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What’s The Future Of M-Commerce Look Like? Home Depot Snr. VP/IT: Customers Will Dictate Real-Time Inventory

Written by Evan Schuman
April 3rd, 2011

The future of mobile commerce includes instant Facebook data mining, real-time inventory and lots of seamless integration with every channel. At least that’s the view of most of the retail IT leaders who gathered recently for a panel to discuss where retail should go, mobile-wise, with one suggesting that many of the largest chains can’t even build regular mobile apps yet.

“The ultimate vision for anyone in retail or hospitality today would be if someone lashes out on their Facebook page about an issue they had with your brand,” said Pizza Hut CIO Baron Concors. “And you would quickly be able to see that person’s spend. Is this a person who comes once a week? Is this a person who this is the first time they’ve ever stepped foot in my restaurant? That’s the ultimate vision, but we’re not there yet.”

The executive panel was moderated by StorefrontBacktalk and it has been turned into a series of podcasts, including one that captures the futuristic part of the mobile discussion.

The CIO at apparel chain Ann Taylor—Mike Sajor, who was recently promoted from serving as the chain’s CTO—argued that the very nature of mobile devices will force a lot of good things. But as much as it will help retailers, it will also force their hands.

“Mobility liberates information. It encourages the ubiquity of information and that information flow is bidirectional. It is from the retailer to the client and from the client to the retailer. It can be used to great power and perhaps to great harm, in either direction,” Sajor said. “Obviously you are going to want to have some controls, to allow privacy. But if you think about it from the vantage point of operationalizing the client to make intelligent decisions, of course it can aid. And if the data is there—and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be—then why can’t we share that data productively with the client and let them make intelligent decisions? If the client walks into a store and sees a product that she likes hanging on the rack and doesn’t want to go through 37 of them to see if the size 6 is there, yeah, let the data be there, let it help. That data can either be there for the client or it can be there for the associate.”

Cara Kinzey, the senior VP/IT at Home Depot, agreed with Sajor and added that real-time inventory is an area where consumers will simply not give retailers a choice. Mobile is giving them a way, and they will quickly acquire the will.

“I think the customer is going to dictate that retailers are going to have to provide [real-time inventory data,] because as more and more people get smartphones, it’s expected,” Kinzey said. “Then it’s desirable on the retailer side to provide it and be accurate, because it’s going to increase sales. They’re going to go somewhere else if you’re not the one who has it.”

HSN Operating VP Sean Bunner agreed that the goals, hopes and dreams of the rest of the panel have merit and are compelling. But then he added that much of retail hasn’t even mastered the mobile basics yet.


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