Jim Dempsey: “Reimagining storefronts as operational fulfillment centers”

Reimagining storefronts as operational fulfillment centers: This entails a physical store becoming a location for fulfilling online orders as well as being a place where customers can shop in-person. This method brings the product closer to customers and makes it available whenever and wherever they want it. As part of our series about the future of […]

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Reimagining storefronts as operational fulfillment centers: This entails a physical store becoming a location for fulfilling online orders as well as being a place where customers can shop in-person. This method brings the product closer to customers and makes it available whenever and wherever they want it.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Dempsey. He is the director of US business development and partnerships, which focuses on identifying, recruiting and managing strategic relationships to broaden Panasonic mobility’s presence in existing and emerging business verticals. He has worked for Panasonic since 2011 in various roles including director of the TOUGHBOOK EDGE Authorized Mobility Partner Program, business development manager and national manager of the Mobility Partner Development Group.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was actually supposed to be a lawyer as I graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with undergraduate degrees in Political Science and History. I decided not to go right to school but instead earn some money and gain some work experience. I happened to get into a sales job selling copiers and never looked back. Over the years, I moved into technology sales in a variety of direct sales roles with companies like ADP, Gartner and IBM. Through those experiences, and more recently over the past 15 years, I became focused on relationship or ecosystem selling which is where I now spend my time with Panasonic.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

A few years back I was on a business trip in Florida and got a call from my manager asking if I could assist with a meeting the following day with a company called GWS. He didn’t have all the details, but it was a joint meeting between Panasonic, GWS and Verizon. When I arrived and entered the office, being a golfer I quickly recognized the GWS logo as that of Great White Shark — a Greg Norman brand and company. The meeting got underway and midway through, in walks Greg Norman himself. We figured he’d just make his appearance and then move on. Instead, he sat down, took out a note pad and started asking us questions and taking notes. I remember thinking at the time, “How cool is this? Greg Norman is asking me questions about operating systems and he’s writing down what I’m saying.” The best part of the story is that he invited us all to his house that night for dinner. We got a chance to spend time with his family. I can say from experience that once you get past the fact that he’s Greg Norman, both he and his wife are down-to-earth people, very gracious and easy to talk to.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I have to say, my early career selling copiers on straight commission out of the back of a used van in the Bronx was an adventure. Back in the day, we were not only expected to sell the copiers, but we also had to act as debt collectors for any customers who were behind on their payments. We also had to remove the old copiers as part of the sale. I remember one day going out on my rounds and my manager asking me if I wanted to ride with him. Thinking who wants their manager looking over their shoulder all day, I said no thanks. Turns out, later that day I had to deliver a new copier and neglected to factor in that the customer’s old copier was a relic. It was big — as large as a desk and it weighed a ton. What’s more is that the customer forgot to mention that the office was on the second floor, and the elevator was out of order. It was also July to make things more interesting. I quickly regretted not having my manager tag along but I managed to muscle the new copier up the stairs. Then came the task of carrying the old copier down. The company I worked for required us all to look sharp and wear suits and ties, so by the time I got the old copier out to the parking lot and to my van, I was a sweaty mess. The final thing I had to do was lift the old copier up into the back of the van. I squatted down to get some leverage and as I stood up, I heard a loud ripping sound and some people who had been walking through the parking lot start to laugh. After getting the copier into the van, I realized the sound was the back of my black suit pants ripping, giving the passersby a good view of my bright white underwear. Needless to say, I was a wreck, covered in sweat and had a huge hole in my pants so I called it a day. From then on, I never once turned down my manager when asked if they could come along. I also made sure my tailor gave me a little more room in the pants.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

