IN MENA RETAIL SINCE 2006

INDUSTRY ARTICLES

RETAILTECH or FAILTECH?

James Gerald Gulliver once said “Retail is Detail”.

It dazzles me like every other retailer to see the showers of transformation raining over the global economic body. Where do we start the transformation, what architecture of technologies shall we build, how will the consumer behave towards all that? Is it the operations we need to focus on transforming, the physical or virtual interface or both, the supply chain, the merchandise, the reward system, the pricing scheme, the sales, etc.? But don’t you worry, you’re not alone in this; the whole world is fluttering and the tides are high.

I’ve come to a small conclusion: “Stick to the ABC of the industry”

A happy consumer, a happy employee, a happy supplier, a happy earth: a happy value chain.

N.B. Tactics given below are examples and cannot be considered a fulfilling plan.

What about the Consumer?

Consumers began to leave their homes’ comfort zone, so it’s not just the e-store that we need to take care of. You have a chance to revamp your store and make the come-back surprisingly rewarding in its look and feel as much as in its experience. Retail is Detail and we’ll use thoughtfulness here:

Few messages inside the store:

1.       Glad you could make it, COVID won’t split us apart – with a smiley face

2.       You were cautious and so we were; please keep a safe distance and sanitize your hands on entry and exit

3.       Your eyes look beautiful; we know your face too… But please keep your mask on

And change the Visual Merchandise, focus on new ideas for display:

1.       Use mannequins with masks on

2.       Hang vaccine certificates on their necks

3.       Display a nurse mannequin and thank the nurses for their efforts

4.       Place a digital screen and display some hero nurses’ pictures on loop

Work on promotions that matter:

1.       Offer free masks on purchase

2.       Reward vaccinated consumers with a discount

3.       Offer discount on the next visit to trigger retention

And as for your e-channels:

1.       A header that embraces consumers’ emotions during the pandemic will work well on breaking the ice after the curfew rounds

2.       Deploy AI and ML into your digital/omni/headless development and make it work for an obvious benefit to the consumer; yet don’t underestimate their commercial benefits and ensure you’re optimizing and monetizing those technologies

3.       Deploy IoT in your store, across Supply Chain and in your warehouse to amplify the omni/headless outcomes. Connecting your virtual and physical channels in this case will remove friction and minimize the errors in your value chain

4.       Let your e-commerce experience (via website, application, social platforms’ marketplace and affiliates) be tailored to consumers’ social needs, boosting their self-esteem, wellbeing and surely their shopping needs. Mary Kay Ash says “Pretend that every human you see has a sign on his/her neck that says: Make me feel important. Not only you’ll succeed in sales, you will succeed in life”.

5.       Be social on social, you’ve read this like a thousand times before, yet most of us still lack being engaging enough on social platforms. You need to get out of your brand comfort zone and start humanizing your brand, giving it a real persona to speak, give opinion and exchange a real social value with your audience.

6.       Stay trendy on social, social media is becoming the go-to place and in most cases your only means of communication, so you need to be up to speed with the social fashion and utilize channels like a champ. No matter how niche or sophisticated your brand is, it has its ways through the social game. And please don’t bug me with only commercial-driven content.

What about the Employee?

We are all together in this frustration and your employee most probably is more frustrated than you are. Take a deep breath; there is a lot of uncertainty facing millennials and gen-z and this shall reflect in an inconsistent performance during their shifts, we need to understand that they can’t help it and they need support.

1.       Embrace their uncertainty and give them reasons and actions to rest their thoughts on their career and future.

2.       Engage them in your brainstorming sessions, take their opinion and act upon it, co-plan with them, set targets together, educate them on your strategy and win their buy-in.

3.       Reward them, they are also overwhelmed with the swinging regulations with COVID and also afraid of the recurring waves and evolution of it. They deserve a reward in any shape you can offer it.

4.       Give them reasons and ways to embrace your consumers, let them be the happy ones transmitting happy vibes to your consumers; this is contagious and it makes sales too.

5.       Due to the remote work necessity in some cases and the new blended offline/online shifts; they have some free time home they can benefit from to develop their skills and capacities. This is our responsibility as employers too, and we might consider some investment that should help our employee retention scores and improve the collective performance of the team.

