Off the Shelf provides a platform for Retailers and Consumer Packaged Goods companies to discuss and gain insights on the pressing problems, trends and solutions.

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April 3, 2013

Social Selling - the future is here


Online retail portals like Storenvy are creating niche place for themselves in Social Selling. Storenvy is a large Online Mall - with over 35000+ stores offering products across several categories and each week over 15,000 items are added to Storenvy.


It is not humanly possible for anyone to identify the best item in this Online mall suiting your taste and that's where the social angle comes in. I.e. each time a product is bought @ Storenvy it gets promoted and is visible to the rest of the shoppers. Anytime a shopper is browsing an item it gets listed in the order of real time popularity. Also the shopper can view the reviews from the previous shoppers of that item. The portal also generates a personalized shopping list on a daily basis based on current trends. Shoppers are not just influenced by other shopper's reviews but also by their shopping list!

Another example is of a Sandwich shop in New York , which allows its online users to build custom sandwiches , once an order is placed the custom sandwich is also included in the Restaurant's Regular Menu. If any of the online customer were to order this custom sandwich then a portion of the sales is also credited to the original customer (who built the custom sandwich) for future purchases. In this model , the retailer is actually co-creating value for both themselves as well as the customer (let us not forget the loyalty angle)


Can this trend be extended to a brick and a mortar store?


How will we do this?


We need to capture the shopper behavior at a store (via cameras) - which items were 'browsed' (viewed) , which items were evaluated ( labels or tags were read), lost sales (empty aisles) and finally the items which were bought (sales at POS)). This is just a snapshot of data which can essentially give the retailer greater insights into consumer shopping behavior. Plus sharing this real time with other shoppers through - Mobile apps, Store Displays (for each aisle) can influence the shopping decisions especially for new products launches.


With advances in Mobility, ubiquity of Social Apps, consumers will be more and more influenced by the social media for their purchases. Social selling is the future of Retail.

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen, Associate Manager, Client Services, RCL

EUC : Eliminating Dependency on Hardware


A popular music platform on the cloud allows me to access my favorite tunes no matter where I am : home, office, in transit. It does not matter if I am on a laptop, a mobile phone, television, desktop - experience remains the same.


Extending this to an enterprise, by virtualizing apps and moving from a thick to a thin client we can drastically reduce dependency on a device for the end user. Virtualization means moving local apps to a central server.


Many of the vendors are now providing cloud equivalent of their software including cloud storage which compliments this vision. Several of the ERP shops are already making their core modules available on the cloud. There are several workplace productivity tools which are mobile ready like timesheet modules, absence management.


A User hence does not require high end configuration device or be limited by the office network to be functional. This translates to lower hardware cost (replace devices with cheaper tablets), reduce disruption incase of hardware failure (as the end user can switch to an alternate hardware incase there is an issue with the primary device), remove device support service from the critical path.

The first step will be to review the enterprise application stack and come up with a virtualization roadmap - hosted, citrix, VDI, client server. Applications which are required in the offline mode should be able to sync up with the server seamlessly when the connection is restored. Virtualization roadmap should be followed by an enterprise device strategy by roles.


This also builds foundation for BYOD strategy, which essentially puts the onus of device on the end user. Enterprise can move away completely from Asset procurement and lifecycle management. End Users have the flexibility of choosing their own device and network provider and the enterprise has to focus on ensuring the availability of applications.


Overall this is a win-win for both end users and enterprise.

Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen, Associate Manager, Client Services, RCL

Managed Services - Becoming useful to the Business

Managed Services by definition is managing the IT Services (aka Commodity Services) via outcomes and SLAs . The basic mantra is for the client to become more strategic and a metrics driven organization( its own IT arm now focusing on new Cutting edge technologies, Enterprise architecture , Thought leadership and supporting new business enablement ideas) and leaving the daily IT operations to their IT Services Partner.


One may argue that by letting go of the operational arm, due to the inherent nature of Managed Services, client IT team is actually distancing themselves from the day- to- day IT operations. Client IT Managers often grapple to get status on support issues as now they have to go through various IT Support layers. In the Pre- Managed Services days, the Client IT team would have been engrained into IT operations , by virtue of one team doing support and development and hence would have had real time information on support tickets. So, how can IT become useful to the Business in the Managed Services world?


IT Services Partner should build a Business Liaison Layer in its organization thereby removing dependency on Client IT Layer for day to day Business Liaising on Support issues. Well, let us be practical, without major rebadging upfront, the very foundation of Managed Services will not support this on Day 1.Typically clients would not like to rebadge their key IT Managers as this is a huge risk to their business. Also it could take months for the IT Services Partner to build this capability internally across all areas. So this option will fall into continuous improvement bucket and is not an immediate solution.


Another option which we can consider is what I would like to call "Control Rods in a Nuclear Reactor" scenario - here the Nuclear Reactor is "Managed Services Operations" and the Control Rods are the "Client IT - interventions". Per this option, the Client IT team focuses on its core functions but makes interventions into the Managed Services operations only when required. The Managed Services Team continuously broadcasts the current status of the support ticket, tagging it by the relevant Business area so that its operations are transparent and "Business Visible". The Broadcast module should be a bolt on to the ITSM framework resulting in minimum impact to Support productivity, personnel diversion. The module seamlessly translates the status of the tickets to the Client. e.g. If the Order Management System is down , the System automatically sends update on who is working on it, time spent, ETA, Escalation status , contact numbers. During critical tickets, the client IT team, based on some exception criteria, can make interventions when thresholds are about to be breached.


Managed Services structure cannot be "one size fit all". It has to be customized based on individual client landscape and business needs and has to continuously evolve to be relevant.


Posted on behalf of Thomas Mathen, Associate Manager, Client Services, RCL