After launching our EDGE Channel program over four years ago to get Panasonic into the Android space, we recently launched our new XCELERATE Software Application Developer program focused on application providers. As we look at how our customers are using our technologies, an important component is the applications being run on our hardware to get their jobs done. The XCELERATE program provides a platform for Panasonic to attract, recruit and partner with key application providers across our core industry verticals. Having a working relationship with these software providers, not only benefits Panasonic and our software partners by allowing us to jointly promote the combined solution, it provides our customers with confidence in their choice of selecting Panasonic as a technology partner. Our customers know we are invested in making sure that our technologies are compatible with the applications they use to run their operations and if any issues were to arise, there is an existing relationship between Panasonic and the application provider to provide a quick resolution.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It may sound a bit cliché, but life is all about balance. With our current work from home situation, I heard someone say they don’t work from home, they live at work. When you really think about what that person said it should remind us that while work is an important element of life for advancement, self-fulfillment and more, it is only one part of who we are. There has to be balance for each individual to have time for themselves, time for their friends and most importantly their families. I’m sure each of us has had that moment where life happens and gives you a reality check on what’s most important. For me, that came in January 2007 when I was diagnosed with cancer. In that instant I wasn’t thinking about how many widgets I needed to sell that month, I was thinking about my family. I was fortunate to have a good outcome and promised myself to never lose sight of what’s most important. Life is hard with many twists and turns, so my advice is to make sure you make time for what’s most important in life — your relationships, your friends and your family.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My father was a big influence on me growing up. I was also fortunate in my college athletic career to play for Mike Pressler, who is currently Bryant University men’s lacrosse coach. The example he set with regard to a strong work ethic, personal integrity and loyalty was imprinted on me as well as any player who has ever played for him, I think. Aside from being one of the most successful coaches in the sport, those that know his story can see exactly what any one of us who played for him knows. In good times and bad he stays the course, stays focused, maintains his loyalty to those around him and just keeps working. He also set clear expectations. As he liked to say, “You owe, you pay,” it’s as simple as that. The foundation for my work ethic was certainly laid by my father’s influence but the lessons I learned while playing for Coach Pressler really built upon that foundation and has allowed me to achieve success in business, but also by my career as a senior non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Georgia State Guard.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have to credit my parents for instilling in me the importance of always treating people the way you would want to be treated and to always look for ways to uplift and serve those around you. Panasonic was founded on some key principles that go beyond pure business and focus on treating people with respect and giving back to society. Over the course of my life, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of great role models. Starting at home with my parents, to coaches in my athletic career, to senior leaders in my military career and in business — all have helped shape me into who I am today. As a family, we dedicate a part of our life to service. From my wife volunteering at local assisted living facilities to my daughters who established nonprofit supporting young girls and women with disabilities, to my service in the GA State Guard, we’ve made service a part of our daily lives to give back to society.

The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

Across the retail industry, brick-and-mortar retailers are reimagining their business models to adapt to new realities created by the pandemic like changing customer demands, competitive pressures from online-only rivals and the need to provide buyers with an omnichannel experience. To stand out, retailers both big and small have adapted in the following five ways.

  1. Reimagining storefronts as operational fulfillment centers: This entails a physical store becoming a location for fulfilling online orders as well as being a place where customers can shop in-person. This method brings the product closer to customers and makes it available whenever and wherever they want it.
  2. Curbside pickup: Curbside pickup has become a popular choice for its convenience and flexibility. With its added health and safety benefits, it provides a seamless transaction between customers and retail employees.
  3. Managing inventory and deliveries with an omnichannel strategy: With user experience top-of-mind, an omnichannel strategy enables customers to have real-time visibility into where their product is in the supply chain. By managing inventory in real-time, retailers are able to follow a product from the back of the store all the way to when it’s in the hands of the customer.
  4. Mobile devices and wireless technology for last-mile delivery: When working together, mobile devices and wireless networks can help collect and track — in near real-time — the inventory data that gives business decision-makers, as well as delivery and retail employees, visibility into where their products are within the supply chain. This establishes greater collaboration with supply chain partners, lowers inventory costs and more.
  5. Direct store delivery (DSD): DSD is the delivery of a product from a distributor directly to a retail store. This form of delivery is ideal for quick-turn items and is often used by food retailers such as grocery and convenience stores. With DSD, retailers can reduce out-of-stocks, ensure freshness and food safety compliance, slash inventory costs and more.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

