to tap into multiple data sources to provide very fast analysis.

Jeff Starecheski from Sears Holdings talked about how Sears is now evaluating the cost of delivery from multiple stores and DC’s to determine the lowest cost, best service combination for each customer order.  Jeff also suggested that supply chain people will have to view their activities through the commercial lens, not just the traditional SC focused view.

Mike Maris of Motorola Solutions talked about some of the devices and technologies that Motorola is developing for retailers to better serve customers and run their operations more efficiently.  He hosted the tour of the Innovation Center where we saw everything from voice-activated devices for use in warehouses to new scanning and in-store devices that allow for direct consumer interaction.  For any history buffs, there is an interesting exhibit of the first military 2-way radios that Motorola developed in the 1940’s.

With the support of the CSCMP Chicago Roundtable and program chair – Jen Theisen, I was able to bring 15 students from the Illinois Institute of Technology to the event.  They are all interested in careers in supply chain so this was a great learning opportunity for them.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Herb Shields

Herb Shields

Herb Shields has run Chicago-based HCS Consulting since 2000, helping clients across multiple industries and in higher education improve their supply chain strategy and execution. Shields has more than 30 years as an operations executive for capital equipment, automotive, electrical machinery and consumer products companies. As vice president of materials management at consumer goods company Helene Curtis, Shields led the supply chain organization that helped Helene Curtis win "Vendor of the Year" awards from Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp. Shields has a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University and did graduate work in business at Bowling Green State University.



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