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Investing in innovation to sell more yoghurt and other retail revelations from VMworld 2021

Ed Durbin, Global Director of Retail Solutions, VMware

After the forced separation of the recent past, it has been wonderful to see so many friends, colleagues and customers again at this year’s VMworld – even if it remains via the medium of virtual conferencing. Despite the fact we were not collectively together in one location, it has been impossible not to feel the excitement, engagement and passion for how technology is shaping the world. Nowhere more so than when it comes to retail.

Cloud-first to cloud-smart

No matter who I have spoken to – both during the event and before it – the message from retailers is consistent. They want to know how VMware can help them based on what they’re seeing other retailers do. They’re not looking for theory or conceptual ideas but real innovations that can help them deliver against corporate objectives today, while future-proofing them for the years ahead. Indeed, one of the themes that has been prevalent is that of cloud strategy, specifically moving from being ‘cloud-first’ to ‘cloud-smart’. This is because, no matter the retailer, geography or existing cloud strategy, problems and objectives are largely consistent when it comes to creating the best and most suitable environment that delivers flexibility, control, cost predictability and security – all while reducing costs and improving the customer experience. It is about whatever cloud or multi-cloud strategy you focus on, you have to choose the right approach for your business.

This is why ‘smart’ is the operative word. Retailers don’t want – or need – to work on different tools, with different applications in different places. The vision is to have one set of tools that work irrespective of the environment – one platform for all applications. There are so many examples I could cite here but perhaps the best session would be this one, where several customers share their cloud success stories.

Driving innovation and enterprise control

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of VMworld is having the time to get under the skin of how our customers are using a multi-cloud platform to deliver the apps, service and innovation they need to stay ahead of the game, while also hearing first-hand the positive impact it is having. This is especially the case when it comes to app modernisation and how these are delivered, designed and deployed on the ground and at the coalface of retail operations – something that is beautifully demonstrated by Australia Post.

You can see the session here but this 212-year-old postal and logistics service has 4,300 retail stores with 8,500 individual counters and has completely remodelled its operation based on becoming a Cloud-Smart organisation. Ben Llewellyn, technology business partner, explains that the number of shared devices it had between staff posed a real health risk during the pandemic, especially because as a key service, its offices have remained open. The company was in the middle of a major four-year POS cycle pre-pandemic but has seen a real acceleration in activity to keep its staff safe and provide a best-in-class customer experience. It has given each member of staff in its key locations their own device, bringing together eight separate platforms into one and meaning staff can capture data from handwritten labels in real-time, something not possible previously, which has benefits when it comes to data capture, tracking, time and cost saving and building customer relationships. As Ben said, “We needed to be smart and mobile. We’re 22 weeks into a four week trial and the more flexible we can be will help ensure our customers are not left alone on the path to purchase.”

Moving to the Edge

I can’t close my summary blog without focusing on perhaps the biggest talking point of the event – retail at the Edge. One of our key announcements was how we are helping customers move to and benefit from the edge.  As the center of gravity, where data is being created and consumed, shifts from the data center and cloud to the edge, we unveiled our vision for how we will help companies navigate this shift, and introduced a portfolio of solutions that will enable organizations to run and manage edge-native applications across multiple clouds, anywhere.

Indeed, it was the subject of a panel I moderated with several of my VMware colleagues where we took a microscope to the Edge and the impact it is going to have in retail, which you can see here. We covered so much ground but what was clear is that retailers are emerging from the pandemic with a clear desire to manage networks, stock, distribution, customer data, security and more, in locations at the edge. This is because they can see the benefit is having the capability to manage everything in their stores – from cameras to cashiers or freezers to fitting rooms – with local insight and control but from a global platform.

The best example here is METRO.digital, who features in this session. It started with a pilot with its checkout systems driven by a desire to provide a best-in-class service and boost productivity but it moved into other areas of the stores like frozen goods to not only collect data points but also to assist with local regulations. The ambition is to create a platform where solutions can be deployed and help teams be productive, while enabling the company to be faster in the market and closer to the customer. As Heiko Onnebrink, Principal Architect, Wipro Business Solutions who provide IT services to METRO.digital said, ‘it’s about investing in innovation to sell more yoghurt.’ Perhaps the most exciting element of this is that METRO.digital has created a solution with speed and storage requirements for its 720 locations, two datacenters, 5000 virtual machines with a team of just four. To find out exactly how, you’ll need to watch the session.

The retail Swiss Army Knife

There is so much activity happening in retail right now as the world emerges from the pandemic in an altogether different shape than what it went in. As a result we’ve seen an explosion in customers wanting to bring all types of ideas and innovations to life, some of which we’ve heard about at VMworld. And no matter the retailer or vision, we are ideally placed to help because when it comes to technological innovation, we want to be the Swiss Army Knife for retailers.

It is clear that retailers need help too because we’re not looking at the store of the future. The future is now, today. For more information on how VMware can help on your modernisation journey in retail or to talk to our team, please contact Lenka Kanakova at lkanakova@vmware.com or your assigned VMware account manager. For more information on VMware retail solutions, please visit us here


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