The Record - Issue 19: Winter 2020

138 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om The Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the growth of e-commerce and it’s imperative for retailers and consumer packaged goods vendors to reimagine their operations if they want to stay competitive. We ask Microsoft and its partners how they can achieve this Transforming retail landscapes BY R E B E CCA G I B SON S upply chain disruptions, store closures, fluctuating product demand and rapidly changing consumer behaviours have signif- icantly altered the retail landscape since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a larger propor- tion of sales moving online than ever before. According to McKinsey & Company’s Adapting to the next normal in retail: The customer expe- rience imperative report , e-commerce sales for apparel, beauty products and department stores have increased by almost 10 per cent this year, while e-commerce penetration in the grocery sector rose from three per cent up to 10 per cent during its peak. Shanthi Rajagopalan, worldwide retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG) business strat- egy leader at Microsoft, says the rapid accelera- tion of e-commerce has been a challenge (and an opportunity) for retailers and CPG companies. “Retailers that previously had e-commerce platforms have seen demand surge – some of our customers say they’re experiencing the vol- ume of traffic they’d typically see on a Cyber Monday on a weekly basis now,” she explains. “Meanwhile, others have been forced to quickly develop and roll out e-commerce capabilities to ensure they can continue serving customers and remain competitive and profitable while their physical stores were closed.” To ensure success in the e-commerce world, retailers must be able to identify and cater to the individual needs, preferences and expec- tations of all their customers. Rajagopalan recommends they achieve this by building a 360-degree view of their customer. To do this they can deploy a customer data platform (CDP) with built-in analytics, machine learn- ing and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, such as Amperity. “CDPs consolidate data fromdisparate sources – such as e-commerce sites, social media and point of sale – into one centralised platform, so retailers can analyse it and identify market trends to better understand their customers. she explains. “They can also accurately forecast product demand, optimise pricing, personal- ise customer interactions and ensure they are delivering relevant product recommendations, marketing messages, promotional offers and much more.” Another key element to e-commerce success is the ability to meet consumer demand for same-day or next-day delivery. This is requiring both retailers and CPG companies to rethink their approach to order fulfilment. According to Rajagopalan, they can start by implementing a solution that aggregates all their inventory, fulfilment and customer location data in a single platform. “This will give retailers accurate real-time visi- bility into their inventory and end-to-end supply chain, allowing them to quickly direct product F E ATUR E