Sudhir Deshpande, chief technology officer at Dais AI, talks FinTech strategy at Live Oak Bank

Tech Talk Live - FinTech

Date: March 1, 2018

Time: 3:00PM - 5:00PM EST

 Sudhir Deshpande, CTO at Dais AI

Sudhir Deshpande, CTO at Dais AI

Location: Live Oak Bank

Event Description: 
Digital Transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of the Financial Services industry. This moderated panel discussion will provide insights on how financial services companies are embracing disruption, competing in the markets in which they operate and capitalizing on opportunities that technological advances are creating. 

Thomas Hill - Chief Information Officer, Live Oak Bank

Nathan Snell - Head of Innovation and Design, nCino
Sudhir Deshpande - Chief Technology Officer, Dais AI
Xeth Waxman - Chief Technology Officer, Apiture
arryl Landreneau - Chief Customer Success Officer, Defense Storm
Geoff Gohs - VP of Engineering, Live Oak Bank and Apiture

Tech Talk Live is hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association. 

To register for this event, please visit or contact Mary Smith at

The North Carolina State of Technology 2018 Industry Report sponsored by Dais X


The North Carolina State of the Technology Industry Report (NC STIR) is in its fourth year. First produced in January 2015, the report analyzes, highlights and tracks an important and growing industry for the State of North Carolina. The report identifies results to celebrate for NC TECH members and issues that affect the state’s competitiveness for North Carolina’s state and local policy makers. The North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) has committed to conduct this research annually. This 2018 report shows the final statistics in tech for 2016.

This report includes facts, statistics, trends, and insights into North Carolina’s technology industry. It provides information for companies considering headquarter relocation, operations establishment or expansions. It is a source of data and trends for policy makers, and a resource for innovation sector organizations, the economic development community and for the media. First and foremost, the report highlights the vibrancy and immense economic impact of North Carolina’s technology sector.

The North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH) was founded in 1993 with a mission to advance North Carolina’s technology sector. NC TECH, now celebrating 25 years, has more than 650 members including the top technology companies, organizations and institutions across North Carolina. NC TECH brings together executives around the business of technology for peer interaction, educational programming, information sharing, relationship building and networking. NC TECH is the go-to organization for policy makers on issues affecting the tech sector and supports the development of world-class, well-educated students and workers to make North Carolina a favorite home for globally competitive companies.

NC TECH contracted with Economic Leadership of Raleigh, North Carolina to again create and build the State of the Technology Industry report. As technology has expanded, and permeated every industry, maintaining a consistent and transparent definition of the technology sector has become both challenging and even more important. For this report, the technology sector is broken down into the following sub-categories:

  • Information Technology,
  • Telecom,
  • Hardware and Software, 
  • Energy Technology,
  • Environmental Technology, and
  • Life Sciences.

These sectors were chosen based on several definitions of the technology industry, primarily TechAmerica Foundation’s 2013 Technology Industry Classification and is consistent with the previous State of the Technology Industry reports conducted for NC TECH. A full accounting of the categories is provided in the appendix.

Information Technology (IT) includes sub-categories related to electronic computers and storage, radio and television, satellite telecommunications, computer facilities, communications equipment and other electrical equipment. Energy Technology includes sub-categories related to natural gas, petroleum, coal, mining, fossil fuel, solar power, wind power and oil and gas operations. Environmental Technology includes sub-categories related to sewage treatment, steam, electricity, batteries, hazardous waste, solid waste, septic and remediation services. Life Sciences include sub-categories related to medicinal and botanical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, electro-medical manufacturing, surgical and dental manufacturing, and research and development in biotechnology.

To learn more about our involvement in NC TECH, contact us at


How retailers are blending physical and online commerce

Retail commerce continues to evolve, combining both brick-and-mortar and online elements. The goal for retailers is an integrated process that gives consumers a seamless experience and allows companies to capture the greatest benefits across both physical and digital operations. So far, no retailer has achieved full integration, but most are headed down the path. Many retailers with physical locations have built online businesses, and online retailers are increasingly opening brick-and-mortar outlets to strengthen their brands and engage with customers in person.

To capture the maximum benefit, however, companies will need to rethink their processes and redesign integrated retail in new ways, with new technologies. This is a big transformation. It involves not only a deep understanding of a company’s value proposition to customers, but also a long-term strategy, given the investment of time and resources needed to digitize the diverse variety of processes needed to run the operations.

