Authority Magazine对话云拿科技Rosie Zhang：后疫情时代，全球零售业的未来
Authority Magazine隶属于Medium publication集团，是一家致力于分享商业、电影、体育、科技等系列访谈的权威媒体，擅长用特有的人物访谈形式描绘极具力量与深度的故事，曾发表过《女性颠覆者》《未来已来》《女性健康》《动荡时期成为高效领导者的五要素》《在我成为CEO之前希望有人告诉我的五件事》等颇受欢迎的栏目，目标读者涵盖商业成功人士、高校学者、科技工作者、创业者、文艺爱好者，影响广泛。
在近期的未来零售系列中，访谈者Orlando Zayast邀请到埃森哲战略零售业务板块总经理Brooks Kitchel、云拿科技（Cloudpick）联合创始人兼高级副总裁Rosie Zhang等零售数字化领域的专家围绕行业发展进行了深度交流。
In 2016, I worked in the College of Engineering at the University of California where I met many excellent scientists, professors, and students full of vitality and creativity. Most importantly, they have a strong sense of social responsibility. They believe they can use knowledge to create unique products that can be well functioning, efficient, and low-cost, changing people's lives and increasing their happiness.
Our entrepreneurial idea came from an ice cream store operated by my schoolmate. One day, he complained that it was challenging to find full-time employees and hard to arrange part-time employees' schedules. The turnover rate for part-timers also was very high. Some employees left right after they finished training, and there were always mistakes at the cashier. The store measured the inventory of ice cream used for more than 100 years: they measured the depth of a bucket with a plastic ruler and faced the challenge of balancing inventory every day.
Therefore, a few of us in the School of Engineering tried to use computer vision and coding to optimize the algorithm for shifts-scheduling and task assignment,as well as inventory management of ice cream. As a result, the store operation efficiency increased by 95.7% in the first quarter based on measurements and calculations.
A few months later, we were fortunate to receive the angel round of funding and started our journey of physical retail innovation. We went on to establish Cloudpick in July 2017 from those sweet beginnings.
We are currently working on autonomous convenience store projects in office buildings and cafeterias in several schools. Our technology, when employed, can be very convenient for office workers and students who are looking for a snack or drink throughout the day.
In this current environment of our trying to navigate the pandemic, the autonomous convenience stores are safer since customers don’t need to touch anything, including the screens, during shopping. Instead, customers simply walk in and walk out and are charged for their purchases automatically—no need to interact with anyone if they don't want to.
The new retail studies recently showed that 43% of Brits (more than 20 million people) want their shopping experience to have as little human interaction as possible. During the lockdown, people worldwide have relied exclusively on card and cashier-less payments. Thus, frictionless and cashier-less autonomous stores are more and more welcomed by many now than would have ever been possible before.
Peter Drucker once said, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
In the real business world, you must be very clear about your commitment to your goals and unpack them in a targeted manner. It will be helpful to estimate the rate of sand flow of your hourglass accurately and strategically focus on solving the problem and bring the most value to customers. Before the hourglass runs out of sand, let yourself have the core product capabilities to turn the hourglass over.
Looking back on this journey, I think the most important thing for me was that I have a group of visionary, dedicated and trustworthy colleagues. I’m very grateful to be surrounded by these great colleagues and friends who believe that our vision will eventually be realized.Almost all of our founding partners were experts that came from large, renowned organizations with good compensations, but they were willing to quit high-paying jobs to take on the challenge of bringing a completely innovative idea to life. I think they made a very admirable and courageous choice.
When they joined Cloudpick, we started in an office located in a less than ideal location to save costs. To spend the most time working together, some of our co-founders shared a house nearby and worked until earlier morning. Many times, they walked home just to have another meeting on the road.
While the customers are enjoying their shopping experience within our autonomous stores, they can get hold of the latest promotions and coupons in the form of push notifications and an intelligent advertising display system in-store. The smart price tags can adjust at a press of a button, remotely controlled by store staff, or automatically set to be triggered by conditions. The conventional printout of adverts and coupons providing the latest promotion information will be history.
Store staff and managers are freed to focus on creative innovation andmerrily serving customers while capturing all activities and data regarding the store and products in real-time online reports, replacing the traditional paperwork.
The daily activities of the store manager will start on a much more efficient horizon. Their days will begin with a remote notification about the store's status before they step foot into the office. They can plan their daily activities and decide which stores to tender and which products to restock remotely.With centralized planning and scheduling, there will be more efficient traveling routes for restocking, reducing repetitive work to save time and cost.
Of the financial liabilities burden retailers during their business operations,the biggest concern is rent. All retailers hope to have their stores open around the clock to serve their customers, which allows maximum utilization of storefront, but often they are troubled by staffing night-shifts and so on. We help retailers to remain open 24/7 with 100% operation even at the latest hours of the day. The same can be said for weekend shifts—no need to worry.The autonomous stores can stay open 24/7 to serve customers while allowing staff to enjoy their valuable time with family and friends.