6.       In times of transformation, you need a cultural change in the workplace; this means your team has to be educated on the new technologies, systems, updates and know the reason behind every action you’re taking. This will speed up the adoption pace and will help your transformation happen flawlessly. Their suggestions are very crucial to enable a more optimized and monetized move.

7.       Kaizen is a concept I do always promote, if you’re not familiar with it please get on google. I have been applying the rule of elimination of waste in business, and it has become a way of life; believe me it’ll work perfectly when your team acquires its terms.

What about the Supplier?

Imports, exports, raw material, packaging, processing, production and all your supply chain body is facing high tides too. We might all need to rethink the way we work, from a vendor and supplier approach towards to a collaborative approach; where the value is fairly distributed and shared in the gain as much as in the pain.

Let me tell you a little secret: If your R&D team, your strategist or consultant can create a new collaboration scheme that will flip the traditions into a new system, given that this system is genius in its BI, you might do better than you can ever imagine. Remember the happier your supplier is, the higher your profit margins are, the more you can sell, the faster you can turn over, the higher your bill will be given the higher your revenues will be, and it all goes incrementally rewarding for all.

Automating processes might not always be in favor of your supply chain, adoption is a process and it might take long or cost a lot in some cases; understanding your suppliers’ business model is key to creating/acquiring the best fit automation, this allows a frictionless adoption too. You might need to sit with them before hand, take their input and then tailor solutions that are inclusive to their aspiration and considerate to their concerns. Their opinion might save you a lot of money in the process.

Moreover, we need to look at the pattern as it’s been 24 months already since the pandemic has laid its implications on the global economy; so you could have an idea on certain indicators and findings. I can’t claim to know it all, but the least we can do is set our forecasts to hold us safe on expectations and plans; thus, expecting the worse would change the way we do business – positively speaking, this is a real opportunity to take a slingshot that will increase our resilience and make us more future proof along the way, while making good figures.

What about Earth & SDGs?

We can’t argue anymore about the crux of sustainability’s presence in our plans, culture and mindset. The earth call for action has been louder than ever with a series of events that have impacted with death counts and scarcity that can no longer be dismissed from our responsibilities.

Look deep into your value chain, see where the guilt resides, research available alternative solutions, study their financial and operational implications, reserve your budget, train your team, acquire the solutions, then announce your goals and role with tangible timeline for execution and milestones of achievements. Promote the act and enroll in the conversation, you’ll then be the favorable brand for over 47% of the world population who are now savvy of the SDGs and judge your brand upon your compliance.

Integrating the SDGs in your goals now have a room for integration within the technological scope of your business. Research providers and see how you can best integrate your SDG plans within your measurement processes.

We have to the conclusion that “There’s always a better way” to enhance the process, and your process shall be enhanced on the go. With the above mentioned thoughts, we hope that now you’re triggered to take your actions and be the hero within the pandemic, the hero in the eyes of your consumers, employees and supply chain. The world needs more of you to lead the curve and be among the frontiers of change.

Before you log out of the article, here are few titles brought to you by NetGuru followed by the link for their article by @Jinder Kang on Dec. 22nd,2021:

1.       Headless tools as unified commerce enablers

2.       The growing role of machine learning in supply chain management

3.       Frictionless payment as a new must-have

4.       Virtual try-ons on the rise

5.       Zero interface retail

6.       From online to offline with experiential retail

7.       Technological facilitators of a more sustainable retail

8.       Grab-and-go and contactless payments for the win

Link: https://www.netguru.com/blog/retail-tech-trends-2022 

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HOW FAR IS FAR?

Artificial intelligence is the most modern tradition that we are aiming to ethically use to improve people’s lives and companies’ profits. This evolution has revolutionized the workplace while striking up some interrogation regarding the future of humans:

  • Are we to be eternally substituted by robots?
  • Are we going to become hybrid creatures?
  • Or is it just a means of development that shall not affect our human race’s continuity?

