The pace of change in retail is staggering, opening up exciting possibilities for forward-thinking retailers and customers. This Cloud in Practice Programme presented expert opinions on opportunities and challenges behind using Cloud, Big Data and the Internet of Things, in order to help retailers to serve their customers better.
Head of Public Policy, Allegro Group
Mark Van Der Horst
Director EU Affairs UPS Europe
Vice President Government Affairs, Retail Innovation HTT AB
Empowered shoppersare none the easier to serve since the behavior of ‘Flex Shoppers’ may prove hard to predict occasionally. Though bucking the trend towards the promised land envisioned by predictive analytics, this finding is not to say that remedies to present inconveniences (enhanced information, easier navigation on websites, clearer price and return policies, etc) will not be able to contain the negative side of the ‘impulse’ factor. For instance, nearly 90% of shoppers would check whether there is a return policy on the website. By eliminating obstacles such as remote geographical location of a client, online shopping in fact enhances economic and social inclusion. Actually many signs point to online shopping’s ability to bring a welcome complement, though not a substitute, to the ‘brick & mortar’ experience.
This is assuming regulation won’t hamper the phenomenal growth of this sector as may be feared in the current environment: platforms are under close scrutiny; a combination of IP address and cookies might have personal data regulation apply even before a mere visitor turns into a customer. Retail is living testimony to the fact that certain personal data is needed simply to improveuser-experienceat websites. Adding to the overall uncertainty is the exact characterization of data gathered at Points of Sales (PoS).
Provided appropriate caution is exerted in handling personal data, ICT-enabled traceability should be seen as a blessing though. This is nowhere as obvious as in the context of tax: improved collection cannot but strengthen government budgets, less fraud makes for a more level playing field. This is a case where tools provided by technology (ECRs and PoS systems connected to tax authorities’ back-office cloud servers) can secure win-win solutions for both government and the private sector. Balancing the need forregulatory constraintssuch as tax reporting without curtailing the growth of retail is a challenge for business and governments alike. In this light there are some good examples, Sweden and Turkey. Turkish case can illustrate how regulation can speed up the growth of SMEs active in retail. Indeed a new paradigm is building up in how retailers, technology providers and regulators interact with each other to the benefit of all stakeholders.
Contracts can prove to be either the weakest or the strongest instrument depending on how consistent thelegalconstruct behind them and how effective it is at securing compliance across borders at all times. In the particular case of personal data protection, it may be argued that they offer a safe – if not necessarily of equal convenience – alternative to broader bilateral schemes aimed at securing adequate protection.
This quick snapshot of ICT-enabled retail across Europe shows that this is a rich vein of tremendous growth, regulation permitting.