Physical retail is here to stay

Nearly 90% of retail sales still take place in brick-and-mortar stores. Yet much of the industry’s future growth will come from online commerce, which allows companies to use customer data to learn far more about customers and meet their needs more quickly and effectively than can be done through traditional means. For this reason, many companies are now considering or launching hybrid business models. For example, some retailers have rolled out click-and-collect offerings that connect back-end inventory with logistics solutions. Others offer loyalty programs that enable them to develop a single, comprehensive view of individual customers and to gather data on their shopping behaviors and preferences.

Recently, some online-only brands have started opening physical locations. Perhaps the best-known example of this trend is Amazon, which has begun experimenting with physical stores in the categories where it has the highest online penetration (books) and which recently acquired the Whole Foods Market chain. Some may think that the Whole Foods deal is about winning in the grocery segment alone, given the massive size of the market and the frequency of customer visits. At a more strategic level, however, the deal underscores the potential of a truly hybrid, offline-online retailer. For example, Amazon can potentially use Whole Foods stores to gain greater insights about customers and tailor online offerings for them in a more personalized way. The physical stores also offer local distribution points for faster delivery or more convenient pickup points for non-grocery items.

A spectrum of roles for stores

There is a clear role for physical stores in the retail universe. However, the role they play within an integrated retail experience changes depending on the category.

Functional. On one end of the spectrum, physical stores serve a functional role, such as providing after-sales service or serving as a staging point for last-mile delivery. This applies in categories where the products are standardized (such as electronics, books, and nonperishable grocery products) or where speedy delivery is imperative (such as the delivery of prepared food).


Experiential. At the other end of the spectrum are stores that serve a more experiential or inspirational role—for example, in-home furnishings or lifestyle and fashion department stores. Because these stores sell nonstandard categories of products, the browsing and consultation elements are crucial to customers. Shoppers are less focused on efficiency and more on an in-store experience that is personalized and engaging.

Hybrid. Grocery stores fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Some grocery products, such as packaged goods, are standardized, while others, such as fresh and prepared foods, are more experiential and involve time-sensitive delivery. 

In-Store Experience. The average retail store is much smaller than a traditional grocer and is located in an urban neighborhood. The majority of standard items are stocked in a warehouse adjacent to the store, freeing floor space in stores for fresh products. Locations may include onsite dining in a restaurant-like setting.

Delivery. Each retail store is an offline grocer and a fulfillment center, driven by a powerful analytics system. Each store serves its local community, making it possible to deliver online orders within a three-kilometer radius in 30 minutes. Advanced data analytics drives the assortment of products in stores, to ensure that the company is meeting customer demands.

Digitized Customer Interactions. Most customers are store members and interact with the retailer—from preordering to payment—through a mobile app, even while they are shopping in a store. This allows retailers to develop richer insights into its customers and to better personalize both offers and the assortment of goods for each location and each individual.

The redesign of integrated retail

In all cases, for example, retailers gain richer customer insights by digitally capturing customer interactions. And executives consistently speak about the imperative to begin digitizing the full breadth of offline experiences. Forward thinking retailers are taking the following actions:

Plan for the long haul. There is no quick fix, and technology gimmicks are not enough. Developing a truly integrated business model that combines the best aspects of online and offline commerce is a fundamental change in business strategy that requires a multiyear vision and significant investment.

Lead from the top. Setting up the initiative as an isolated digital project led by the CIO is a guarantee of failure. Rather, success requires the direct involvement and oversight of the CEO, along with all functional leaders—CMO, CFO, and the heads of business units—serving as champions for change in their respective areas.


Expect the real work to happen below the surface. Many companies get drawn in by consumer-facing technologies, the most attractive and visible aspects of digitalization. But they’re just the beginning. A real transformation requires digitizing every process—not only customer-facing aspects but also all the internal processes by which most of the work gets done at companies, including such mundane tasks as tracing invoices back to suppliers. (Of course, in addition to processes, companies need the right systems architecture and data.) Every process that is not digitized and linked to other functions in the company represents a missed opportunity to gather insights, better serve the customer, and operate more efficiently.

Partner with external firms to build more comprehensive data sets. Even the most advanced companies simply won’t be able to generate enough insights about real-time consumer behavior and digital consumption habits on their own. Instead, they will need to find partners—likely social media companies, at least for the next several years, or syndicated research firms, such as AC Nielsen—that can offer richer information not only about current customers but about potential customers.