Unfortunately, we tend to forget the purpose of AI: to make our lives easier. In an attempt to accomplish the latter, tech-freaks have designed a brain similar to that of humans, yet more efficient, and peacefully integrated it in our lives and our workplace thus rendering “AI” the answer of every question:

  • Need a helping hand at work? AI ticks duties off your to-do list.
  • Need a 24/7 worker? AI works non-stop.
  • Need a brainstormer to make the best decisions? Artificial intelligence makes accurate predictions to skyrocket sales.
  • Need to know your customers? AI collects their preferences.

That been said, AI now creates a safe space for businesses to leap to higher levels while also saving lives through ensuring security and wellbeing as it steps to improve all domains.
That makes you pose another question: How can AI do that?
And we are here to answer: It starts by developing the AI brain, then via machine learning robots are taught information by humans and that is creating new job opportunities. Drastically, the machine will be able to learn and develop its performance independently correcting its own mistakes; thus, reducing human errors as well as its own, thanks to the huge data pile the machine has already integrated in its system.
Briefly, it is true that machines evolve at a faster pace than humans, still we hold the upper hand over robots and make the choice of when, where and how they will seize to evolve; the fact that places humanity in a safe zone while taking this century’s huge step for mankind.
Having read that, how far is far in the AI world!

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UK'S MENU HISTORY

British cuisine has long been regarded as boring, dull and ordinary due to its wide diversity translated into a language courante and street food very odd for European non-Brits. As locals deep fry their Mars bars and call sausages toads and gravy pudding, people tend to undermine the wide scope of culinary delights of the British gastronomy ranging from traditional food with practical ingredients and food preparation techniques, to the authentic ethnic food brought into the culture from various immigrant countries and modified ethnic food which is immigrant food made British by commercial modification.

What is truly fascinating about the FnB sector in the UK is how its citizens, throughout history, have welcomed with open arms foods that most often do not complement the British style de vie while simultaneously developing their own cuisine and amending many imported dishes to their taste and preference although being incompatible with their culture like adopting a trifle desert for their three-day summer. As they have also acquainted Falafel from the Middle East through the streets of Vermont and opened widely the doors of Glasgow’s restaurants for the invention of Chicken Tikka Masala by a Bangladeshi chef.   

They have as well created Bread and Butter Pudding with a croissant or a brioche instead of regular bread and Beef Wellington based on the French filet de boeuf en croûte to be added to the long never-ending list of pies in the kingdom including the Shepherd’s Pie, Lemon Meringue and Chicken and Leek. Yet not every dish integrated in the British cuisine originated in the luxurious European streets or on the hands of well-skilled A-listed chefs, some have come from the monotonous life of average workers who needed quick, easy to carry around meals for their tough jobs such as the Cornish Pastry inspired by the South American Empanadas that was made popular by miners.

The above mentioned plates were drastically integrated on restaurant menus in the kingdom as locals were coming up with plates that resemble them and fit in their lifestyle more such as the Fry-Up or Scottish Full Breakfast piling eggs, bacon, sausages, black beans, tomatoes, toast and black pudding in a plate to start off the day. Or dining Fish’n’Chips which is the closest British dish to American cuisine. Or hosting roast dinners on Sundays when veggies and meant cook in the oven while people are at church performing religious rituals.  

Brits have even come up with dishes that mourn artists. For instance, the famous wide-spread Haggies, Neeps and Tatties made on Burns Supper yearly on the 25th of January to honor the Scottish poet Robert Burns that passed away in 1796. The dish embodies the passing away in a beautiful holiday thus transforming the heart-aching memory into a joyous celebration by compiling turnips and potatoes (Neeps and Tatties) with a traditional Scotting pudding of sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, onions, oatmeal, spices and some stock washed down with thirst-quenching whisky.

Cooking has long been, not just a mere profession, a gender role or an act of satisfying our basic needs, yet a method of apprehension of different patrimonies. Throughout this brief article, we have walked side-by-side through the streets of England, savouring foods that have harboured on the coasts of the islands and originated in its villages and tiny suburbs from Yorkshire pudding to bacon sarnie in Brighton passing through Welsh cakes, this set of articles shall constitute the staple of the ultimate British and European food experience. 

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Journey 2021 – Shifting Global