Archive for October, 2011

Agile Commerce – Unlocking a Mobile Applications Strategy that works

October 18, 2011

One common misconception in creating an Agile Commerce strategy, especially in Retailing, is to think that the strategy is purely centered on technology.

Retailers must “operationalize” customer intelligence across channels from existing systems such as customer relationship management, web analytics, business intelligence, data warehousing and mobile applications.

Agile Commerce is not a solution looking for a problem to solve but a process for enhancing the customer experience and driving additional revenue and profit to the organization.  An Agile Commerce strategy and business strategy need to be developed in parallel.

Mobile Applications play an important role in an agile commerce strategy.  If implemented properly in accordance with the business/retailing strategy, Mobile Applications can improve the customer experience.

  • Mobile Barcodes: Mobile barcodes are a powerful way to drive in-store transactions. For example, retailers can provide a mobile application that enables customers to use the camera in their mobile phone to snap a picture of a barcode, which then brings up a special landing page for that product or group of products. This can provide customers with instant product and pricing information and create opportunities for cross selling or up selling. These same capabilities would also provide the ability to generate coupons or vouchers that encourage impulse buying in the store.
  • Location-Based Services: Mobile store-locator applications can guide customers to the nearest store, or the nearest store that has a specific product in inventory, and provide coupons for use in the store.
  • In-Store Shopping Applications: Mobile devices can become “virtual salespeople” by providing applications that enable customers to check product availability (both in-store and online), compare prices with other outlets and access reliable product information. (Enabling price comparisons with other outlets seems counterintuitive, but it actually is beneficial because it helps keep the customer in the store to negotiate pricing rather than having them leave to investigate pricing elsewhere.)
  • Multichannel Engagement: Mobile can become the first point of contact with a potential customer, who can then be transferred to other online or offline channels. For example, a coupon could be used as an incentive to download a mobile application, with the coupon redeemable at the online or offline store. Mobile is also an excellent channel for customer updates. SMS messages, email or automated phone calls can be used to notify customers to product availability or special promotions, driving them to online and offline stores, and providing them with vouchers while in-store to encourage impulse buying.
  • Closing the Sale: Actual mobile transactions have been slow to evolve since those initial Coca-Cola machine rollouts, due primarily to technical and security considerations. Most of those issues have been overcome today, making mobile a suitable mechanism for capturing customer information and executing transactions.

Mobile application technology should provide the flexibility to adapt to emerging business requirements, so it can support mobile commerce operations both today and in the future–even if future requirements are not yet known.

In addition to being fully integrated with a broader commerce platform, mobile commerce technology should have the following core capabilities that will enable a truly rich mobile commerce strategy:

  • Integrated Content Management: This will enable easy development of mobile-optimized websites and ensure content consistency across different sites and channels. The solution should have a single interface for content creation, and advanced search and navigation capabilities to make content access simple and intuitive. It should also integrate with promotions functionality, to facilitate the rapid creation and deployment of promotional content.
  • Mobile Barcode Generation: As detailed earlier in this blog, mobile barcodes open a broad range of opportunities to influence customer behavior – from driving them to online and offline stores, to encouraging impulse purchasing, to promoting up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.
  • Standards-Based APIs: These APIs – most often based on Web services standards – will enable seamless integration with other systems and support for all varieties of mobile platforms. This enables mobile and commerce platforms to integrate with back-end systems, and all major mobile platforms.

In order for the agile commerce strategy to be implemented effectively two primary tenets need to be adhered to:

  1. Make agility and speed a corporate imperative. In order to win in the new era of agile commerce, organizations must overcome the IT bottleneck that comes with making e-commerce changes. It’s essential to be able to inject customized content into customer interactions seamlessly, throughout the sales cycle.
  2. Create a multifaceted/cross-functional team structure. You need to optimize more than your technology. The right people and processes must deliver the same level of continuity, engagement, and relevance across all touch points. No longer can a few members of the organization dictate the impact of digital marketing. Through a “cross-pollination of expertise” you can leverage the new technologies to create an army of margin makers at all levels of the organization, a business culture where all employees are empowered to influence revenue based on the ability to carry out great ideas quickly, with measurable and actionable results.
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The role of today’s CIO is changing—why it’s imperative for the success of the organization

October 7, 2011

The CIO role is changing–it must continue to change so that IT organizations can become and remain successful. In her article for Bloomberg Business Week, Rachael King quotes Rebecca Jacoby, CIO at Cisco Systems (CSCO), on the changing role of today’s CIO:  “As technology plays a more central role in products and employees do more work on a broader range of devices, CIOs need experience running businesses and spurring innovation—not just keeping computers running.”

Read Rachel’s full post. Here’s my observation on why the role of the CIO should continue to change and why it makes sense.

The focus of the CIO role is now much more about the purpose of leadership.  Whether or not a CIO has come up through a technical track or not will not necessarily make that CIO become a successful business leader.  Technical experience alone does not give anyone the ability to lead an IT organization.

It has been my experience that many people within IT organizations may sometimes feel threatened by a non-technologically trained CIO taking the reins of a company that was once a technology dominated. Think about it. A successful non-technical CIO has no choice but to build an organization of great technicians that will help the organization to develop technical solutions for business issues.

The days of a CIO coming up through a technical track are quickly coming to an end.  IT organizations “stuck in the silo” and not working within the business community are doing a disservice to the organization and more than likely hampering the growth of the business. Nowadays a CIO must be very conversant in marketing, finance and accounting–really most of the core business leadership functions in my opinion.

It is myopic to think that a non-technical CIO cannot successfully run an IT organization just as it is myopic to think that a person that is technically competent cannot become a CEO, COO or CFO.

Be sure to read Rachel King’s Bloomberg post.