Invest heavily in digital and analytics talent. Given the importance of analytics, companies can’t simply hire one or two people and ask them to start tinkering. Rather, they need to invest in building digital and analytics. Almost half of Hema’s employees, for example, are engineers.

In an increasingly digital world, companies need to find the right business model—one that lets them capture the full advantages of both online commerce and physical retail. Digitization helps retailers serve customers both offline and online. This is welcome news for the companies that are still working on developing integrated retail, because making these changes is not optional. As the retail industry evolves, retailers will need to evolve as well.

To learn more about integrated retail, contact us at

6 rules for digital transformation success

To remain relevant in today’s highly competitive marketplace, digital transformation is no longer an option - it is requirement. To become fully digital, companies must dramatically increase the scope, scale and speed of their IT, while also staying in sync with their evolving business needs. This can be challenging, and many CIOs are struggling with the complex environment, higher costs, compliance and security issues, and the never-ending need for faster implementation and deeper insights.

First-rate performance in the digital age requires an versatile technology infrastructure that manages the complexities of a multi-cloud environment, embedded security and compliance policies, and deep business alignment. Best-in-class IT operations and the software partners that support them are developing their game plan based on six rules. 


Embrace DevOps

As companies increase the cadence of their digital offerings, they must integrate software development and IT operations. According to a survey by Gartner, up to 60% of companies are currently using, or plan to use a DevOps approach to build and install software. Modern IT organizations require software that works across the production chain and is designed for rapid testing and validation.

Break boundaries

Companies are unlikely to achieve complete migration to the public cloud in the near future. As a result, CIOs need monitoring, discovery and configuration tools that function in hybrid, multi-cloud environments as well as up and down the stack, from legacy systems to consumer applications.

Be open 

No modern solution can operate solely on its own. As designers produce focused, best-in-class solutions instead of massive slow-moving systems, openness becomes critical. Companies need modular, open-source and user-friendly software that is designed for easy adaptability and integration with other apps. Companies expect to be able to combine the capabilities of their different systems to serve new needs.

Be user-friendly

IT professionals must demand intuitive, user-friendly software, and can no longer satisfied with difficult, second-rate applications. Instead they need a consumer-level user experience. Solutions that are software-as-a-service (SaaS) capable, and must be easy to install and are functional right out-of-the-box. 

Incorporate policy engines 

Cost pressures are CIOs to seek automated IT operations. They are moving away from massive manual efforts currently used to monitor compliance, data governance and security policies. They require intelligent solutions to identify, correct and better manage policies across a hybrid infrastructure.

Induce insights

As the number of digital applications increase, companies are becoming flooded with data. Some of this data is useful, some of it is not. CIOs need advanced analytical tools that employ techniques such as machine learning to detect recurring and predictive patterns from a stream of data that is wide, deep, diverse and evolving. 

The digital revolution is here, although not quite the way many people had expected. On the road to realizing the promise of digital, CIOs are learning to address the challenges of hybrid management, cost, compliance, security and data analytics. The digital revolution is rich with both promise and complexity. By following six rules, CIOs and developers will have the tools they need to help make digital transformation a success for their organization.

To learn more about digital transformation success, contact us at

4 steps to managing returns more effectively

In the ever-changing retail landscape, the issue of customer returns in reverse logistics remains constant. If a retailer does not have standard reverse logistics processes in place, repeat purchases will likely be lost.

Reverse logistics has become even more important in the online era. In e-commerce, at least 30% of all products ordered are returned, compared to only 8% bought in brick-and-mortar shops.

This rapid growth in the volume of returns has created complexity in reverse logistics, and put added pressure on supply chains to manage and implement product returns successfully. The following infographic looks at ways that retailers can take a strategic approach to reverse logistics, and manage returns more effectively. 


To learn more about reverse logistics, contact us at

Neal Davis, chief executive officer at Dais X, talks digital transformation at Research Triangle Foundation

 Neal Davis, CEO at Dais X

Neal Davis, CEO at Dais X

Tech Talk Live - Digital Transformation

Date: December 7, 2017

Time: 8:30AM - 10:30AM EST

Location: Research Triangle Foundation

Event Description: 
Digital Transformation is having a profound impact on all aspects of IT and business. The ability to develop and deploy technology more quickly and at a higher quality as well as advancements in data and analytics provides new challenges and new opportunities for all businesses. 

This moderated panel discussion will provide insights on how companies are embracing and managing digital transformation, how it is impacting all areas of business and IT, lessons learned, and an outlook for the future. 

