Guest Column | November 12, 2018

A Glimpse Into The Future Of Retail Tech

A conversation with Woody Driggs, America's Advisory Digital Transformation wavespace Leader at EY

 How To Future-Proof Your Business

EY wavespace™ is a global growth and innovation network where digital communities are brought together to help clients explore new operating models and emerging technologies that can transform their businesses. wavespace’s focus areas include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain, customer experience, the Internet of Things, user experience, and both virtual and augmented reality.

Woody Driggs, EY Americas Advisory Digital Transformation Wavespace Leader, took time to speak with Retail Operations Insights about how these technologies relate to retail, as well as what trends retailers should be aware of.

Q: How can retail companies stay abreast of consumer trends and shopping habits?

Driggs: As we all know, retail is changing. Large e-commerce players are entering the “brick and mortar” landscape and are completely re-thinking the experience.

Some of these players are allowing customers to walk in, pick up what they want and be billed without having to take out a credit card. This requires technology that tracks nearly every movement of every individual in the store. Imagine the real time behavioral and trend data this will create. 

This development means that real time is tending and habit definition will now be the standard for all shopping. Other brick and mortar retailers will need to keep this in mind in order to keep pace.

Q: How should retail businesses decide which tech and consumer trends to adopt and which to avoid?

Driggs: It’s all about the experience. Retailers need to consider the jobs customers are trying to get done when visiting their business and be relentless about making it more convenient, better, more interesting … whatever the customer values. This requires a constant state of innovation, testing, learning and, scaling to what works. 

Most companies are organized for risk avoidance rather than risk taking. This is a new culture and a new way of thinking and it’s hard for them to make the turn. Yet it’s critical in today’s competitive environment — the Transformative Age.

Q: Which lessons can retail businesses today learn from companies of yesteryear?

Driggs:  Businesses today can learn from those who failed to put experience at the center. Many of those who are gone or are struggling to keep pace put product features and functions at the center instead of improving the product and the customer experience.

Q: Which retail trends will have a lasting impact on the industry?

Driggs: Self-service shopping and the personalization of the shopping experience will have a significant impact on the industry. In addition, elimination of the distributor and going directly to the maker through online channels are other trends that will have a lasting impact on the industry. All of these factors will help ensure a seamless Omni-channel experience for customers, which will be priority moving forward.

Q: Does every company need a Chief Digital Officer?

Driggs: Every company needs someone relentlessly focused on the business from the outside in. They need someone to consider what customers need and how they can use new technologies to create a better experience for the customer. This can be done under a CMO, CCO (Customer), CIO (Information) or CDO. What these executives need is the authority to work across silos and build end-to-end experiences. Today’s companies must innovate like a start-up, build test and learn like a high-tech firm and scale like a VC. Someone has to be accountable for the business and IT challenges and integration required to make that happen.