Companies know that what customers, prospects and future employees trust most, is peer validation. But only leaders and innovators are using the latest technology and social media methods to obtain that validation. Continue reading
Category Archives: Retail
“We prefer to stay outdoors.” Some cultural norms will never change, and locking up a Spaniard in his own high-tech smart home, the new digital castle for an Englishman, is not intrinsically attractive. “You have to understand that we like to go out, socialise, see our friends, and do not invest so much in our homes as you do in the UK.”
So is there a future for smart home in Spain? Continue reading
We meet in Berlin, in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, archetype of 20th Century history, with its memories of terrible conflicts but also the place of a remarkable peace which flowered in the ruins of the grim wall. Are we still in the war of technology retail? Or are we establishing a peace where the key players across the industry lay down their arms and look for ways to collaborate, and build an enduring omnichannel retail space in Europe?
Collaboration has been an important theme of the TCG Summit in the last 5 years. It is an aspiration waiting to be turned into reality. Alessandro Stanzani of Canon gave an impassioned plea for more data sharing – he gave statistics showing that 51% of online shoppers leave the Canon website and head straight for a retailer. If the manufacturer and retailer shared this customer information, the retailer could welcome the arrival on their website with a Canon banner, prepared and ready with precious browsing information from the customer’s previous online visit. This model exists already – it is called Amazon. As Henk de Jong, EVP at Philips put it “Amazon teaches us that data sharing is an important practice which we should do.” However, the internet giant has an advantage of being an integrated company, whereas retailers and manufacturers are frenemies. They collaborate most of the time, but in those activities where they compete – manufacturer online sales being the most flagrant example – the trust disappears and the motivation to build a powerful technology ecosystem withers.
Small trust building projects is the way forward. This is the Amazon approach – innovate quickly, assess and then progress. Some retailers retort that, before they share data, they need consistent support from all suppliers. This may happen, but it won’t happen quickly enough and by that time, the innovation and acceleration which were the themes of the conference, will have eaten up more traditional retailers who have not adapted fast enough to the new realities. As Enrique Martinez, CEO of Fnac Darty said in his opening remarks “yes, there will be more consolidation of retailers in the market.”
“Let’s start with sharing product availability data,” was the suggestion of Rick Londema, SVP at Sony Europe. “By sharing data there is so much space to gain cash and optimise inventory.”
Some are already collaborating with different partners to combine datasets, as mentioned by Helmar Hipp, CEO of Cyberport, the German etailer who are “using data and algorithms to predict customer trends.”
Chen Zhang, the CTO of China’s JD.com, the third largest internet retailer in the world, stretched our horizons beyond Europe and reminded us how digitally advanced the Chinese are. He shared JD’s progress in unmanned warehouses, customised manufacturing, dynamic pricing, drones and even delivery robots. And returning to the theme of collaboration – by working closely and sharing data with Nestle, they have reduced delivery times from 5-8 days to 2-3 days and increased on-shelf availability from 73% to 95%.
As in previous years, the TCG Summit has the power to surprise, motivate and enthuse its attendees about the future of technology retail. Martin Wild, a relative newcomer to the industry (Chief Innovation Officer of MediaMarktSaturn since 2011) resonated with urgency and a call to action to innovate and accelerate. “We are just at the beginning of change – we have to be open to transform everything in order to remain relevant.” And he proceeded to show us the depth of innovation at MediaMarktSaturn – from renting products to customers as part of the shared economy and outsourcing this to a 3rd party, piloting AR (70% of customers in the pilot said they liked it and wanted more), and building collaboration with other retailers (notably Schwarz group) to invest in start-ups for smart retail technology.
The future of technology retail is indeed to innovate in order to accelerate, but also to collaborate – this means sticking to your knitting – “the biggest instore experience is through the motivation of the 6,000 people who work in Fnac now” said Enrique Martinez. But it also means investment as MediaMarktSaturn is doing, all this against a background of Amazon’s spend of $18bn on IT and $27bn on R&D, and similar or maybe even greater sums by the Chinese retailers.
Recent months have seen technology and consumer goods retail under pressure. In the last 12 months the stock market valuation of Dixons Carphone is down by 43%, Carrefour by 25%, Maplin is in administration, the combined valuation of Ceconomy and Metro AG is below its equivalent last year, whilst Amazon’s value has shot up by a staggering 84%, borne up by the bull market but once again benefiting from the high valuation accorded to successful ecommerce companies. The stock market is saying simply – this is where the future lies. Continue reading
This year there were 500+ participants in the flagship event, and the buzz was back. The focus was on new technology, and everyone attending the conference can feel good about where we are. No, it is no longer the A brands – that has been the case for a number of years. But we have to get over this – HP, Intel, Acer, Microsoft and others no longer support conferences as they did before – they focus more on the big international events.