Steve Worth, Founder and CEO, Worthwize Consulting

Karl Owen - Distinguished Engineer, Dell EMC
Randall Gressett - Sales Leader, Dell EMC
Harmdandeep Singh - Chief Growth Officer, Building Clarity
Matt Tormollen - EVP/ Research and Development, Avalara
Neal Davis - Chief Executive Officer, Dais X

Tech Talk Live is hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association. 

To register for this event, please visit or contact Mary Smith at

Dais X Announces Partnership with Software Industry Veterans to Advance the Design and Deployment of Artificial Intelligence in Digital Transformation

Dais X Invests with Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, Launches “Dais AI”, to Help Clients Better Address Customer Needs Created by Technological Advances and the Changing Competitive Landscape

GREENSBORO, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Dais X, an information technology (IT) and business services consultancy, along with software industry veterans Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, announced the launch of Dais AI, an artificial intelligence (AI) company purpose-built to help clients capitalize on digital business opportunities through the development of custom AI solutions and technologies.

Revolutionary advances in AI technology is changing how businesses operate and fulfill their customer needs.

According to industry analysts, the global artificial intelligence market is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 41.7% over the next decade to reach approximately $24.2 billion by 2025. The new company also allows Dais X to improve and scale its offerings in retail, manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare, and advances the development of marketing-­specific solutions, where it can leverage collective learnings to help a broader range of clients.

"Across industries, our clients are navigating complex business environments disrupted by a marketplace shift towards digitization. To compete, they must identify and make sense of multiple, previously unrecognizable, data sources. With Dais AI, we can develop and apply custom solutions to help clients transform data into actionable insights and gain a competitive advantage,” said Neal Davis, CEO of Dais X. "In particular, the new suite of intelligent services expands our capability to improve marketing performance and synchronize customer insights with backend systems to guide digital transformation.”

The founding team includes:

  • Sunil Nikhar - a serial entrepreneur with a rich set of derivatives and IT skills who founded and successfully exited two software development companies, Ascent Computing Group and Pyxis Systems Private Limited. His entire career has been centered around data and enabling businesses to make more intelligent decisions. Nikhar was named a finalist for the “Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2000 and 2002. He holds a B.Tech and M.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and an MBA (PGDM) from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM).
  • Sudhir Deshpande - holds a M.Tech degree from the IIT and an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Most recently, Deshpande served as Director, Engineering at Varo Money, a San Francisco-based FinTech company. Prior to that, Deshpande developed a comprehensive pipeline of innovative products integrated with predictive analytics and cognitive abilities for Fiserv, IBM Retail and Cisco. He has over 20 years of experience developing and deploying AI solutions to solve complex business challenges.
  • Dais X - an IT and business services consultancy helping companies turn real opportunities into new sources of revenue. Using the full power of digital, Dais X helps clients build on existing advantages, and guides them to become more agile and customer-centric, through a reinvention of their own practices.

"I am excited to partner with Dais X," said Sunil Nikhar, President and COO of Dais AI. "We initially began talking with them because of their client relationships, which align with our focus, as well as their expertise in marketing. Together, we can transform business and improve the way our services and AI solutions shape the market.”

Dais AI will initially focus on four primary areas:

  • Retail & Manufacturing: Dais AI will use predictive analytics and machine learning to help clients optimize supply chain, keep pace with ever changing customer needs, improve inventory management, reduce shrinkage and monitor stock, increase logistics efficiency, predict maintenance on complex machinery and reduce downtime.
  • Marketing Services: Dais AI will introduce intelligent services to help clients optimize marketing efforts, automate media activities, deliver more impactful campaigns, and improve the overall development, timing, targeting and pricing of promotions.
  • Financial Services: From predicting the spread on arbitrage to improving customer relationship management, Dais AI will analyze and garner insights from multiple data sources to help financial services firms gain a competitive advantage.
  • Healthcare: Dais AI will work with healthcare organizations to apply AI technologies to improve patient care and diagnoses, combat fraud and detect payment exceptions.

About Dais AI:

Dais AI delivers next-generation artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to clients. The company is purpose-built to help clients capitalize on digital business opportunities through the development of custom AI solutions and technologies. Co-founded by Sunil Nikhar and Sudhir Deshpande, Dais AI is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina.

