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29 July 2019 | Thought Leadership

A guide to the fourth industrial revolution

Did you know that by next year, more time will be spent in the digital world than on all other media combined? That’s just one of the key ideas shared by Michelle Anderson, The Warehouse Group’s Chief Digital Officer, at her address during last week’s NZ Retail Summit.

From steam in the 1700s, to Electricity and Scientific approach to mass production in the 1800s, followed by computing in the 1900s, the world as we know it has been shaped by several industrial revolutions, and as Anderson and others see it, we’re at the cusp of the fourth. “The fourth industrial revolution is the digital age and the era of the connected device, and it’s bringing companies and customers together like never before,” said Anderson.

The convergence of advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of Things and other technologies are part of the collective force behind many products and services that are increasingly becoming indispensable to modern life, she added.

“From GPS systems that suggest the fastest route to a destination, voice-activated virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri, personalized Netflix recommendations and Facebook’s ability to recognize your face and tag you in a friend’s photo, these technologies paving the way for transformative changes in the way we live and radically disrupting almost every business sector,” added Anderson.

To stay competitive, Anderson says that retailers need to take notice and understand the implications of all of this to their brands. One way to accomplish delivering experiences that are both world class to the consumer and deliver value to the business is through personalization.

"Developing tailored recommendations, content, offers, and experiences, across all channels and devices, along the entire customer journey is how retailers can stay ahead of the curve,” said Anderson. “Personalization at scale has the potential to create $0.45 trillion to $0.8 trillion in new value to the retail industry according to a recent report by McKinsey. 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them and understand when to approach them, but implementing and integrating the right technologies create significant complexity and call for a lot of coordination.”

At the core of personalization is one important thing: data. 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, and 90% of the world’s data has been made in the last two years alone. There’s estimated to be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, which opens up vast opportunities for marketers, but also raises the question of privacy, shared Anderson.

“We at The Warehouse Group believe that data can be a tool to build trust,” said Anderson. “When you listen, respect, and earn consent appropriately, you can power incredible end-to-end customer experiences - cross-channel, cross-device and across lifecycle – but with all of this opportunity for personalisation."

For The Warehouse Group, the vision for this data-saturated future is a fully-scaled and integrated marketing capability that delivers for customers and for the businesses. As Anderson put it, “We don’t just want to turn up, we want to be there for our customers when it matters across their various shopping missions. We want to leverage our rich data set to understand our customers to deliver personalised and relevant experiences to them. It all boils down to right message, right time, right channel.”

Anderson believes that part of finding the right mix involves developing customer journeys for each brand, where they can map out interaction points and touch points across all channels to see the moments that matter to customers. It’s something that The Warehouse Group brands are exploring by offering personalised recommendations across desktop sites and mobile apps that customers interact with, and Anderson believes that bridging the physical and digital experiences will be even more important moving forward.

She wrapped up her presentation by sharing her key takeaways on how to fine-tune an organisations approach to digital. “Focus on optimising the customer experience, but be transparent with how you’re using the data that comes as a result of that,” added Anderson. “While unlocking siloed data can be difficult, it’s key to build a solid foundation to assist in that area. Investing in decisioning and analytics capability will open your eyes as marketers to what’s missing and what’s possible with your digital efforts.”

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