By Rob Garf

This is Part 2 of 2 of a Q&A with Mr. Robert Fort and Ms. Diane Randolph, two prominent and innovative retail CIOs.

My last post focused on their perspectives on why contemporary CIOs find superior value with cloud platforms such as Demandware, and how the landscape of IT organizations has adopted to this relatively new model. The other big variable, which we’ll address here, was the incremental value of continuous innovation and the ability to leverage these innovations more quickly in the cloud model.

Rob Garf:  It sounds like it was a balance between the transparency of hard costs using a cloud commerce platform and the opportunity cost of neglecting its innovative potential. And along those lines, Diane, what have you seen in terms of innovations across the retail enterprise that will be disruptive to the industry?

Diane Randolph: Again, I would focus on the customer analytics capabilities we’re seeing that can really influence the product lifecycle more upstream than was traditionally done before. Besides the obvious marketing use cases, customer intelligence can influence decisions on how inventory can be assorted and distributed on a more personalized level. It’s a natural extension of the commerce platform and will only help us better serve our omni-channel shoppers.

Rob Garf:  Robert, you’ve always been at the forefront of key innovations, what do you see as a really disruptive development in the world of retail technology?

Robert Fort:  What I noticed is that customers are starting to not really see a channel. In fact, if your channels are exposed to them, it’s presenting limitations and a bad brand experience.  And along the lines of what Diane was just talking about, we are starting to get better at being more predictive with our capabilities so that we are there and ready when customers decide that they need your particular product or service.

Rob Garf:  Staying on this topic, because commerce can be virtual and accessed through various touch points, could the multiple channels of a retailer really become singular? I’d be interested in both of your perspectives in terms of what role does the commerce platform play in the physical store. How will this convergence play out over the next couple of years?

Diane Randolph:  Obviously if you talk to the traditional POS vendors, they’re all looking at converging channels as well but I think we’re in an enviable situation because we can sit back for a little bit and really see what vendors will get it right. Regardless of the form factor, whether it’s a mobile device, a tablet, or a kiosk, it’s all really doing the same thing – showing products and making information available to the consumer about where the inventory can be obtained most expeditiously – whether that be shipped to their home or picked up at the store. The form factor is going to be different but the important thing is that the experience and data has to be the same.

Robert Fort:  I also think it’s about having the right architecture, one that can bring all the data components back together. In the near future, as an example, we should have one customer file with a robust profile so we understand which touch points they’ve reached us and we can market to them appropriately.