To learn more about Dais AI, visit

About Dais X:

Dais X provides business transformation, marketing and technology services to clients. It operates three business units – Dais Consult, Dais Ignite and Dais Digital – that empower businesses to drive innovation, optimization and growth, helping them gain a competitive advantage to succeed in an increasingly digital world. Because of its platform business model, Dais X is able to scale in ways that traditional businesses cannot and leverage expertise from across its business units and deep network on demand.

To learn more about Dais X, visit

The reinvention of manufacturing: From Henry Ford to tomorrow

A version of this article also appeared in the American City Business Journals

Factories have undergone a significant amount of change since the 1930s, and that change has accelerated in the last 10 years. Think of the advances in automation, robotics, sensors, the Internet of Things, analytics, big data, artificial intelligence, and design methodologies. How much more will manufacturing change in the next 10 years? Or the next 20?

 We have entered a new era of manufacturing.

We have entered a new era of manufacturing.

How do manufacturing organizations keep up with this pace of change — and what will you, as a manufacturing leader, need to do to change with it?

We have entered a new era of manufacturing. Recent times have brought on increased demands, and not just to produce more product for less money. Customers are demanding better convenience, while regulatory agencies are demanding better quality. Recent times have enabled rapid advancements in the availability, storage, and use of data in manufacturing. Product and demand has become more complex. And as a result, companies have undergone operational or structural transformation efforts as they strive towards productivity improvements.

We believe successful manufacturing companies will both embrace new advances, while staying true to long-lasting beliefs: that the foundational elements of manufacturing performance that were true in the industrial revolution remain true for all manufacturers today.

Remember the basics

With global consumption on the rise, the need to understand demand — and how, where, and when to produce — has become even more critical. As digital capabilities become more attainable and understandable, the adoption of these technologies will drive levels of competitiveness and enable faster and more agile production systems. However, the basics of operational excellence will remain the foundation of an organization’s transformation and journey into the future.

Provide endless value

For organizations to remain competitive, they must think about the value chain from beginning to end, through all aspects of production. There are several specific topics that we think are important for companies to consider. Some are technical concepts, such as advanced manufacturing, network optimization, and advanced analytics, while others focus on critical behaviors, such as leadership and the workforce of the future.

Take small steps

With all of the ideas and concepts to think about, it is often intimidating to think about the actions necessary to make change happen. Trying to make everything happen at once can often lead to failure, while a competitive advantage can be missed by moving too slow. Managers need a quick start and early wins from near-term actions, such as cost reductions or revenue boosts, to establish credibility for the leadership team and generate momentum for the larger effort If you are a member of the executive team or C-suite, pay close attention to where the manufacturing industry is headed, to help you think about your strategic imperative and the future of your business.

To learn more about the future of manufacturing, contact us at

3 steps to successful supply chain planning

A version of this article also appeared in the American City Business Journals

Technology is shaking up conventional models and reinventing entire industries. This infographic looks at ways that supply chains are transforming, and how businesses can plan for success.


To learn more about supply chain management, contact us at

The art of going direct-to-consumer


E-commerce growth and digital channels, such as mobile and tablets, are driving change in the retail landscape. As the pressure to keep pace intensifies, a growing number of manufacturers are establishing digital direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales channels. 

Today’s consumers have never had more options for researching and purchasing products. Ever-increasing online sales and the emergence of new digital channels, such as mobile and social media, drive innovation in a constantly evolving retail landscape. 

Manufacturers realize that they need to offer a better experience for consumers already shopping on branded sites. At the same time, they must gain tighter control over their brand, pricing, and more. 

The power of data 

Product Catalogs - Rich product content is lacking for many manufacturers, despite the fact that it is essential to have your own product catalog as a brand. Content must be organized efficiently to drive the market and help retailers increase their sales. This can be done without losing what customers value most about the brands they love: true and authentic content. 

Ratings and Reviews - Collecting and managing ratings and reviews is a great tool for B2C strategy; it is also useful when looking for feedback about the role the company plays. Using ratings and reviews, data manufacturers can drive product assortment, new product development, pricing and functionalities. 

Consumers - A complete vision of your consumer- how they buy and their online behaviors- is a rich source of consumer data previously controlled exclusively by retailers. 

Competition - Competition comes from all directions. As a result, brand manufacturers are forced to explore channels that are free from competitive distractions. Opening up direct-to-consumer online sales channels lets brand manufacturers reach and connect with the increasingly flighty customer. 

Why pay more for going direct?

According to most consumer studies, shoppers typically conduct research online before making a decision to buy. A natural source of information during this discovery phase is the  brand manufacturer’s website, as consumers trust the brands they know.

