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Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Data, AI, IoT: The Future of Business

10 vendors enabling digital transformation in retail

According to a recent study, only 3 percent of retailers have completed company-wide digital transformation projects.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Digital transformation is a term on the lips of many a retail CEO.

For the uninitiated, digital transformation involves using digital technologies to retool business models and processes to make them more efficient or effective. In large, legacy enterprises, digital transformation projects often provide a means to compete with nimbler, digital-first rivals.

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There are a lot of ways to digitally transform a business, especially in retail. With its staggering size and reach, the retail industry is one of the few business sectors that has a tangible impact on the daily lives of average consumers.

But the industry is famously slow to adopt new technologies, and many retailers wind up sticking to legacy operations for fear of upending painfully tight profit margins. According to a recent study by Oxford Economics, only 3 percent of retailers have completed company-wide digital transformation projects. That's an easy statistic to avoid in today's burgeoning technology landscape. Here's a look at ten tech vendors helping retailers come full circle on their digital transformation journey.

Salesforce

Salesforce is known for its suite of enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) software, but the company also has a robust set of services for the retail set. The common thread through all of Salesforce's retail products is an effort to build personalized and connected consumer experiences across all points of commerce, including mobile, web, social and store. Its latest retail updates focus on marketing during shopping via integration with Instagram, AI and connections to its Commerce and Marketing Clouds.

According to Shelley Bransten, SVP of Salesforce's retail and consumer goods industry solutions, the aim is to use technology to help brands keep up with consumer demands and really understand the needs of consumers on an individual level.

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"The world of retail that so many of us grew up in has changed in more ways than we ever could have imagined," said Bransten. "Salesforce enables the future of retail with a unified platform for intelligent shopping experiences on any channel, ensuring the fastest path to shopper success."

Shopify

Shopify is an e-commerce platform provider that enables merchants, entrepreneurs and retail brands to sell their wares online and in real life. Its commerce technology encompasses customer experience personalization, brand discovery, gamification, social commerce and more. The company established itself around the small business sector, but also offers services that cater to mid-market and large enterprise retailers.

"Investing in the right digital and physical real estate can lead to high-speed, triple-digit growth as consumers crave immersive online and in-real-life experiences," said Loren Padelford, VP and GM at Shopify. "Social channels and marketplaces continue to drive consumer discovery, while consumers push brands to create unique experiences where and when they want them."

Adobe

To most people, Adobe is the company behind Photoshop, Acrobat and other creative software tools. However, the company has been building a retail portfolio for some time, and just recently made a massive $1.68 billion acquisition of Magento Commerce. The commerce platform is set to become part of Adobe's Digital Experience business to round out its customer experience tools, which already include content creation, marketing, advertising and analytics.

Adobe's latest efforts have zeroed in on artificial intelligence via its Sensei software, seeking ways to use the technology to augment business processes and customer experiences. This year Adobe is also previewing systems that will analyze live foot traffic in a store and will add features that will optimize images for different screens and add virtual reality tools without the need for custom development.

"By uniquely integrating content and data, coupled with AI and machine learning powered by Adobe Sensei, Adobe Cloud Platform empowers retailers to create, deliver and manage standout, personalized experiences at scale," said Adobe's Michael Klein, director of industry strategy, retail and travel and hospitality.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a hosted e-commerce platform provider with services that help retailers create, manage and grow an online store. Its platform serves about 60,000 merchants in 120 countries, including businesses such as Kodak, Sharp, and Skullcandy.

According to BigCommerce CEO Brent Bellm, e-commerce Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms give retailers the technical simplicity, faster time-to-market and cost benefits that they need to grow their business.

