Embrace ML/AI — The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the efficacy of ML/AI. Solutions that really used ML/AI in demand prediction, etc. kept up with the shifts in shopping with almost no reduction in forecast accuracy. Meanwhile, time-phased approaches were largely sidelined in favor of manual allocations to get product to the stores and fulfillment centers.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Jones.
Matt Jones is the Vice President, Global Retail Solution Consulting & Product Strategy at Infor. Having worked in this sector of Infor for four years, Matt is an expert on identifying market needs, conceptualizing solutions, and serving as an executive sponsor for retail customers. Due to the nature of his work, Matt is innately focused on future industry trends such as digitizing the consumer shopping experience post-COVID and the what the future of the retail industry looks like as department stores close, malls struggle to reopen and the ecommerce system booms. Prior to working at Infor, Matt spent nine years working for Oracle’s retail global business unit. He is currently based in Sacramento, Ca.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I wanted to continue my career in retail that allowed me to travel and work from anywhere. Retail software gave me that opportunity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Earlier in my career, I worked at Best Buy’s HQ and we had the opportunity to work in the stores during the holiday season. I made a ton of mistakes trying to remember which of the 20 versions of “A Christmas Carol” were on sale, the differences between two similar looking but differently priced TVs or which PC had the most powerful graphics card.
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 was brought in to design new processes in a distribution center, and I thought my recent degree gave me full knowledge of the situation, but I made so many mistakes thinking I knew more than I did and was often too proud to ask for help. I soon got over that and learned to thrive there.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think these projects might help people?
I am working on a lot of machine learning/AI-focused projects right now. So many really impactful, not just cool, things are being done in this space. It keeps me excited to work here. ML/AI is not a job replacer. Rather, it will help retailers better care for their customers and complete with the behemoth based in Seattle.
What tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It is advice that I need to follow more, step out of yourself and view a situation from multiple angles. It helps me to gain perspective on what is really important and to remove the emotion, the ego and the stress from a situation.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I rely often on two lessons that my high school debate coach taught me. She taught me to simplify a tough problem by pealing back the layers like an onion and to have confidence in myself (and to remember everyone else is nervous too).
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
This is an area of focus for me. I need to do more.
Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
First, I don’t see a “new normal” that we all can settle into. I think the economy and retail will be in a state of flux for some time. At Infor, we are focused on helping retailers adapt and thrive while in an extended state of flux or transition. We refer to this as adding resilience to your operations.
Second, a decade’s worth of change to how we shop, how we work and how we live has occurred this year. While some of those changes will revert back, we think most of the change will remain in terms of the percentage of shopping completed digitally vs. analog (in store), working from home, how we vacation (or step away from work).
In terms of how consumers want to shop, I can safely say that no one (regardless of the decade) has ever wanted to take kids along to shop for groceries or to try clothes on at the store. Technology and transportation shifts have made it possible to do all of your shopping in the most convenient way. The big hurdle recently was making the last mile easier (keeping the ice cream frozen long enough to deliver it) and more convenient (phone-based apps with real-time updates).
To thrive, retailers must make some generational investments in their technology:
- Automate 60% of the work that is being down at HQ — Too many complex tasks are being ignored to complete basic tasks that can be easily automated today (forecast adjustments, store level assortment assignments, allocations, markdowns, PO tracking and responding to changes).
- Embrace ML/AI — The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the efficacy of ML/AI. Solutions that really used ML/AI in demand prediction, etc. kept up with the shifts in shopping with almost no reduction in forecast accuracy. Meanwhile, time-phased approaches were largely sidelined in favor of manual allocations to get product to the stores and fulfillment centers.
- Pressure your software vendors to do more — Legacy technology providers have held retailers back by spending on sales & marketing over investing in technologies that will help their customers (retailers) compete with the mega-retailer based in Seattle. Too many software companies added ML to their marketing message, but not to their products.
- Think big picture — Half measures will not enable a retailer to survive, much less thrive. Consumers are demanding big changes to how they shop, they know it can be done, and they have gotten really impatient with overly cautious retailers.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
A movement toward win-win vs. win-lose thinking.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers are welcome to reach me on LinkedIn at Matt Jones.