Customers are often willing to pay more to buy direct from a brand manufacturer because they know they will receive an authentic product that is exactly as ordered. Brands should focus on consumer experience by offering more to shoppers already on their sites and make sure that customers can purchase directly from the brand site. 

Control of brand and product pricing

The pressures faced by most brands from competitors, other retailers and marketplaces can often result in a lack of brand control and product pricing. These pressures compel brands to exert a stronger influence on marketing and pricing so that brand  equity remains strong. 

Adding a direct-to-consumer online channel provides a new avenue for direct customer engagement and a way for brand manufacturers to control messaging and pricing strategies. These practices can be shared with retail partners, creating a win-win cycle. 

Why do brands go direct?

Investing in a digital channel has many upsides. For one, sales increases can be driven by  a  number of factors, like new customer acquisition, improved ability to increase average order value, and better chances for repeat business from loyal customers. Digital channels are also an effective way to generate traffic in other channels like stores, mobile, events, etc. Additionally, brand manufacturers will see better brand awareness as they foster relationships with consumers through direct sales. 

All business buyers are consumers. A B2B customer can be a B2C customer and even EDI users are coming to B2B sites before ordering. B2B and B2C sites are currently converging, narrowing the gap between B2B and B2C sites. 

This allows the brand manufacturer to get closer to the customer, to engage with them, learn from them, and find better ways to sell to them. With the customer now engaged with the brand, brand manufacturers can use direct-to-customer marketing to  establish loyalty. The overall strength of the brand will see huge improvement. 

By borrowing techniques from DTC, digital commerce brands can create relevant experiences for B2B business buyers. For example, supporting a customer-first strategy accelerates growth in B2B digital commerce. Currently, many manufacturers approach B2B digital commerce initiatives seeking merely to create web-based interface of ERP and back-end processes, but there are many more options available. 


Understand the customer and generate revenue

To  focus on a digital commerce experience without disrupting your traditional distribution channel, don't undercut prices. This is the best way to understand your customer; it is also another valuable way to collect data and feedback for the company.

Meeting customer demands

Shoppers have high demands. They want a seamless shopping experience at all touch  points. The digital commerce platform facilitates the front-end experience but it is also important to focus on the operational aspects of the business to ensure a seamless customer experience.

All departments must be aligned for flawless customer service as there is a higher risk of losing customers once you are directly engaged. As such, learning to respond to customer behavior is critical. Provide them with excellent service and unique experiences, and they will become your best advocates. Disappoint them and you risk losing them for good. 

According to Gartner Research, the key challenges when developing a digital commerce strategy are: 

  • The lack of business alignment and  neglect of customer experience that tends to occur when IT leaders are tasked with deploying the digital commerce platform. 
  • Being caught off guard and failing to respond to fast- changing market conditions and  variable customer preferences. 

Dealing with channel conflict

Historically, the biggest challenge in establishing a direct-to-consumer sales channel has been the fear of channel conflict – not wanting to harm existing retailer relationships by competing with those retailers. 

While some retailers refrain from doing business with brands that sell direct-to-consumers, manufacturers are increasingly overcoming this conflict by working with retailers to devise strategies that are beneficial for all parties involved. 

Selling direct does not mean abandoning existing distribution channels. A successful direct-to-customer business should  be  built  on a  strategy that supports current distribution partners and increases revenue across all channels, rather than prioritizing one over  another.

From manufacturer to retailer

Running an ecommerce channel is a completely different business model than a wholesale retail business, as it requires a different set of internal skills, processes, and infrastructure. Brand manufacturers who sell online do not just need to become online merchants; they need think and act like retailers. If brand manufacturers do not plan and prepare for operational differences, the  customer experience will suffer. Everything from order placement to fulfillment to shipping, returns, marketing and customer service needs to be tailored to the ecommerce channel in question to deliver a seamless customer experience.

To ensure that the customer experience is on par with the brand experience, front-end experience and backend operations must receive the same amount of care and maintenance. If the backend infrastructure and logistics are not equipped to handle the direct channel, customer experience will suffer, which will in turn have a significant impact on the brand. 

Behind the scenes 

While a user-friendly and effective customer-facing ecommerce site is essential, it is also critical to plan for what happens behind the scenes once an order has been placed. The processes involved in delivering a smooth and seamless experience after the point of purchase are paramount. Failure on the part of operations, backend infrastructure, and logistics to deal with the direct channel will negatively impact consumer experience. 

