Enterprise hits and misses - retailers face pandemic consumers and supply chain realities at NRF, and virtual events get a once-over

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed January 25, 2021
This week - diginomica's NRF roundup has retailers grappling with new consumer behaviors - and supply chain transformations. Also: virtual events get an unflinching review - and a challenge for 2021. Your whiffs include me blowing a gasket on some absurd AI assertions.


Lead story - The diginomica NRF 2021 review - retailers grapple with pandemic consumers as the vaccine economy looms

MyPOV: NRF 2021, aka The Big Show Chapter One, is in the books. But what have we learned? How have retailers really fared? Have retail transformations paid off, or are they full of the exhaust fumes of AI hype tech overspend?

The diginomica team dived in. This week, Stuart kicked off with NRF 2021 - the vendor view on what's in store for retail transformation. One line jumps out:

From many retailers there’s been a lot of frantic digital catch-up going on. How viable such efforts are is open to question.

And this:

Disloyal customers are a new norm. This has been driven in part by supply-chain issues that led to shortages - both genuine and those of 'toilet paper panic' nature - early on in the pandemic. Microsoft's Bransten points to research that suggests 75% of consumers have reported engaging in new customer behavior in recent months.

Consumers are discovering new brands, and it's sticking. Stuart again:

Rose Spicer, Oracle's Head of Global Retail Marketing, says over 80% of consumers have discovered store own brands as a result of the lack of their usual choices on the shelves. That can provide opportunities for rival retailers, she points out.

One retailer of particular interest is Starbucks, a digital darling that ran smack into the pandemic-office-commute revenue wall, and had to regroup. Stuart's use case gives insight into how they fared, and how analytics has helped them to pivot (buzzword bingo alert) - including five keys they've discovered for shifting customer behaviors. (Brewing up a strong data foundation with Tableau - Starbucks gains critical insight into consumer behavior, store usage and...er, restrooms)

My piece on Burton Snowboards brought the question to a head: is retail transformation a vendor-constructed narrative, or an on the ground reality? As Burton Snowboard's Rachel Grogan-Cook, Director of Global Supply Chain told me, customer demand fluctuation (and business model change) is forcing the issue:

I think we're going through - we'll go through - a supply chain transformation. But I think in tandem with the supply chain transformation is the sales channel transformation. That's what's going to specifically feed our supply chain transformation. (How Burton Snowboards faced off against COVID-19 supply chain upheaval with Infor Nexus).

At press time, Stuart hit on another storyline: luxury retail (Shaping the next normal - how Saks Fifth Avenue is using digital savvy to evolve the "comfort food" of luxury retail).

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A couple more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Virtual conference best practices: 2020 in review - Enterprise Irregulars' Sandy Kemsley spared no fools - or vendors - in this rundown of the highs and lows of the virtual event year:

It's fair to say that things aren't going to go back to the way that they were any time soon. Part of this is due to organizations understanding that things can be done remotely just as effectively (or nearly so) as they can in person, if done right. Also, a lot of people are still reluctant to even think about traveling and spending days in poorly-ventilated rooms with a bunch of strangers from all over the world.

"If done right" being the crucial phrase there. Kemsley continues:

If you run a virtual conference that doesn't get the attendee engagement that you expected, the problem may not be that "virtual conferences don't work": it could be that you just aren't doing it right.

Yep, that's a bullseye, a bingo, a Yahtzee. I'm with Kemsley here - virtual (and hybrid) virtual is here to stay. Less excuses and better virtual events would a good start. "See you in Las Vegas later this year" is a non-starter right now.

Six more picks:

Overworked businessman


I'm all for creative therapies, but this seemed a stretch:

I've been uninstalling Adobe Flash without much of a problem, aside from some self-congratulatory pomp from Adobe, as if building the most insecure Internet application of all time was something to be proud of. But the end of Flash didn't go well for everyone: Chinese railway station knocked offline when Flash stops being supported.

Clears throat:

Finally, an AI carnival finally came too close to my batcave. Dander up:

You can see the entire satirical showdown on my timeline. The blame isn't fully on the author - it's the title that's the most extravagant line-cross, and the author does delve into some worthy questions of AI bias injecting itself into "creative" moments. But really, this entire premise is based on a lowering of the creative bar. Since quality is subjective, and we can't possibly tell the difference in quality between Moby Dick and AI content "snacks," then just redefine quality as "engagement." Now AI has a prayer:

I wasn't the only one who got annoyed by this excitable silliness:

My last word for the night was this parting shot:

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. 

Image credit - Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Loser and Winner © ispstock - all from Fotolia.com - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - Oracle, Workday, ServiceNow, Zendesk and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing