The 2019 Aptos Engage conference hit many powerful notes currently resonating in retail. These include artificial intelligence, microservices architecture, personalization, digital transformation, hyper-local planning, and more.
Also, the software provider unveiled an ambitious roadmap for Aptos ONE, the company’s signature technology that is a cloud native, mobile-first, microservices-based platform.
However, beyond these themes the conference underscored a basic fact of retail life that cannot be overstated – long-term success is not measured by size or strength but by the ability to adapt.
This was exemplified through the Aptos embrace of an ‘agile’ mindset, which not only applies to the method used to build Aptos ONE by the development team but also how Aptos views its role as a business partner to retailers.
Why Agile, Why Now?
The Agile Manifesto, first published in 2001 by a group software developers, solidified an emerging trend toward development models that emphasize lightweight, short-cycle methods instead of traditional processes, comprehensive documentation, and pre-determined plans.
Since publication of its four values and 12 principles, the Agile Manifesto has evolved and been adopted by many companies challenged by innovation and uncertainty. These companies are searching for a way to deliver technology with minimal costs, reduced waste of resources, and faster time to achieve bottom line gains.
The Agile Manifesto, however, not only makes sense for software development projects but also for managing a business in a fast-moving industry like retail. It also makes sense for running a business like Aptos, where it seems to have been fully embraced judging by its many references at the conference.
Noel Goggin, the Aptos Culture Leader, spoke about agile development while describing progress made rolling out new features and functions on the Aptos ONE platform that are emerging after two years of dedicated work. The agile mindset was also reinforced by Nikki Baird, vice president of retail innovation, and Ian Rawlins, chief strategy officer, in several sessions at the conference.
In addition, the agile mindset was referred to by retailers that spoke at the conference such as Tapestry (Coach, Kate Spade, Stuart Weizman), Ross Stores, Cole Haan, Tilley’s, Vitamin Shoppe, Buckle, Boot Barn and Michael Kors. For retailers, the agile mindset focused on three major areas: project management, change management, and an adaptable business model.
The Aptos ONE Vision
The executive team at Aptos took great pains to clarify their vision of Aptos ONE, a highly flexible, configurable, continuously iterative and scalable platform that will ultimately host an app store’s worth of end-to-end retail services.
As described by Aptos at the conference, this is a compelling vision and one retailers appear ready for. The benefit of retailers buying into the Aptos ONE vision is that Aptos is already deep into development and has already begun rolling out retail-specific services,which can be deployed today as a proof of the overall concept.
Until now retailers have had few options when it comes to microsevices' platforms. They either had to create one on their own, a la Amazon, Walmart and Target, or they have had to consider working with multi-industry software providers that have sketchy expertise in retail-specific software development.
Aptos, in effect, is stepping up to do the heavy lifting and it was clear at the conference that many retailers were happy to partner with them on a shared journey into the future of technology. This journey will involve a shared timeline of development, continual iterations and ongoing investment by all parties.
Make no mistake about it, this promises to be an epic journey, one that will transform retail technology as we know it.
Best of conference factoids and smart quotes:
- “Retail is massively under spending on technology. The financial sector spends 6% of revenue on technology. Retail spends 1-2% of revenue.” – Noel Goggin, Culture Leader, Aptos
- Over the last four years Aptos has doubled revenue and doubled its client roster.
- Aptos has 660 retail clients and 1,000 brands. Of these, 31% are tier one.
- Aptos currently has 1,400 colleagues, is now in 65 countries, and had 84 go-lives last year.
- “Why omnichannel? If you take inventory away from digital channels and lock it away in a store, you lose value and it becomes discounted or marked down. If you have a customer who walks into a store and the product is out of stock then you have delivered the single worst experience you can deliver to a shopper. So you have to think in terms of omnichannel today.” – Ron Edwards, COO, Cole Haan.
- “When you think in terms of omnichannel you create routing rules for orders to ensure you are picking items that are best for the customer and best for retailer with the highest margin. You ship from warehouses, ship from stores, ship from store to store, do digital returns, endless aisle and apply machine learning to safety stock. When you do this you liquidate your seasonal inventory quicker, lower mark downs, increase revenue and achieve a fast ROI.” – Ron Edwards, COO, Cole Haan.
- “We used to take up to three hours to determine if a product was in stock or not. Now it takes 15 minutes.” – Brent Wiedbush, SVP of IT, Tillys
- “You need to invest in retail transformation. Legacy technology is an anchor. Walmart invested $11.7 billion in tech in 2018 and grew $4.5 billion year over year with a 4.2% rise in comp store sales and an increase of 43% in e-commerce. Retailers need to step it up to compete.” – Noel Goggin, Culture Leader, Aptos
- “Once the retailer takes possession of the products you have to figure out where to locate them. You have to figure out how to map customer attributes against product attributes and then create rules for managing last mile fulfillment. I call this part of retail the fulfillment chain.” – Peter Charness, VP, Merchandise Lifecycle Management, Aptos
- The Buckle’s retail transformation project with Aptos involved 100 integrations, 17 companies, and 55,000 man hours. It was the largest IT project ever at Buckle.
- "Inventory is the new black." – Eric Olafson, Unified Commerce Technology Founder/Investor