Because these processes differ so significantly from what brand manufacturers are accustomed to, most brands struggle to overcome these challenges. Diligent planning should always include an investment in skilled ecommerce labor resources, infrastructure adjustment, new technology systems implementation, and new operational resources covering everything- from order management to warehousing, shipping to customer service- are critical to ensuring success. 

To  develop a successful digital commerce strategy, establish a cross-functional team with a variety of skills, set the right objectives, design a better customer experience, and also find the right option to get the products direct to consumer. It is important to note that filling SKUs is not the same as working with pallets. You can adapt with what you already have or choose outsource with the right partner.

Selecting the right e-commerce platform

After deciding to go direct, it is important to select the right digital commerce platform. From a technology perspective, brand manufacturers should look to an ecommerce platform that allows non-technical marketers, content professionals, and merchandisers to easily manage their content. The platform should include such features as Personalization and Segmentation, Publishing Tools, Guided Navigation and Search, Account Management and SEO.

Since brand manufacturers can realize significant growth due to an already established brand, they should be concerned about the ability to scale the platform to handle increased traffic and sales. International expansion and maintaining a balance with the expertise of the organization are two other major considerations. 

This is why a  'Crawl, Walk, Run' strategy is always recommended. Brand manufacturers should choose a platform that allows them to scale upwards to support their growth and lets them learn about the digital channel without disrupting business. The speed of the 'Crawl, Walk, Run' strategy should be considered when evaluating digital commerce platforms in the middle market or enterprise arena. 

To learn more about direct-to-consumer strategy, contact us at

Why mobile-first strategies are essential to digital transformation success

Digital transformation is top of mind for large enterprises as well as small to midsize businesses around the world. While diversifying a product portfolio, expanding into new markets, or completing a merger and acquisition (M&A) can drive growth and add value, these initiatives are not transformative. In a global market where digital leads, and mobile is first, transformation is essential to remaining competitive.

Customer-centricity is the essence of digital transformation, and those customers - from all geographies, cultures and social diversities - are embracing mobile like never before. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans now own a cell phone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 77%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.

Along with mobile phones, Americans own a range of other information devices. Nearly eight-in-ten U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers, and around one-in-five own e-reader devices.

Mobile-first strategies are essential to digital transformation success. The following chart shows the profound impact mobile has on a company’s customers, employees and the organization as a whole:


The impact of mobile on digital transformation is profound. However, C-suite and executive team members should also understand the broader perspective. Mobile-first strategies provide the much-needed freedom that a company’s customers, employees and other stakeholders expect.

To learn more about the impact of mobile on digital transformation, contact us at


How brick-and-mortar retailers can compete in the online era


Retail is changing at unprecedented speed. While it’s become clear that brick-and-mortar is here to stay, it’s becoming much more difficult for companies to compete in a saturated omnichannel retail market. According to The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, 92 percent of American’s retail shopping still occurs offline, meaning offline retailers that progress and scale at the pace of the industry position themselves well to pick up new customers and increase revenue.

How do offline retailers compete?

The biggest competitive advantages involve deployment of technologies that are designed to help support business operations and provide better customer data. Other retailers are exploring the use of non-traditional shopping experiences combined with omnichannel strategies. In most cases, forward-thinking retailers that are doing well implement a number of digital tools and strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

Personalized shopping experiences 

Brick-and-mortar retailers face new challenges in personalizing their connection to customers, as the digital benefits of shopping online re-define shopper expectations. Now, through IoT-enabled retail innovations and advanced data analytics, retailers can merge the best of online and physical shopping for a highly-tailored shopping experience that delivers a 360-degree view of in-store operations.

Market-specific products and design

Big and small retailers alike are recognizing that winning in the brick-and-mortar space requires local specialization on everything from product offerings to experience design. When it comes to generic products, customers can easily go online. When shopping in the store, they expect to find something that they rarely get to experience online.

That’s why mega retailers like Target and Walmart have opened different store formats for city centers, and brands like Adidas are exploring new and innovative ways to be part of the local community.

Ubiquitous commerce 

These days the number of touchpoints a customer has with a retailer significantly increases the likelihood that they’ll choose to shop at that store. By incorporating IoT, big data analytics and mobile technologies, retailers can now blur the lines between online and offline shopping, and synchronize backend systems for an omnichannel shopping experience.

