Lead story - COVID-19 retail realities - Kohl's finds the limits of love, Walmart finds the e-commerce groove
MyPOV: The retail sector continues to face hard truths as consumer behavior shifts. Stuart set the tone with When loving the store isn't enough - Kohl's omni-channel retail shortcomings exposed by COVID-19 crisis. When your stores are closed, your Amazon return program is a non-starter. As Stuart notes, Kohl's CEO is keeping the message upbeat, but Stuart's take is unsparing:
Kohl's went into the current crisis in an unfit state to ride it out. The crisis may have been unprecedented in scale and certainly not on the planning radar, but Kohl's lack of digital preparedness over the years has come back to hurt it when such investments might have provided some form of cushion. What depresses most is the 'conservative' thinking that still seems to be prevalent.
Walmart, by contrast, had a deep e-commerce play to turn to. But, as Stuart notes, challenges remain (Walmart e-commerce soars during COVID-19 crisis, but online profitability remains a longer-term challenge). The good news? Walmart's Q1 numbers were up 74% for three months to the end of April, which includes a good portion of the lockdown to date. On the other hand, Walmart put the kibosh on Jet.com, which cost $3.3 billion not that long ago (2016). And, there's that nagging issue of profitability. Stuart:
Some big numbers and a strong response to changed consumer needs in a crisis from Walmart. There's still one lingering issue that hasn't gone away, and that's the harsh reality that however impressive the e-commerce operation is, it's still not profitable.
My takeaway? There are few clearcut retail winners and losers right now. It all depends on who can ride this out, and what they invest in along the way. As Stuart says:
The crisis has triggered an acceleration of underlying existing strategic trends.
More on those trends here:
- Digital acceleration of underlying transformation - the main takeaway from COVID-19 for the fast food sector - Stuart
- The future of digital payments - has COVID-19 become a weapon in the war on cash? - Chris
Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week
- The factory of the future full of autonomous robots is being built - BMW, NVIDIA share their progress - pre-COVID-19, I used to mock the so-called "factory of the future" as being too futuristic for the factory itself. But as Kurt documents, the factory of the future is no longer a punchline, but an imperative. As for those manufacturers doing the hunker-down, Kurt warns: "[Don't allow] a tanking economy to disrupt technology strategies that will be critical to long-term success."
- Return to the workplace? Not so fast say employees - A sizeable chunk of the workplace is looking at some type of phased re-opening. But: Den's got serious questions - and some stats to give employers pause.
- GE Digital CTO on the future of industrial businesses in a COVID-19 world - Derek picks up the connected manufacturing conversation with an exec who is right in the thick of it. Pull quote: "The long term impact is about needing more productivity, which means these things have got to be smarter. That's when the AI discussion shows up, the industrial optimisation discussion shows up, the analytics discussion shows up."
Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:
- Securing the provision of antibodies - an interview with Abcam CSO Helen Rabe - Sooraj delves into a company on a vitally important mission.
- Box freshens up for a 'systemic' change in how we work - Phil updates on a company knee-deep in remote work functionality, with a UX imperative. I'll spare everyone my rant on their
dopeybaffling consumer pricing.
- Pulse rate faster as crowdsourcing community opens up to customers - Barb files an exclusive on a different type of research firm entirely.