"One of the most difficult aspects of digital transformation for retailers to reconcile is the underlying technology investment, operation and maintenance," said Bellm. "The solution lies in SaaS. With SaaS ecommerce platforms, businesses don't need to own and operate software or IT infrastructure, plus they get continuous performance enhancements and functionality updates as part of the package."

dunnhumby

dunnhumby is a customer data science company that aims to help retailers, brands, and businesses across other verticals to compete in the increasingly competitive data-driven economy. For retailers and suppliers, dunnhumby offers an integrated set of consulting, software and technology services designed to support a transition into the world of data analytics and intelligence. Its client lists includes brands such as Tesco, Coca-Cola, Meijer, Procter & Gamble, Raley's, and L'Oreal.

"The market need for innovative data solutions spans beyond just the Fortune 1000," said dunnhumby CEO Guillaume Bacuvier. "This is particularly true of retail -- the world's toughest industry -- but the reality is that customer data savvy and competence is a requirement for any consumer-facing business today."

GK Software

GK Software offers a range of unified commerce services, including its OmniPOS solution for point of sale, mobile POS, mobile customer engagement, and a portfolio of store and back-office software. Its aim is to let retailers centralize their store-level IT using cloud-based software to implement lean store concepts, and structurally reduce the total cost of ownership of store-level systems.

The company's CEO, Michael Jaszczyk, explains that GK is deploying capabilities like AI-enabled personalization in stores to help retailers bring online services into the physical realm.

"As retail becomes increasingly complex and competitive, retailers that find ways to increase efficiency and improve customer experience in their stores will be the ones best positioned to succeed and grow," said Jaszczyk.

JDA Software

JDA is a supply chain management application provider with more than 4,000 customers, including ACE Hardware, Best Buy, David's Bridal and Asda. It specializes in retail supply chain management and forecasting. JDA's latest software updates aim to use artificial intelligence to recommend floor plans, labor and products based on available space. It's also using analytics, alerts and other information delivered on mobile devices to help associates sell based on inventory.

IBM

IBM's key retail service is called MetroPulse, and it aims to help retailers and consumer goods companies have the right products in the right place based on predictive demand insights. The platform combines third-party hyper-local data, such as weather and neighborhood demographics, with product, transaction and location data onto an interactive dashboard. Insights can then be integrated into workflows across supply chain, sales, merchandising, operations and marketing teams.

"Combining hyper-local data such as weather, news, traffic or events with your data and then applying advanced analytics and AI allow you to sense, interpret and act upon the local demand signals just like the traditional proprietor, but at scale creating unique customer experience and increased business outcome," said Laurence Haziot, global managing director and GM of IBM Consumer Industries.

InMoment

InMoment is a SaaS provider of customer feedback management tools. Its technology collects and analyzes 15 million data points per day from data sources such as voice, video, images, text and structured data. Its proprietary data science layer aims to convert data from simple metrics to meaning, informing better decisions across the enterprise.

According to Andrew Park, VP of CX strategy at InMoment, the key for today's retailers is to understand how to shift from brick-and-mortar, product-centric strategies to ominchannel, customer experience-centric strategies powered by data.

"From identifying problems and fixes in the supply chain or informing the right staffing mix, to surfacing new product ideas or changing hiring and coaching practices, to rescuing individual customers -- InMoment puts customer-centered intelligence behind every important decision," Park said.

DynamicAction

DynamicAction is an analytics platform built for e-commerce, store and omnichannel retail teams to pinpoint margin-eating disconnects across the business, prescribe actions and rank those actions by financial impact. With more than 1,500 proprietary algorithms to its name, the company's range of services also include automated diagnostics and both out-of-the-box and ad hoc analytics and visualizations.

DynamicAction counts brands such as Cole Haan, Farfetch, El Corte Ingles, Eddie Bauer, Columbia Sportswear, and Jack Wills as customers.

"The retail industry is challenged with the shifting economics of omnichannel, the complexities of consumer behavior, increased operating costs, declining store performance and 'the Amazon Effect'," said John Squire, DynamicAction CEO and co-founder. "DynamicAction is the guidance system that catalyzes the journey towards transformation in this new retail reality."

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