The Yin and Yang of 21st Century Retail


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“In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang which is often called “yin and yang” is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” Wikipedia. The “yin and yang” in retail today is the forces of technology driven to automate everything pitted against the need for the human touch and relationship. Both are much interconnected and absolutely required in this staggering logistical and operational quagmire of ecommerce married with hundreds maybe even thousands of brick and mortar stores flying the same flag. In fact you cannot expect to succeed and grow as a retailer if you don’t completely understand both of these forces and learn how to make them “give rise” by their interconnectedness.

This is where many retailers are challenged because of their conventional organizational structure trying to accomplish something unconventional. Most retail companies are siloed by how they operate organizationally. Traditionally, you have The CEO, CIO, CMO, VP of this and that all looking at their world with a lens focused on their point of view and goals. There is a lot of talk these days about the CMO becoming more of a quarterback than the traditional “advertising” role paid to promote the brand. I have even recently been seeing this new title, Chief Customer Officer. “A chief customer officer (CCO) is the executive responsible in customer-centric companies for the total relationship with an organization’s customers. This position is relatively new addition in the CxO hallway, and was developed to provide a single vision across all methods of customer contact. The CCO is often responsible for influencing corporate activities of customer relations in the call center, sales, marketing, user interface, finance (billing), fulfillment and post-sale support. The CCO typically reports to the chief executive officer, and is potentially a member of the board of directors.” Wikipedia. So things are in motion to evolve the traditional hierarchical organization creating a new “thread” that runs through the entire company focused on the customer experience. This is a very important step forward if you desire to be a leading brand.

This new role can provide the leadership, vision and change in culture required to bring together these potentially opposing forces of technology and humanness. Technology is so much more than it was just a few years ago where your primary goal was to reduce cost in the supply chain so you could maximize profit. That was the world of product retailing. The customer in many ways was an inanimate object that you marketed to and competed on price for growth of your business. Today in this new era of the customer, traditional organizations and business strategies built on domination through getting the lowest price does not hold much favor for long term success. You must as in Chinese philosophy learn to use the “yin and yang” of technology and humanness to work in an interconnected and complimentary fashion. This is customer-centric retailing! What are you doing?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Will Roche
Will Roche has over 30 years' experience working in IT with most of his experience in retail and hospitality. Will spent 23 years at IBM with 15 years in retail roles developing product and services delivering new offerings for IBM's retail business. He was responsible for the development and execution of IBM's first industry distribution channel for retail and hospitality which served the mid-market. Will joined Microsoft in 2002 as a founding member of Microsoft's industry business, with a focus on retail. He left Microsoft in 2012 for the Global Senior Vice President role at Raymark.


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