Enterprise hits and misses - Retailers reveal Coronavirus lessons, while AI and supply chains get a harder look

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed March 30, 2020
This week - retailers surface early lessons on coping with Corona-disruption. AI and supply chain software come under scrutiny. Loads of advice on digital business models, virtual events, and the new abnormal. Plus: whiffs and laughs.

King Checkmate

Lead story - Retailers respond to Coronavirus - early lessons and predictive pitfalls

MyPOV: It's still early days (I know - ugh), but we've had enough corona-havoc to assess retailers' early/hard lessons. Stuart leads off the analysis in Nike CEO John Donahoe - China crisis provides an omni-channel retail playbook for US and Europe as Coronavirus spikes. What lessons?

Nike identifies a four stage journey based on what's happened in China since the outbreak of Coronavirus there:

  • containment of the virus and closure of stores.
  • a recovery period when stores can re-open.
  • normalization of business.
  • return to growth.

And how far along are we? Stuart quotes Nike CEO John Donahoe:

Containment took five to six weeks. Stores were closed, but the e-commerce growth in all three markets remained strong during that time, augmented by Nike's connecting with consumers around being active while at home. Now, all three markets are through what we're calling recovery. That is, retail's opening back up. Consumers are back on the streets. And we're seeing as we move into normalization, retail traffic is coming back. Consumers are in the stores. They're engaged who are often wearing face masks, but they're back on the street.

Alas, that's probably an optimistic timeline for many western countries, but hey - we can use the inspiration to further our containment resolve. Bring on another use case, this one from Holland: Maintaining omni-channel retail supply and demand in a rolling crisis - how HEMA is coping. For HEMA, it's the retail supply chain that is causing consternation. Chris writes:

Today's closures and lockdowns have knock-on effects for a network of businesses months down the line, a challenge made more difficult by the virus hitting countries at different times – in some cases weeks apart.

The strain has compelled HEMA to temporarily close online operations in a range of European countries (though some are still up). What about the AI/ML-assisted predictive technologies that were supposed to anticipate all of this? As Chris points out, they weren't ready for this one:

The crisis has had an effect that few AI or ML systems would have predicted in the past – though they might model it in the future, with the wealth of new crisis data. HEMA has once again become a local store for local everyday shoppers, who look to it to supply their basic needs. It has been forced to return to its roots.

But in the future? Well, none of us can accurately predict that.

Meanwhile, things aren't so swell for Stuart over at Ocado, where's he's gotten an online rutabaga sandwich fallen back in the virtual queue to 230,000 and change: The updated view from customer 238,319 in the virtual queue - how omni-channel retail is coping with Coronavirus. Good luck, Stuart (and everyone else in the queue, for that matter).

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

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

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - If your quarantine festival with your family has turned a tad dysfunctional claustrophobic, then it's Madeline to the rescue with the terrific How to work from home with kids - some tech sector tips from the frontline.

I didn't think football leagues would have much to say right now, but Jess filed a nifty one: It's still game on for fan engagement at Everton Football Club despite Coronavirus.

I continued my tough-love-and-practical-tips virtual event series in Will your upcoming virtual event be mediocre - or memorable? (Unfortunately - these events are trending mediocre so far, but there's still time to save a bunch in 2020). Finally, Den penned my fave diginomica piece of 2020 to date, Advertising extinction - the next shoe drops. Let's get out of the zombie ad economy once and for all, eh?

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top non-corona picks of the week: AI falls short, and supply chain software gets exposed

Return On Artificial Intelligence: The Challenge And The Opportunity - I never link to Forbes.com because it's an ad-tech apocalpyse over there their UX is abysmal, but I'm making an exception for this straight talk on AI: 

In short, AI has not yet achieved much return on investment. It has yet to substantially improve the lives of workers, the productivity and performance of organizations, or the effective functions of societies. It is capable of doing all these things, but is being held back from its potential impact.

Can AI deliver? Author Tom Davenport says yes, but not without big changes in how AI projects are done (re-engineering processes around AI for one). Speaking of discredited, traditional supply chain software isn't looking so stellar right now either. Eric Kimberling of Third Stage takes that on in How to Lead Supply Chain Management Transformations of the Future:

Supply chains are not well conditioned for changing times. All the business process management, supply chain integration, and SCM software efforts of the past seem a bit irrelevant in light of today's supply chain challenges.

How Absolute Protects Patient Data At Apria Healthcare - Louis Columbus with a timely use case, and a warning for health care data managers to up their game, and pronto.

Top news picks from coronaville, where enterprises must navigate

Overworked businessman


We all have Coronvirus management questions, but France has some keepers: 'Can my husband see his mistress?': French police receive bizarre lockdown questions (Answer: yes, as long as social distancing is maintained).

Coronavirus sure does bring out the flotsam:

(Coronavirus flotsam)

This next one isn't a whiff, the opposite really, but it gave a smile as sports commentator Andrew Cotter made lemonade out of quarantine lemons with this narration of his two dogs in a backyard chow competition.

If you're in need of another quarantine smile, you could do worse than checking some astonishingly un-self-conscious 80s rock videos, such as Billy Squier's career- eviscerating Rock Me Tonight pajama party. But I'd point you to the half-assed concept video disaster, Krokus, Screaming in the Night:

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, King Checkmate © mystock88photo - all from Fotolia.com.

Disclosure - Oracle, Workday, ASUG, Acumatica and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners as of this writing.