In today’s evolving world of retail, the new generation of digitally native consumers have an unprecedented demand for information that is easily accessible, 100% transparent and represents nothing but the truth above all else… the question is – can retailers address these expectations?
In 2020’s retail industry, generating real business value for all stakeholders (in the value chain) and satisfying consumers’ demands involves multiple touchpoints, all of which require capturing and syndicating specific sets of product content. However, most retailers’ internal ERPs – Enterprise Resource Planning systems – are not designed to generate or capture product history, traceability or simple consumer-relevant content (such as videos, images, certificates, etc.).
In actuality, most retailers around the world capture/syndicate product content, such as origin, ingredients, quality measures, packaging details, production information and so on, by relying on disparate in-house databases, supplier generated product lists and even scrapped data from online sources.
Product Journey – Value Chain + Consumer Experience
Over the last two decades, generating/capturing product content, and assembling/identifying the nature of that content, has been mainly driven by the goal of protecting a company from harm (i.e. positioning the products to protect against and respond to concerns from consumer associations, NGOs, regulators and other stakeholders in the value chain). However, this approach to content generation/capture involves both outdated sources and fails to provide sufficient depth for consumers, and ultimately, has not generated the close relationship that retailers aim to have with their target audience.These outdated content sources and inefficient processes causes retailers to miss 50% of relevant corresponding product attributes and/or generates 30% inaccurate content., This, in turn, translates to losses of up to 3.5% ($5 Billion) in sales annually. In fact, and looking at this issue more broadly, according to the World Economic Forum, reducing unreliable content and obsolete technology infrastructure in international supply/value chains could add $2.6 trillion to global GDP annually.
Moreover, the conspicuous lack of a transparent, globally scalable and easily accessible technology platform in which consumers have full trust not only in the accuracy of the content, but also in its security, has been a real barrier for building better retailer/consumer relationships…
We need only look at today’s consumers’ demands for supply-chain transparency, verification and traceability of the products that they purchase, to understand the value such a platform can offer. And we can add to this, the efficiency gains in the value chain and the reduced cost associated with better (and more accurate) content/information in which all stakeholders can be kept liable. In this context, all retailers need to consider taking the advantage of readily available distributed ledger technology – Blockchain… and Blockchain-based Content Management Platforms.
It is not intent of this article to describe the technical structure of Blockchain technology nor explain how it can be integrated into retailer-managed content tools, however, having spent 20 years in the Global Content Management World, I can strongly endorse the fact that “Blockchain” is the missing infrastructural link for Product Content needed to overcome issues of security, scalability and transparency.
Why use Blockchain in Product Content Management?
I would answer this question, by looking at Value-Chain stakeholders’ and Consumers’ content requirements separately…
We can surmise that the interest of a retailer is to share/syndicate product content within the Value-Chain with the end goal of:
- having a predictable, repeatable/automated “content” capturing process which works better and saves cost;
- maintaining ongoing or long-running transaction or processes, rather than a process that occurs only once (a month?), to increase business value;
- managing multiple stakeholders with different sets of content requirements;
- recording a sequencing of events with time-stamped history to create quantifiable value (i.e. for audits/traceability);
- having unchangeable (100% secure) content records to generate credibility and TRUST.
Then, if the retailer’s target audience/customers would like to check and validate products’ authenticity, origin, production process, in order to enjoy full visibility of the process from the source to the store shelf to, ultimately, their home, Blockchain-based solutions would be the ANSWER for successful communication and relationship development.
Consequently, this value-chain and consumer demanded mandate (Blockchain-based solutions) would:
- enable all stakeholders to communicate and transact through seamless, secure and sustainable means;
- store content/transactions with an audit trail – creating liability and accountability (for all stakeholders, including the retailer);
- establish TRUST between retailers and consumers– due to immutability of the records/content;
- complement existing internal / digital infrastructure (of retailers);
- make reliable and relevant content/information more accessible - while maintaining full security and accuracy.
It is important to emphasize the fact that the Blockchain infrastructure being referred to here is NOT the public Blockchain (i.e. without restriction – open to all), but is rather a private/enterprise-based Blockchain where privacy is paramount- restrictions are put in place to prevent unwanted 3rd parties from accessing competitively sensitive information – (i.e. pricing, origin).
Yes, the retail world and its consumer (and value-chain) requirements are evolving; the new generation of consumers would like to feel more informed and empowered in their purchases, and they would like to have more practical knowledge about what they buy and understand the social and historical journey of their products. Accordingly, in addition to basic product information, like ingredients, other information regarding quality, sustainability, origin, provenance, food safety, ethical, carbon and water footprint is becoming critical information/content for influencing purchasing decisions.
From text, video and NGO certification to surveys (i.e. validating the carbon footprint), webinars and podcasts, whatever the preferred content medium is, retailers leveraging immutable and 100% secure Blockchain infrastructure can build TRUST between all parties (in the value-chain) and establish the confidence demanded by today’s consumers. We should not forget that drowning consumers in content that is not relevant, up to date and trustworthy would otherwise harm their relationship with their retailer/manufacturer,
In the end, when the Retail experience becomes less of a guessing game, and when consumers can credibly access and shape the form of the merchandise they buy by leveraging trusted product content in a Blockchain-based platform, retailers can safely say that they are winning loyal consumers and proactively influencing their purchasing behavior.
In conclusion, for successful and thriving retailers (and their manufacturers), the time has come to begin effectively communicating with consumers through the products they sell and by providing relevant and trusted CONTENT via the private/enterprise Blockchain-based Content Management Platforms.
About the Author: Nihat Arkan is an International Business Executive with 25+ years of experience in Global Content Management. He has managed several global organizations focusing on multi-disciplined business processes and new strategies in SaaS / Technology, Retail, CPG, Manufacturing, Localization, Supply Chain and Logistics. Mr. Arkan has recently established World’s First Blockchain-based Content Management Platform “Yaliyomo GmbH” in Cologne Germany (www.yaliyomo.net)