The pandemic has made more retail chain operators think about the urgency of online and offline integration. The efficiency of online shopping is highly dependent on supply chains and logistics. Offline stores are irreplaceable shopping destinations because they are foundational to communities. However, enabling offline retail to have the same digital capability as online retail is a strategic problem that large retail enterprises must solve in the next five years. The pandemic is just accelerating store digitalization to arrive.
Imagine that during the outbreak, the store clerk does not need exposure to the virus threat as a cashier. They only need to use a mobile phone for remote supervision and management of the store and its inventory. They only need to restock two or three times every week -- with the help of a real-time inventory alert. Likewise, the AI system produces dynamic product ads and can recommend products to customers based on their shopping history or product selection.
Finally,as I’ve mentioned, when customers walk into a Cloudpick store, they don't need to touch any screen or pass any loyalty cards. They don't even need to take out a dozen wasteful paper coupons. Instead, they simply get a discount on their most frequently purchased products while checking out automatically. Not even acredit or debit card is required, just an app-enabled smartphone that tracks and charges the customer's purchases.
Just think about the DVD player and movie theater 20 years ago. The DVD player is out of date. Now we use Netflix. But people still go to the movie theater because they can have the amusement that they cannot experience at home. Similarly, offline retail can never be replaced because you can't touch, see and smell by shopping online. At the same time,when you need something within 30 minutes, you cannot rely on online shopping;you may find the product only in brick-and-mortar stores.However, offline retailers do need to step up their game in terms of shopping experience and management. When offline retailers have the same data analytic capabilities as online retailers, they will definitely provide higher quality and more targeted customer services than their online counterparts.
These successful retailers are more sensitive to the following aspects and have actively made more attempts and improvements:
· More precise positioning and understanding of the target customers.By adapting to precise positioning and communication, you can satisfy customers’ needs by providing products and services to the right group of people. Take Lululemon as an example. It found the right target customers on the first day. Chip Wilson did not promote Lululemon through traditional marketing methods. Instead, he thought of an alternative and highly accurate marketing method: to build a community of yoga enthusiasts and spread word of mouth.
· More actively leveraging technology to improve customer experience.Kroger cooperated with RCA to develop the world's first electronic scanner based on an employee's suggestion. Now supermarkets continue to use this cash register method. Again in 2018, Kroger and Nuro launched the world’s first driverless car delivery service that can provide customers with an excellent customer experience anytime, anywhere. The technologies also increase the employee’s efficiency. Cloudpick serves a significant number of renowned retailers who are fast adopters intechnology -- most of them are market leaders in terms of market share and revenue.
· More awareness of effective product category management.Successful retailers focus on the refinement of merchandise management, actively experiment with various effective ways to drive unique data insights and use them to improve managing product categories.
· More customer touch points in brick-and-mortar stores. Physical stores should give full play to their advantages to provide unique and interactive shopping experiences by creating multiple touchpoints where shoppers can view, touch, smell, listen, taste, and engage with the product in person.
My suggestion for retail companies is to focus their strategy on keeping up with customers instead of paying attention to competitors. Both Amazon or Alibaba are customer-oriented. The logic of customerism dominates today's business activities. When everything becomes increasingly uncertain in the digital age,"customer needs" become their grasping things for comfort. Consumers want to interact with the brand through the most convenient channel, not through the channel designated by the brand. Consumers hope to get the right help at the right time instead of being tracked by overwhelming homogeneous advertising. Technology development has given us more advanced means to understand and serve customers in better ways.
· Optimize product placement: product optimization and display are of great significance to physical stores. To improve operational performance,we have to constantly optimize the product category structure so that the store is customer-centric and demand-oriented.
· Improve customer engagement and support: according to Gallup research, a fully engaged customer represents 23% more revenue than average.
· Improve supply chain efficiency: prioritizing planning over operations can avoid cost burdens, such as inventory redundancy, frequent allocations, and urgent orders, and is the key to improving the efficiency of the supply chain. Therefore, technological investment in supply chain network planning, intelligent replenishment, and forecasting is becoming the strategic consensus of leading companies.
· Encourage high-value employees: in a technology-driven environment, employees can be redeployed to higher-value work where their actions have more measurable significance and, in turn, increase their motivation and job satisfaction.
· Store digitalization is the key: using digital tools to accelerate store operations will be the trend for retail.
I hope more young women can be brave and more confident about choosing what they love to do, enjoy the process and give their best without caring about what others think, and live an unbounded life to the fullest.
We’re at www.cloudpick.com, on Youtube Channel Cloudpick,Twitter @CloudpickTech, you can also connect with us on LinkedIn @Cloudpick.