Cognitive Retail

Connecting Innovations to Support the New Retail Experience

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As customers walk into retail stores today some of the first things they notice are interactive kiosks and screens offering convenience and fast new ways to find and pay for items. These electronic displays serve a very useful, customer-specific purpose, but there’s much more to this story than what meets the eye.

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau still shows that less than ten percent of all retail transactions happen online. Retailers with traditional brick-and-mortar stores that are committed to connecting the dots between underlying IT infrastructure and customer-facing digital technology have the best opportunity to continue thriving in the digital age.

But creating that underlying infrastructure is complicated, often involving dozens of vendors with distinct technologies like networking, security devices, point-of-sale, printers, employee systems, inventory management, and more. And all of this tech must work as one integrated unit to deliver a new and improved store experience.

With most of this technology positioned behind the scenes, customers might never fully realize its impact on the trip they just made to buy diapers for their children, refill a prescription, or just grab a late-night snack. Nonetheless, an IT environment that is supported in a comprehensive way can have a positive impact on the future of an entire business. It can lead to more effective and concentrated IT support, more accurate data insights that IT professionals and business executives can use to outperform the competition, and a more loyal customer base.

IBM, with our multivendor support services, is now doing just that for American retail giant, Walgreens. With the help of retail analytics tools, IBM will support all hardware and software across more than 8,100 Walgreens locations, emphasizing efficiency and availability of technology, as well as proactive measures in the face of potential disruptions.

From a practical point-of-view, companies that embrace this type of IT environment are doing a great service to both their customers and employees. Consider that if inventory records systems are constantly kept up-to-date and credit card scanners are running smoothly, employees are more confident and performance improved. Likewise, customers who have more hassle-free trips to the store will be more likely to return on a regular basis.

From a business perspective, a singular support environment can also unlock new business, operational, and financial value that was not available before. A disconnected environment that requires different teams responsible for different vendor equipment can accrue excessive financial investment for monitoring and repairs, and cause undue stress on business leaders. A multivendor solution means that the money used could be reallocated to other projects for future innovation across the business, and IT experts could refocus their time and skills on higher value initiatives.

Going forward, one of the most important ways to empower IT professionals in the field today – particularly in a multivendor environment – will be the integration of cognitive computing and augmented intelligence into a client’s support structure. Supplementing human expertise with assets like virtual resolution, cognitive agents, and interactive mobile applications will elevate IT support standards for everyone.

Organizations that design and deliver multivendor support services in these ways will give their workforces the best opportunity to do their job with more confidence and capability than ever before.

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Cover photo: Walgreens

General Manager, IBM Technology Support Services

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