Virtual events rolled on, trying to capture some of that live mojo. I was on the Planful beat, putting their continuous planning vision to the real-world test:
- Finance leaders had to toss their pre-COVID-19 plans, so what's next? Continuous planning, says Planful's CEO
- How the Boston Red Sox finance team uses modern planning tools to rethink a disrupted market
- Planful Virtual Tour 2020 - Bose reveals lessons learned on the way to continuous planning
ServiceNow's Knowledge 2020 content kept Derek's
beach walks short agenda full again this week (yes, Derek quarantines at his flat in Margate, UK; it's ok to hate him a little bit for that):
- ServiceNow expands employee safety and well-being services to help the C-Suite manage return to workplaces
- SwissRe pursues strategy of ‘no more silos’ by expanding use of ServiceNow
A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:
- No need to call ‘cut!’ - Workplace from Facebook keeps the National Film and Television School teaching during COVID-19 - Jessica
- How knowledge platform Guru is helping Shopify embrace remote working - Phil
- Turning workflow into an industry-wide open automation platform, the Appian way - Martin
Jon's grab bag - Gary brings equal parts curiosity and skepticism to our robotic work future in UiPath CEO pitches Robotic Process Automation as a worker’s new best friend - do we believe him? Neil Raden brings a similar mix to Will telemedicine finally disrupt the health care industry? Short answer: we won't know for a while - not until the regulatory environment is sorted and settled.
Finally, Phil "XaaS" Wainewright gets historical with a podcast recap, where he was on the interview hot seat: My learnings from 21+ years of SaaS and cloud.
Best of the rest
My top six news or analysis picks this week:
Debt and Coronavirus Push Hertz Into Bankruptcy Protection - An inevitability perhaps, with an ominous quote: "No business is built for zero revenues." Lesson time: one analyst is quoted as saying Avis has a better chance of surviving because it cut costs sooner...
SAP Extends Its Digital Access Adoption Program (DAAP) to the End of 2021 - SAP's decision to extend their digital licensing adoption program was a no-brainer of sorts, but still the right decision. ASUG reports.
- Why Would Amazon Scope Out JCPenney? It’s The Real Estate, Baby! - I normally don't pick speculative pieces, but this one raises the right questions. This wouldn't really be a brand buy on Amazon's part - it's about real estate efficiency, a cynical-but-logical reason for scooping up a boatload of properties in one transaction.
- 5 Steps to Assess Offshore Support Risk (and 5 Steps to Address Critical Needs) - Another keeper from UpperEdge, which excels are breaking down enterprise contract gotchas.
- Elevating customer experience excellence in the next normal - My newsfeed readers had issues with McKinsey's "next normal" phrasing - can you blame them? We're not even used to the new normal yet.
- Five ERP Myths that can Stall Your ERP Software Initiative - Nice myth-busting from the folks at Third Stage. Here's a stinger to watch out for: "Your IT Department Knows What’s Best for the Company (when it come to new technology)."
So we had a buzzword-bashing festival on Twitter this week:
Ecstatic that the dreaded "pivot" and "circle back" both made the top five. Chafed that the overflogged "leverage" didn't make the list though. @ABridgwater please circle back on this... :)
— Jon Reed (@jonerp) May 24, 2020
Readers bemoaned notable absences:
I am disappointed that "reimagine" did not make the cut
— Vijay Vijayasankar (@vijayasankarv) May 24, 2020
I sympathize with Vijaysankar on that one, I too struggle with the
insatiable desire to make incremental ideas sound important art of the possible. Oh, and Hank Barnes is right, "cascading" is brutal:
Cascaded.."have you cascaded this communication through your teams:
— Hank Barnes (@Barnes_Hank) May 24, 2020
Meanwhile, stalwart hits/misses reader Clive Boulton alerted me to a self-inflicted PR meltdown by software engineering tool
(s?)Triplebyte. Basically, it appears account holders:
- must opt-out if they don't want Triplebyte's shift from private to public profiles
- they have only a week to opt-out, and:
- Triplebyte sent just one email notice that may or may not survive a modern spam filter - I'm guessing not.
And we've got a worst-privacy-practice award nominee folks, congrats.
Is there anything more tedious than watching telecomm vendors dump
unverifiable truckloads of media dung automagical absurdity on the 5G hype machine? Well, AT&T finally got a mini-spanking. But they still plan to use their fantastical "5G Evolution" logo.
Finally, if you need a pick me up after a long weekend run amok or evaporated, you aren't alone. Check this dude whose quarantine has been enlivened by three baby owls outside his window monitoring his every move (and watching the telly with him).
If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.