Supply Chain Matters was invited to attend Oracle’s Industry Connect Conference held in Boston at the latter part of March. The conference drew a large compliment of attendees, featured three industry tracts, along with a focus on program management.  We enjoy attending industry focused events because they provide a keener sense of industry-specific challenges, viewpoints and perspectives.  We encourage technology and services providers to host more such events.

Due to a commitment to attend another event, we devoted the majority of our limited time focused on the Retail industry tract of speakers, but did manage to catch a cross-industry panel discussion featuring the theme of the Customer Experience. One clear theme brought out by this panel was that nearly every industry sector is adjusting to more demanding and more personalized experience factors concerning customers. Healthcare consumers now have many more choices for an healthcare provider and with a new emphasis on wellness, consumers have higher expectations as to the healthcare experience. Retailers are of course, continuing to deal with the shift of information power to the side of online and mobile-based consumers. Fellow blogger and panelist Vinnie Mirchandani pointed to the trend of mass customization of products as the antidote to commoditization.

We attended a Retail focused panel discussion of executives representing Deckers Outdoors and Scheels moderated by Susan Reda, Editor-In-Chief of Retail Stores Magazine. One statistic shared was that 73 percent of shoppers want an empowered shopping experience. A retail presence provides the opportunity to connect the passion of consumers with the passion for brands. Both retail executives provided clear examples of how their retail brands concentrate on the consumer experience, community outreach and provide a focused destination for consumers. As an example, Scheel’s is a sporting goods chain that features a ferris wheel, deli restaurant or fudge in any one of its 25 retail outlets. Community outreach includes sponsorship of local athletic or recreation events. A further common theme was a recognized need for the creation of a singular leader for Omni-Channel operations that span both brick and mortar and the online customer fulfillment experience.

Another insightful session titled How to Counterbalance Instinct with Data-Driven Insights, delivered by John Bible, Senior Director of Retail Data Sciences at Oracle, contrasted two distinctly different approaches to retail.  Bible contrasted Amazon’s retail strategy initiatives as those posed as a software engineering problem contrasted to brick and mortar retail brands whose retail strategy focuses on the retail experience and destination. We found that comparison rather insightful. Consumers have tendencies toward cognitive biases and have tendencies shop based on existing beliefs and group dynamics such as consumer feedback on products. The notion of the “wisdom of crowds” is a rather real consideration. An important conclusion was that decisions supported by time-series forecasting and planning can no longer keep-up with constantly changing buying trends. Instead, decisions need to be supported by more-informed insights

Bob Ferrari