How to Better Meet Your Customer’s Needs

The stars probably aren’t going to align before your next digital transformation, but it’s always the right time to get ahead of customer needs.

“I don’t think there’s ever an easy time to do anything and I always tell people: Once you can obviously see it, then it’s too late,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said onstage at NRF 2019. “So they’d better be predicting and anticipating where their customer is going.”

That means acting fast. No more forming teams to identifying problems, then vetting and selecting vendors, and finally contracting and implementing in order to solve those problems. Existing technology lets users create their own applications using special easy-to-use tools.


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Solving Your Problems Faster In House

“Solve them in house by making [your] own applications and deploy them more quickly,” SAP’s Roger Roney said during a demonstration at NRF 2019. “I have added capability because I’m using SAP Cloud Platform, to not just capture and deliver information but to do something as well.”

In Roney’s example, an internal app for in-store associates uses image recognition technology to identify products on the shelf and the associate can view relevant information, change the price, or order more. For external/customer use, an in-house app could rely on SAP Leonardo and other technology to create a virtual shopping list, which renders the items on a virtual store shelf, showing the current price of each item, and the total cost of the entire order.

“Our customers can create their own innovations [and] fill their own gaps without having to come to a vendor like SAP,” Roney said. “They can do it on their own.”

Keeping up with How the Joneses Shop

A retailer’s in-house app could use SAP Leonardo and other technology to create a virtual shopping list (see the video above)

“People will always eat, [but] the way people eat will always change,” Kroger’s McMullen said. As a result, organizations must use data to constantly evaluate how they can better help their customers, whether they’re shopping online, in stores, or both, according to McMullen.

“Customers want anything they want, anytime they want, anywhere they want,” McMullen said. So organizations “really have to understand: Where is it you’re trying to go? What are the things that you’re better off doing on your own? And what are the things you need to partner with others?”

Creating your own apps is something you might be better off doing on your own, but it could require you to disrupt someone unexpected.

Winning at Your Own Game

“You have to be willing to disrupt yourselves,” Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell said onstage at NRF 2019. “You have to be willing to reinvest: in stores, in digital, in technology, in fulfillment, and in your teams.”

Target was at a crossroads a few years ago, according to Cornell. It could try to beat the likes of Amazon head on; that would have required building a gargantuan distribution network at break-neck speed. Instead, Target decided to win at its own game.

“We already had a coast-to-coast network — more than 1,800 potential distribution points — [but] we’d only thought about them as stores,” Cornell said. “Today we consider our stores our single biggest competitive advantage; they function as service centers, fulfillment hubs, and they’re incredible showrooms for inspiration.”

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