This article is part of our Retail Reloaded series. The series offers a new vision for retail businesses through an evolved use of technology.
Our hypothesis suggests three core strategic actions. SAVE, ACCELERATE, and SHARE. These strategies will guide you on both how to best use technology and where a retail business should be developing new capabilities, new skills, and, importantly, a new vision for the future.
In this article, as part of the ACCELERATE strategy, you will learn how to weigh and combine available (and cheap) tech resources with the more expensive custom development to achieve the fastest and the most optimal product trajectory.
As a continuation of our article — Build, Buy, or Partner? The Digital Transformation Decisions Retailers Need to Make, where we discuss the three options that retailers can choose from in order to open new highways for fast and agile digital retail product development, this article considers the opportunities, the risks and possible outcomes of such decisions to help leaders pick the most optimal vision for their business.
What can you do today to drive synergy between your integrated
By creating a product strategy based on a combination of custom technology building, buying and integrating off-the-shelf solutions, and partnering for excellence with technology companies, savvy retailers are buying their ticket for a new World.
A place where a straight line between shop and customer gets blurred
By jointly aligning on interests and partnering for digital products development, retailers will be ready to capture excess market value, as the total value of new digital products exceeds the value of a regular merchant-buyer relationship. A new shopping era will require advanced partnerships and integrations with consumers and their ecosystems.
For example, customers who are legitimate owners of their private data, can award retailers with access to it and receive an extended service based on such exchange.
A well-curated brand
Your supply chains, your product bundle, your vendor portals, the things that make your product complex and consisting of multiple moving parts, all act in a unified manner to simplify the shopping experience for your end-customers. For them, this elaborate system is packed under one simple thing — your brand.
A partnership to spin off the technology
On the other hand, from the perspective of your (potential) business partners, there may be overlaps between your systems, which represents a wide opportunity for branching-out and scaling per specific use case. These smart partnerships can enhance your retail technology from multiple angles and allow you to enter into niche markets.
Technologies that allow for unprecedented scaling are:
represent a shift in paradigm, when it comes to seamless rapid scaling.
Take a look at the example of Ocado moving to Kubernets in order to increase “the speed from idea to implementation” and solidify the position of the world’s largest retail tech supplier.
Kubernetes setup can take a couple of months to half a year of investment, depending on your system’s complexity and volume. But, it ensures long-term benefits in regards to e-store availability at peak times and effective disaster recovery.
The ability for external players to start developing within your system speaks two things: potential and discipline. In the future we can expect more and more monetization of the access value created by stimulating interactions between external stakeholders. Parts of a system can be consolidated into a unified metrics output, say, to showcase success or failure trends.
In order to follow through these decisions on an organizational level, here are some thoughts for you to consider:
Look at internal goals and external market
As part of the System Design phase for your new product or venture, take time to plan for the presence of “guest“ services in your product’s ecosystem. Your plan should be informed by the dynamics between your internal goals and the market reality. An understanding of previous market volatility can be especially useful when deciding on the depth of a new system through any of the Building/Buying/Partnering options.
A good example comes from one of our partners where their RFID-powered system, for a unique store experience, became obsolete in stores that support bar codes only.
A checkbox in your decision making should not only focus on how this piece of technology can enhance your system but also how quickly can you replace it if needed.
Another important factor to consider is — Later usage.
Retailers who have centralization, modularity and re-usability at the forefront of their minds will most likely come top when market shifts arise.
In a future article, we will cover this topic in more detail.
What happens with your identity?
By buying and/or partnering you are in essence welcoming new players into your ecosystem and your company’s value proposition becomes reshaped as a result. This means that some of your customers might want to explore additional aspects of the services you have included, and which now don’t natively belong to your brand.
Your job in that moment is to manage your value proposition, as relying too much on third party vendors (Buy/Partner) can have unwanted side effects upon your business should, for example, a vendor’s policies change and your dependencies remain.
The main perspective here, is that the common denominator of all of these additional, integrated, non-native ingredients, is your product.
Your unique value proposition is connecting every Built/Bought/Partnered piece, and can be used as guidance when your brand’s getting gloomy.
In case you decide to follow a specific customer segment (and extend non-native functionalities) isolating this new venture into a spin-off can help protect your core brand.
Follow the standards (existing and emerging)
When it comes to creating an internally coherent system made up of multiple parts which you have Built/Bought/Integrated, look no further than the standardization of data types, formats and procedures in order for your system to “play nice” with other solutions, and lead to a unified experience for the shoppers.
Although retail has been around for a long time, its recent rapid digitalization sometimes doesn’t allow for standardization which would make an amalgam of stakeholders’ lives easier. Some of the examples include:
Barcodes are standardized in a way that a certain range in numbers can be available to a new player making sure no two items ever get the same barcode. SKUs, on the other hand, have no globally defined standard. This means that you can use any variation of product attributes to build your SKUs.
The digital representation of articles isn’t standardized. Think about how this can affect your web shop in case you plan to Buy/Build/Partner in order to extend it.
Investigating and managing standards that relate to your digital retail business will do you a service in the long run, as it will allow for faster integrations and platformization. Standards provide a mutual language within different value streams of your system.
That being said, as your product grows and integrates with third parties, you can plan with a high degree of certainty that not all of them will standardize diligently and you will need to support further complexity.
Be aware of business opportunities and risks
The good side of a system consisting of multiple moving parts (some of which you built/bought/partnered) is that it allows your business model to evolve in unexpected directions.
One of the examples is a catering service Opentable connecting restaurants with customers, which branched out and started providing food delivery services (utilizing partnership for market access).
There needs to be a level of openness inside your organization, as gaining massive market value from a piece that was built or partnered can be a strong indicator that the company is strong in solving pain points even if they were not originally known.
The benefit of having a composite system is that it can catalyze these opportunities and help bring them to the market sooner than ever before.
In the future…
As sophisticated technology development becomes a staple for more and more retailers, we need to be mindful that roles within organizations (and even the organizations themselves) tend to get abstracted to the point where decisions about buying, building, and partnering is no longer made at the beginning of the year by a senior manager and instead becomes a more fluid and integral part of a company’s dynamic planning and discovery.
One of the crucial factors for the survival of retail business in the new world is the speed at which these decisions can be made and tested. Since the competition is probably also working on accelerating similar digital retail capabilities, there is an urgency to succeed with technology and meet the emerging customer in their new playground.
In our next article, we will consider how you can gain this speed and translate it into a competitive advantage by pursuing novel practices within a digital realm. What are the trends to be aware of and how can you accelerate innovation with new products and ever-faster product releases?
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