“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
– Lao Tzu
In an ideal world, everybody would accept and embrace change. Unfortunately, it is human nature to resist change in the workplace because people fear doing their job in a different manner. Let’s look at an example of change in how we drive from point A to point B. In the not so distant past, if you wanted to take a trip, you would visit your local gas station or book store to pick up some paper maps. You would plot your course on these paper maps and embark on your journey. Inevitably, there would be a wrong turn or missed road sign. Then you would unfurl the massive map, likely causing impaired driving in the process.
When computers became more prevalent and websites like MapQuest sprung up, you could enter your current location and your destination and voilà your map would be complete. You would print it and then follow the directions; less driving impairment and more tailored to you, but still subject to wrong turns and missed road signs. Then came smartphones and GPS-based applications that know your current location. You could add your destination and have verbal turn-by-turn directions. These applications even reroute you if you go off course.
The moral of the story is that as processes become more automated, they also require less user effort. In addition, technology is becoming more predictive and anticipates what the use wants.
Much like the driving-direction technology example, technology in other areas such as retail has significantly advanced as well. Who is driving much of this change? Millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000. Here are some statistics about millennials:
- Numbering roughly 77 million, millennials make up about one-fourth of the US population (Nielsen)
- More than 85 percent of millennials in the US own smartphones (Nielsen)
- US millennials touch their smartphones an average of 45 times per day (SDL)
- 87 percent of online adults in the US age 18 to 29 use Facebook, with 53 percent on Instagram, 37 percent on Twitter and 34 percent on Pinterest (Pew Research Center). That age group represents a large chunk of millennials.
- Five out of six millennials in the US connect with companies on social media networks (SDL)
Thus, the millennial generation makes up a significant portion of the population and is incredibly technology-savvy. It is the first digitally-native generation.
As millennials become a major portion of the retail workforce, their expectation is that the systems they use at work will be as easy to use as the ones they use on their mobile devices. They reject massive spreadsheets and needing an advanced degree in pivot tables, macros and vlookups. Millennials look at this older approach as way too complicated and archaic compared to all their mobile technology. They want software to be visual and provide them with predictive analysis. In other words, they want the smartphone approach to getting from point A to point B, and definitely not paper maps. And for the first time in any generation entering the workforce, they will leave their job rather than embrace technology that they feel is archaic, not challenging, or not helping them succeed. This is a massive change in workforce behavior and technology must change to meet this generation’s needs!!
Consider how people use social media, for example. It is typically very visual, with short bursts of information. It can also be very suggestive (no pun intended), and based on “likes” and your patterns of use, give you recommendations. Millennials expect this predictive approach in all technology they use. For example, they might ask a planning system, “If this striped polo in navy sold well, give me a suggestion of what other patterns or colors also might sell well.” Added to this expectation is the need to provide varying expectations by customer segment because the millennial generation, which is also becoming the largest customer base, is the most diverse generation ever.
- 43 percent of millennials in the US are nonwhite, the largest share of any generation (Pew Research Center)
- One-fourth of millennials in the US speak a language other than English at home (US Census Bureau)
Knowing what can sell to each diverse customer segment is essential, therefore. Based on this knowledge of millennials and what they want (visual, predictive, specific customer segmentation technology), JDA Software created a new application to meet these needs. Retail.me Assortment is a cloud-based visual assortment application that can predict the performance of each item based on historical buying patterns of similar items, by customer segment and cluster. Rather than create an application full of labor intensive spreadsheets that lack the inherent intelligence to guide better assortment decisions, Retail.me Assortment provides a visual experience with analytics such as item appeal, substitutability and intelligent cluster ranging built in. Planners and buyers using Retail.me can “plan like their customers shop” in an integrated user experience that is pleasing, intuitive and predictive.
JDA will unveil this application at FOCUS on May 1-4, 2016 in Nashville, TN. The world is changing rapidly and technology must keep pace. Millennials are demanding it, but most of us have at least one touch-enabled device and have enjoyed personalized recommendations from online shopping or entertainment sites. So we all expect our technology to evolve with us. I wonder what Lao Tzu would say about Facebook or Snapchat?