One of the overarching themes that emerged during the National Retail Federation “Big Show” last month was the need for retailers to do a better job of “change management.” Attendees and speakers at the event said companies need to transform themselves to survive. And that change includes all aspects of the business – across the entire supply chain.
The good news is that there are many technology solutions available that can help companies transform. The bad news is that integrating various platforms is costly, and it sometimes doesn’t work.
But companies are now rolling out single-platform solutions that can handle multiple aspects of a retail business. PTC, for example, just brought to market its “Retail Innovation Platform,” which it describes as an “end-to-end technology platform designed to enable retailers and brand owners to overcome today’s market pressures, including the need for fast fashion, the ability to service the digital consumer, the need to keep costs under control, and the ability to manage complex supply chains with agility.”
PTC told WWD that current market conditions have created a complicated set of challenges for retailers and fashion brands. Lead times need to be shorter, better visibility of inventory is a necessity, and the in-store and online experience should be flawless for the consumer. So PTC went to the drawing board and figured out how to integrate its solutions into a “single, connected platform” to address these challenges, and the Retail Innovation Platform was born.
PTC said it will “enable retailers to design and develop products faster and better, overcome global supply-chain complexities with end-to-end transparency, and deliver a connected store experience to improve consumer engagement.” On that last note, the connected store experience is rapidly evolving due to the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
Eric Symon, vice president and general manager of PTC’s retail business unit, said the “potential impact of the IoT is no longer a secret. At PTC, we recognized this from the beginning and are bringing our solutions and technologies together to further enable retailers and brand owners to transform how they operate and compete, starting with design through to the in-store experience.”
To learn more about how to deliver a better in-store experience, PTC partnered with Deloitte as well as other technology firms to pilot a “fully smart, connected store” with Legend World Wide, which is located in Belgrade, Serbia. NCR, Monolith and Impinj generate in-store data at the site. The data is then centralized into the ThingWorx Industrial Innovation Platform, which is a PTC product. The data is “presented in a series of dashboards that provide actionable insights,” PTC noted.
Victor Hoong, partner at Deloitte Digital, said “digital channels are redefining the purpose of today’s store. We are exploring the promise of IoT with stores like Legend and experimenting with smart technology to capture data and generate insights.”
The insights can help optimize inventory levels and also help retailers “understand customer traffic to optimize product assortments based on personas,” PTC said. “Additionally, ThingWorx allows retailers to improve the in-store experience by understanding traffic patterns to optimize store layout and better predicting in-store staffing needs. Centrally, ThingWorx enables users to monitor the health of the devices in the store.”
Aside from ThingWorx, the integrated Retail Innovation Platform includes: FlexPLM Canvas, which allows for visual and collaborative designing of products, and ThingWorx augmented reality apps. “The retail AR apps will enable retailers and brand owners to access FlexPLM and other enterprise systems in real-time to support a variety of internal and customer-facing processes,” PTC said.
Quach Hai, senior director of product management at PTC retail business unit, said that augmented reality, “when coupled with product design data, can transform the way products are developed.”
“Stakeholders, including merchandisers and designers, can use AR to get a feel for what a product will look like during its development,” Hai said. “This empowers them to make better aesthetic and financial decisions. The support for AR on the iPad and iPhone is powerful and convenient for these kinds of use cases.”