I do believe that retail stores will continue to exist because the in-person experience of shopping will innovate out of necessity. A hybrid shopping experience will be the “norm” as retailers aim to enhance in-store operational efficiency and offer services like contactless pickup and delivery. Technology like mobile devices, interactive displays and electronic shelf labeling can help retailers enhance customer experiences in-store to encourage customers to keep returning to physical locations. Retailers are already pursuing what is being referred to as the dark store, which is essentially the concept of the store being used as a forward inventory location that allows a retailer to stage inventory closer to the consumer for either delivery or pickup.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Even businesses that once thought their operations were future-proof are finding areas for improvement, especially as they look to adapt to heightened customer demands given the shift to online shopping and expectation for quick shipping with real-time tracking abilities. From my experience, successful retailers are those who have digitally transformed their supply chain. To learn from these retailers, I often share the following three best practices based on my experience.

  • Build systems from the edge inward to strengthen inventory visibility. Inventory visibility across the supply chain is incredibly important because the closer a business can get to the edge and connect to a central system, the faster the business can capture accurate information from the point of service. This can be achieved by using beacons, sensors, RFID tags and other technologies that gather inventory information and data. The data can tell supply chain professionals and their organizations where inefficiencies may lie and what decisions can be made to improve operations.
  • Use integrated systems to manage inventory. To inform staffing and spacing needs, organizations need technology capable of managing critical product information such as each product’s whereabouts, delivery timing and tracking numbers. Organizations are enabling efficient inventory management in warehouse and fulfillment centers by equipping workers with forklift-mounted tablets, voice picking capabilities and handheld barcode scanning. On the road, drivers use mobile devices to determine optimal routes, provide proof of delivery and to keep customers aware of delivery times.
  • Utilize slotting optimization to improve inventory velocity. With slotting optimization solutions, retailers can determine how products should be stored in a delivery truck and on a store or warehouse shelf, enabling them to maximize their use of the space and organize products accordingly. This method uses data to create efficiencies for when a worker needs to store, pick up or move a product and helps to pinpoint fast-selling inventory so it can be restocked without using unneeded resources.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

The key to a successful company is one with impeccable customer service. A retailer that listens to customer feedback and puts a customer’s wants and needs first will stand out among its competition. Customer service can help retain customers, build up a loyal following and create important touchpoints across the buying experience. Customer expectations are rapidly evolving, and retailers that can keep a pulse on it while adjusting operations accordingly will be well-positioned to be successful even in the face of strong competition.

Similarly, creating experiences for customers is an important way to build brand recognition and loyalty. To do so, companies have offered experiences like in-person product demos, the ability to see a product in their own home through virtual reality, personalized shopping experiences with data and analytics, and much more. Each positive experience a customer has with a brand, the more memorable and successful the brand will be.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That’s a tough one but I would have to say that mentoring and acting as a servant leader has always been important to me. Growing up, I saw how leadership by example and mentoring from my parents and coaches helped focus my energies in the right direction. I took that example and through coaching at the youth level, I hope I’ve been able to make a difference in the lives of the players I’ve had the privilege to coach. I have also experienced the benefits of mentoring in business as well as the military. As far as a movement, I think if more people focused on the concept of not having people work or play FOR you but rather WITH you, it could change and strengthen the way society interacts with each other.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I encourage readers to check out The Big REthink, a podcast hosted by Panasonic that invites guests across industries to discuss how technology and creativity are changing the way work gets done. I’d also encourage readers to check out our Rugged Mobility for Business blog, which is up-to-date with the latest industry trends and announcements. You can also follow us on various social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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