I have recently had the privilege to be at a GS1 Global meeting in Brussels. GS1 is commonly known as the ‘bar code’ organisation; but they do far more than this through the use of quality data, global standardization and a dash of technology.
Unique identifiers that link to rich product data combined with modern technology (scanning equipment and RFID tags), can be used to solve a multitude of issues. Everything from managing inventory/stock levels, product recall, product authenticity, cross border market entry (via secure supply chains) to patient safety (each dose of medicine in a hospital able to be scanned against the patient’s wrist band so the administering nurse is able to check it is the right dose for the right patient and has no other drug conflicts). With the advent of on-line selling, unique identifiers are becoming even more important and as a result, the big players such as Google and Amazon are getting involved in GS1 globally.
GS1 is a global not-for-profit open source standards organisation and has some of the biggest multinationals and brands involved, as well as logistics companies and small to medium sized companies. So being at the Global Forum with over 700 delegates from over 90 countries was an eye-opening experience. Major themes were how to keep up with the pace of change in a digital world and there was a lot of focus on the needs of Omni-channel retailers (clicks and mortar) supporting new sectors, from healthcare to humanitarian logistics, sustainable agriculture (the UN is promoting a “blue number” for farmers) traceability of supply chains and geophysical location identifiers etc.
One case study that was a great demonstration of the power of adopting GTIN’s (global trade item number) was a luxury retailer in the US that wanted to link on-line and off-line into a single view of inventory across 3 channels and 2,700 suppliers (including large suppliers and small artisan suppliers). Their stock in Warehouse time has gone from 3 days to 6 hours as a result of adopting GTIN identifiers.
There was a speaker from Google Shopping at the forum and he said they have done a lot of research of customer behaviour and there has been a big shift from desktop to mobile for researching products and services, with 30% of on-line shopping now done on mobiles.
The best performing companies are pushing the boundaries of the perfect page on-line by providing rich product information and content, which gives customers all they need to know at the point of purchase. Better data means better experiences and lots of people now do YouTube searches before they make a purchase decision. What Google does is aggregate all the information to allow the consumer to make the purchase decision.
US retailers are finding conversion rates on desktop is two times higher than mobile, so people are still preferring to enter credit card and shipping details on their desktop, though research may have been done on the mobile. Google want to build a bridge to make it easier for people to log their card and shipping details on Google, then Google will broker the sale. This is on trial with some retailers. Google’s message to brands was that ‘product identifiers’ matter and share your product data widely. The more product data you can provide the richer the consumer experience.
Procter and Gamble had a similar message, and added that the customer wants a more customised experience, e.g. “near me” mobile searches (highlight the nearest retailer selling the product you are interested in) and the grouping together of things you like e.g. Pandora on iPhone allows you to play songs with similar music traits.
Macey’s talked about the omni-channel evolution, providing a seamless shopping experience for customers. They are moving to RFID (radio frequency identification) and say it is transformative technology. It allows inventory accuracy (pick to the last unit), display audit and sales floor replenishment. They are getting 7-10% growth coming from RFID categories.
For exporters wanting to hear more about how to leverage digital selling, come to Go Global on the 26th May in Auckland at the Langham. We have speakers from Facebook & Instagram, with Search Engine Optimisation and GS1 all in the programme. Details will be at www.nzgoglobal.co.nz.