But in a world where new technology is exploding with fast growth rates and boundless innovation, more than ever there is the need to bring people together so that people can sit down and meet the latest innovative brands. And that is where the DISTREE model works well, because of the scheduling of meetings which means that vendors know that, if they pay to come, they will get a minimum number of meetings. And we had many of the big players here this year – Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Also, Exertis, Cool Blue and Amazon, as well as dozens of other smaller distributors.
But it is not just about meetings, and that is where the interest of the event comes in. As Ilona Weiss, CEO of ABC Data put it in her blog after the event, it is the time to “pick up the rhythm of global markets and predict accurately the direction in which things are changing so that I can buy enough time for ABC Data to adjust its course.” This comes from the informal discussions with other tech leaders, and also the rich thought leadership on offer, with keynotes and workshops which illuminate and stretch people’s imagination.
This year CONTEXT organised an invitation only event for C Suite executives from selected distributors and other invited guests. The content was rich, and the tone was set by Patrice Arzillier, Managing Director of Exertis Continental Europe, and board member of Exertis plc. He opened up to a series of questions about Board investment decisions, their approach to acquisitions and the challenges they face.
The meeting was done under Chatham house rules in order to create the right ambiance for senior executive sharing, but with Patrice there was no need, as he launched into a frank and open dialogue with the other participants in the room. These times of exchange are vital for the health of the industry, and to give each other the chance to “adjust your course if necessary”. This discussion was enriched by the input from Peter Van den Berg, the head of the GTDC in Europe and a presentation from Michael White of Quadmark, showing the new financial drivers of distribution, emphasising the need to have different measures for different types of revenue stream, and to take into account all investments, not just working capital.
The other theme we covered was strategic collaboration, and the level of congruence between the presentations was remarkable – old style confrontational negotiations are out, and the smart money is on those who find strategic ways of collaborating. One of the speakers, Marcos Garcia Esteban, until recently Purchasing Director of Worten (the Portuguese/Spanish tech retailer), spoke of high-level contacts between retailer and brand to find innovative ways of delivering product. Distributors are the “midfield” players, he said, and can bring everyone together in the new technology ecosystem.
Adam Williams, who has spent the last 6 months bringing a smart home product to market, laid out the complexity of the new emerging technology market and echoed Marcos, saying that distributors are the best placed to act as brokers between the various parties. Lastly Alan Clayton, a mentor at the Investment fund SOSV, one of the largest providers of seed capital to technology start-ups, spoke of the role he saw distributors playing in bringing products to market. “I need someone who, as a one-stop shop, can broker space in the top retailers in Europe.” His final call to action was memorable, for distributors to become “Co-creators of global brands.” A great and positive thought to keep distributors going forward in the right direction.
As part of a series of Prediction blogs for 2018, we interviewed Tim Curran, CEO of the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) on his views of what this year might bring for the channel.
The pace of technology industry change continues to accelerate – and with it comes unprecedented opportunity as well as significant potential for disconnects and dislocation. Continue reading
CONTEXT recently interviewed Sam Routledge, CTO of Softcat plc and Abdel Bennour, Sales Director of Ingram Micro in France on their Channel Predictions for 2018
Hybrid Cloud becomes Reality
I’d say that the year ahead is the time that hybrid cloud becomes a reality. Most cloud deployments have been new applications and services, or backup/ DR for on premise workloads. With Microsoft releasing Azure Stack and VMware partnering with AWS, customers will have serious options for genuine, interchangeable, hybrid cloud.
If you would like more detail, I wrote a post on this just before the turn of the year.
A French distributor speaks about cloud, virtualization and security
In a rapidly IT environment, it is critical to remain focussed on basics – partners first. On premise business still has great days ahead. Cloud, virtualisation or cyber security are overperforming and should be considered as key areas of development in 2018.
I would recommend that we all keep an eye on the human aspects of digital transformation which we have started.
From a personal point of view, life balance has always been a key success factor to manage the pressure of work. So more than just a resolution it’s a daily action which is part of my DNA. So I launch a New Year resolution of S.I.S : Smile, Interests (of others before yours) and Sincerity which is one of the best ways to care about yourself and others.
I wish all of you an amazing, healthy prosperous and joyful year 2018.