CIOREVIEW >> Geographic Information system >>

Getting the Products People Want to Where They Are

Bob Klunk, MD, DM Fulfillment and Michelle Kaufman, VP Technology, Distribution Management
Bob Klunk, MD, DM Fulfillment

Bob Klunk, MD, DM Fulfillment

E-commerce and mobile, now more than ever, allow seemingly unlimited access to and information about products. For the  seller, there’s a fire hose of information about consumers at their fingertips. How can a retailer use GIS to target and then deliver products into the hands of those consumers?

"Tracking shipments and analyzing geographic patterns allows us to report back how our distribution center network was utilized and advise what optimum utilization would be"

We all have a product or service to sell  and there’s an abundance of technology available to help us do it. But if you take away that technology, it’s the same basic selling principle that’s been around for centuries—you have to connect with someone who has a want or a need for the products and/or services you’re selling. This isn’t the type of connection that happens  when you accept a LinkedIn invitation. It has to be a connection that invokes a human response. People love to be a part of  something, part of a story. They want an emotional connection and to feel like their needs and wants are important.

I was thinking about how technology has affected how I buy things. If I want pizza, I go to Google and I search for pizzerias. Google responds by giving me a listing of every pizza place within the radius I’ve specified from my current location along with customer reviews and testimonials of those restaurants. Before technology, how would I have found a pizzeria? My first choice would have been a referral. I would want to hear from a friend, neighbor or hotel concierge about  their favorite pizza place nearby and why. Google and many other technologically savvy companies have found a way to use  geographical data along with the basic selling principle to provide the right products and services and make a connection  with the consumer.

One of the most fascinating stories of using geographic information to connect is “Geographic Fencing.” It had to do with a  small company in a last-ditch effort to promote their product by building an  app that offered a coupon for a product associated with extreme skateboarding,  but only when the customer was insidea certain convenience store chain. The app was  targeted to connect with that group of people, using social media, and a game they could play on a smart phone that generated points toward a coupon to drive them to a store. Brilliant! Using a mobile app, which a conventional retailer might think is  driving people out of stores, to bring people in. Why did it work? It engaged the potential customer, told a story and gave  customers a sense of belonging.

Michelle Kaufman, VP Technology, Distribution Management

There are many ways sellers and marketers of products can leverage technology and geographic data to optimize logistics,  ultimately increasing customer satisfaction while maximizing efficiencies. By tracking shipments and analyzing geographic  patterns, we’re able to report back how our distribution center network was utilized, but more importantly, we’re able to  advise what optimum utilization would be. This  is invaluable information to help our customers manage their supply chain,  allocating product to the distribution centers where it’s needed most to support speed to customer and speed to shelf.  Additionally, orders are analyzed to pack and ship via the ideal shipper based on the destination, supporting that speed to  market, but doing so at the lowest possible freight cost, thus, minimizing the need for expedited shipping and the associated expense.

Other value-add services can be offered using data and geographic information to enhance the overall customer experience and  the relationship between the customer and the brand.Shipping data can be combined with on-demand print technology to create specific delivery instructions for each box in an aggregated shipment routing to campus environments or large buildings (i.e. Room 500, Bldg. 2, Patient Receiving, etc.). This use of data and technology streamlines the delivery process and supports  prompt delivery within the environment. These technologies can also  support including customized marketing messages within  the order including brand reinforcement, cross-selling of products and promotion of related products, to name a few. Again,  the data can be used to deliver localized messages as well, promoting events, sales or regional strategies.

Maybe you saw the movie “The Intern,” where two old-school sales guys get internships at Google. The two “heroes” are low  tech and bottomed out in their careers. They are surrounded by brilliant young people. They eventually reach success by helping  others recognize that technology is a toolto help you connect, but the real goal is to engage with people.  It’s important to not get lost on the technology, but rather, think about how you can use these great tools to connect and interact with people right where  they are. What wonderful tools we have,but don’t forget that it finally comes down to a person, who wants to feel like you are paying attention to what he or she wants.

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