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The future of physical retail

Offline retail is not dead, but it is evolving. The majority of consumers enjoy the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Physical retail may look very different in the next five years, but it will not be gone altogether.

The survival of retailers will depend largely on company leadership, corporate culture and how readily leadership can adapt to new consumer expectations. Companies that are excited about the future of retail and are willing to match that excitement with innovation will prosper.

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How financial institutions can use customer journey mapping to increase MROI

As financial services and insurance companies strive to deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels, the conventional marketing model has been reinvented. Forward-thinking institutions have shown how cross-functional teams focused on the customer journey can help develop a single view of the customer. While this strategy can bring measurable benefits, research shows that most financial institutions still have a long way to go in maximizing their marketing return on investment (MROI). 


Integrating the banking customer experience

Mobile and digital media continue to drive transformation in the financial services sector, as C-suite executives and marketing leaders respond to the needs of their biggest demographic: the millennial generation.

Millennials are accustomed to having a wide variety of online and offline choices, available to them anytime and anywhere, for researching and buying new products and services. Millennials increasingly expect the same seamless customer experience from their banks and insurers as they do from digital trailblazers in other industries.

Financial services companies are typically fast-to-follow rather than early-to-adopt when it comes to new technologies. These companies have also seen competitors from other verticals invade their territory by offering financial services, such as payment processing and short-term loans as part of the buying experience.

Banking executives and marketing departments have been forced to integrate the banking experience across offline and online channels, not just to reduce expenses, but to capitalize on new business opportunities and avoid losing market share to new entrants.

Reinventing the conventional marketing model

Most banks’ marketing departments were historically geared toward slow-paced campaigns, focused on pushing a single product at a time across an array of channels.

But this conventional model has been flipped upside down. Banks are now investing in "always on" marketing programs, in which they engage with individual customers at every touchpoint along the decision journey. This approach requires agile teams of experts in analytics and information technology (IT), marketing and experience design.

Now, the customer decision journey, rather than a single transaction, drives marketing strategy. This kind of customer journey-focused strategy should also be the foundation for the organizational structure of a financial services institution. 

Gearing a cross-functional organization toward the customer journey

Cross-functional organizations geared toward the customer journey encompass three core capabilities; Discovery, Design and Delivery:


Achieving a single view of the customer can be challenging for large financial institutions as well as smaller, community banks. In this case, it makes sense for financial services and insurance companies to work with a partner on the three Ds, to implement the right IT infrastructure and related technologies, and support the development, management and placement of marketing content.

Recent data suggests that focusing on the customer journey brings a 50% greater return on marketing investment, nearly 25% more positive social media mentions, more than 2.5 times greater revenue from customer referrals, and 55% greater cross-sell and upsell revenue than competitors.

To learn how your financial services institution can increase MROI, contact us at

How retailers can use artificial intelligence to transform customer experience

 Artificial intelligence can help deliver the highly personalized experiences shoppers desire

Artificial intelligence can help deliver the highly personalized experiences shoppers desire

One of the top priorities for our retail clients is to figure out how they will compete with Amazon. To do this, we help retailers differentiate themselves by creating online experiences that combine the personalized feel of shopping in the store with the ease of online channels. 

These personalized customer experiences are created through the use of predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The resulting technology enables retailers to recommend products uniquely matched to their customers, and allows their customers to search for products using language that is conversational, or just images, as though they were communicating with a person. 

Using AI to personalize the customer journey is a huge value-add to our retail clients. Retailers that have implemented customized strategies see sales gains of 5-8%, a rate two to three times faster than their competition. 

To help you start your AI journey on the right track, here are 5 important points senior retail executives need to know about AI:

  1. Be bold. Retailers embracing AI are creating highly personalized experiences and setting new standards in customer experience. 
  2. Brick-and-mortar retail stores can implement similar levels of personalization. AI can be used to provide tailored websites, personalized product recommendations, better search results, as well as immediate and helpful customer service.
  3. There are roadblocks to AI adoption that can make implementation difficult. These obstacles stem from the retail organization and their legacy systems being unprepared to handle the large amount of data AI solutions need to be most effective.
  4. You don't have to go it alone. For most retailers, successfully leveraging AI requires partnering with a third party. Because of the barriers involved, employing an in-house strategy can be extremely costly and difficult. Partner for capability and capacity. 
  5. Take a portfolio approach to accelerate your AI journey. Resist the temptation to put technology teams solely in charge of your AI initiatives.

To learn more about the use of artificial intelligence in retail, contact us at