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March 26th, 2017

The Weekly Archive: Retail Product Discovery Gets Some Digital Loving

Retailers can talk all they want about indoor tracking systems for their stores or how to simplify the customer journey with artificial intelligence. They can talk about ripping apart their decades old Oracle systems or revamping the point-of-sale systems. All of these things are necessary, righteous and good. But they also mean nothing without the fundamental element that makes the whole enterprise go round…

The product.

“You could create a data link, you could choose to know whatever you want to know about a consumer,” said Cherian Abraham, an commerce and payments executive at Experian, in an interview with ARC at ShopTalk 2017 in Las Vegas this week. “The biggest focal point for a merchant is to get things off the shelves. Whatever allows them to do that will be their biggest priority.”

The product is often the forgotten factor in the entire retail value chain. Product is procured, stored, shipped, tracked as an almost rote matter of fact.

And yet, at the simplest, most basic, level, how do you move product off the shelf?

Have high quality products that data show people actually want.

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The entire retail value chain is being impacted by digital and the explosion of surface area between customers and stores. Processes are being built to create and manage data, help consumers and stores make better decisions and find the mythical perfect experience that will satisfy everybody. The digitization of retail is in full throttle.

Product has undergone a similar explosion. It has become much easier for people of all walks to create and sell product. Think of it almost as a real world app store. Historically, the goal for product makers has been to hit a couple of well-defined distribution channels: department stores, wholesalers, big box stores like Walmart or ecommerce aggregators like Amazon.

But the trend in retail is towards specialization. More and more niche storefronts (in both the physical and digital realms) are popping up to serve very specific sets of devoted communities. The possibilities for product makers to expand channel distribution and for stores to find better targeted, quality products has never been greater.

Which is where a company like Hubba.com comes in. Founded by Ben Zifkin out of Toronto, Hubba is a community (“the LinkedIn for products”) that brings product makers onto a platform and connects them with retailers while providing data science and influencer feedback to determine what are the best products in different categories.

“As a retail buyer, you used to know five to 10 brands in your category. But now Hubba can show a thousand other brands you’ve never heard of, that are these awesome brands and give you the ten that you should care about,” Zifkin said in an interview with ARC at ShopTalk.

“And while getting a $10,000 order into Amazon is amazing, maybe I can get ten, $1,000 orders into boutique companies and that is better for me and better for my brand.”

Hubba and Zifkin are attempting to accelerate the modern notion of commerce where product is decentralized, virtual or on-demand. As a retailer, I don’t necessarily need to hold any inventory at all but rather source it directly from the supplier and work as the medium—taking a cut along the way—between maker and consumer. The maker benefits with more distribution channels, the consumer benefits from quality products and more choice and the retailer benefits by cutting having access to product-market data and the opportunity to cut out many of the logistical headaches of traditional retail.

“Commerce is simple. There is a product, there is a transaction, there is fulfillment. And nobody owned the product,” said Zifkin. “So let’s build a digital commerce data company that does that. It didn’t exist. Everybody just thought that it [product procurement] happened. But it was all duct tape and spread sheets and emails back and forth.”

Weekly Archive Links Of The Week

VISA … is following the payments industry goal of bringing and end to cash by enabling the Internet of Things for payments.

THE … biggest priority for retailers is to improve the digital experience over the next five years (above building chatbots or artificial intelligence).

GOOGLE … unveiled the first preview of Android O this week.

CROWDTESTING … is essential to Blueport Commerce’s objective of making it easier to research furniture.

HALF … of Android devices had security updates in 2016. That’s not enough.

PERSONALIZATIONhas a payments problem.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE … will have a huge impact on jobs. But the White House doesn’t seem to care.

THEbiggest problem at Twitter over the years has been a lack of profound product development. The role of head of product has been a kiss of death for whomever took it over the last several years.

APPLE … announced some new varieties iPads and iPhones, including a red iPhone. I speak mostly for myself when I say #LeShrug.

BIXBY … is Samsung’s entrance into the virtual assistant realm. These are just table stakes nowadays, kids.

Take deeper breaths, think bigger thoughts.

Dan Rowinski
Editor-in-Chief
ARC – the Application Resource Center