LIVE FROM NGA: Digital Thinking in a Physical World

“How is digital affecting every aspect of our daily lives?”

That was the question posed by John Phillips, SVP customer supply chain & logistics for PepsiCo, during Monday’s general session at the 2014 NGA Show in Las Vegas.

During his presentation, “Convergence of Digital and Physical Worlds,” Phillips pointed to Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook as the four industry leaders that are driving “disruptive thinking” by changing the retail landscape to focus on the consumer experience.

Historically, Phillips said, businesses were the early adopters of technology, but these days consumers are adopting technology at a much faster pace. And those companies that invest the necessary resources to understand the consumer experience and support the innovation to provide it, will ultimately build and maintain brand loyalty.

The key, said Phillips, is to apply this framework to the world of retail.

Although this may seem a daunting task for the independent grocer -- whose resources are far outweighed by the national heavy-hitters -- Phillips argued that customer personalization and intimacy is actually where independents can thrive, given their ability to adapt and change more quickly. The challenge, he believes, is to “take the constraints off, and unleash the thinking.”

Phillips pointed to companies whose technologies have already begun to innovate in this regard, including the CVS interactive mobile shopping app, as well as Walmart Scan & Go, which allows consumers to create a mobile shopping list while they shop, and skip the check-out line when they’re finished.

He further demonstrated how Google Glass technology could revolutionize the shopper experience, offering consumers a virtual store map and real-time product information, and providing store associates with information on consumer habits and repeat product purchases.

Social media is already wide-spread, but the key is to effectively leverage it for retail. Phillips stressed the importance of targeting the real-time generation -- those who are highly tech-savvy and demand information instantly. “These consumers don’t want to be talked to,” Phillips said. “They want to be part of the conversation."

As smart devices and mobile use continues to grow – and not just among young shoppers – retailers can capture consumer loyalty by enhancing the web and mobile experience, supporting personalization and customization, and making the shopping experience convenient, both pre-trip and in-store.

“Succeeding in the future requires cross-functional collaboration and integration across functions,” Phillips concluded. “Those who master the convergence of the physical and digital worlds will become the market leaders. Open your minds. Go back to your organizations and drive disruptive, transformative thinking.”

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