Merging physical and digital channels: Home Depot’s transformation

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As digital transformation is on the agenda of most companies nowadays, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers struggle with utilizing digital technologies effectively. The Home Depot on the other hand is one traditional company, which managed to harness the power of digital technologies, bring about its own transformation and continues to improve constantly in their quest to fully become a digital master.

The Home Depot is a well-known superstore chain focused on selling home improvement tools and materials that is headquartered in the US.  In recent years, the company started its own digital transformation program, with the goal of creating a fully omni-channel business, meshing physical and digital channels. After realizing that their customers spend a significant time online researching their home improvement options, before actually visiting a physical store, Home Depot had to take advantage of the situation and leverage its digital capabilities effectively to make its more traditional assets shine.

By utilizing their e-commerce platform in combination with their brick-and-mortar stores, the company has effectively launched different delivery fulfillment options, like order online-pick up from store, order online-same day delivery or ship to store. Different omni-channel operations are supported by an intricate customer order management platform, the company’s biggest IT project to this day. In addition, Home Depot is further enhancing customer experience with mobile apps, through which customers can complete purchases, search through inventory or just navigate through a physical store and locate a product through the use of maps.

While online sales have steadily increased, Home Depot’s greater advantage is the combination of its physical and online channels to create synergies. Customers, who begin their purchase online and finish the purchase at a physical store, give the company many opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell different products.

Home Depot’s success so far is attributed in my opinion, to their general attitude towards digital technologies and specifically IT and business alignment. There is no divide between online and offline, but one unified business. As Kevin Hofmann President of Home Depot’s Online business, puts it “We deliberately think of it as interconnected and increasingly it’s hard to dissect exactly what is an e-commerce transaction versus physical store transaction . . . We look at the business as a whole portfolio and we think that’s the best way to look at it”.



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Cannibalization — what you need to think about before moving to digital

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In the digital age, many retailers are planning to add the e-commerce channel to the traditional bricks-and-mortar business. Before doing this, companies should be clear about the possible impact of cannibalization.

“Cannibalization” refers to the reduce of sales volume and revenue in one channel because of the adding of new channels in the same company. In our case, the situation that sales in physical stores reduced because some of the exciting customers switch to the e-commerce channel is called cannibalization.

The question is, since applying of the e-commerce channel is harming the physical store, why should we still go for it? According to Matthew (2013), the answer is quite simple:

“If you don’t cannibalize your retail business with your online channel, someone else is going to build an online channel and do it for you.  When this happens, not if, that is money that isn’t even going into your company.”

In short, for a company, the strategic purpose of adding online channel is not to compete with the traditional channel but to compete with the online channel of its competitors.

Additionally, evidence shows that adding online channel will increase the revenue of company as a whole (Bishop, 2013).

As a result, adding e-commerce channel is beneficial for the company as a whole. However, what should we do to reduce the negative effect of the direct channel cannibalization?

Successful multichannel retailers should segments customers by channel preference. There are three types of customers: direct only (catalog or internet); retail only and multichannel customers. The key to success is for physical store directors to find out the customers who would choose physical store over the online channel (retail only segment) and locate the physical stores near that customers. Companies could apply several analyses to choose the right location, such as customer profiling; drive time analysis and retail site features review.

In conclusion, although adding e-commerce might be harmful to bricks and mortar channel, it benefits the whole company. With the properly located physical store, the negative influence of cannibalization could be mitigated.


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Brain-computer interface, another science-fiction coming true?

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While invisibility might be a kick-ass super power that many want, being a “telepathy’ that can communicate directly to people’s mind is always my dream. If my four years of oversea experiences have told me one thing, that is, language is never the best or the most convinient way of communicating and no ideas can be thouroughly explained by just words and sentences. Unfortunately, we are still not there yet. But with brain-computer interface (BCI), one might be able to have direct communications with a machine.

Computer-brain interface is a type of user interface, whereby the user voluntarily generates distinct brain patterns that are interpreted by the computer as commands to control an application or device (Gartner IT Glossary, 2016). Research on BCIs actually began in the 1970s and focused primarily on neuroprosthetics applications that aim at restoring damaged hearing, sight and movement (, 2016). Recent research shows that brain-to-text device is capable of decoding speech from brain signals. An example given by the researcher Christian Herff is that instead of saying “Siri, what is the weather like today”, one can just imagine saying these things (ScienceDaily, 2016). The researchers have also found that a high degree of accuracy for deciding nearal signals to text can be achieved when language and dictionary models are programed in the algorithms (ScienceDaily, 2016).This might be of future importance as increasing accuracy is crucial when the technology comes to commercilization stage.

The technology itself and the study result might be exciting, but it is still very far from being put into use. According to Gartner’s technology hype cycle as of July 2016, BCI is marked as a yellow trangle in the innovation trigger phase, indicating it is predicted that this technology would still wait for more than 10 years to main mainstreamm adoption (, 2016).

Reference: (2016). Brain–computer interface. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016]. (2016). Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Identifies Three Key Trends That Organizations Must Track to Gain Competitive Advantage. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
Gartner IT Glossary. (2016). Computer-Brain Interface – Gartner IT Glossary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].
ScienceDaily. (2016). Can a brain-computer interface convert your thoughts to text? Recent research shows brain-to-text device capable of decoding speech from brain signals. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2016].

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Can we still decide on our own?

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The world is becoming more and more dependent on technology. Algorithms are crucial for making choices and decisions. People more and more rely on those algorithms by making decisions rather than their own rational thoughts and opinions. For example, with the aid of algorithms people decide where they should invest in and which loans or mortgages we need to take. For those standard choices and decisions people often rely on the choices the computer and its algorithms prescribes. The question rises whether these algorithms can be seen as very reliable? Can we always rely on algorithms when we make decisions?

At first, there is bias with the selection of algorithms. Not all computer systems are very reliable concerning their outcomes. There is a great chance that there are mistakes in the system when collecting and analyzing loads of data. I think that people should not always rely on the outcomes of those algorithms and be specific and cautious when deciding based on those outcomes.

Not only the chance of bias within the system is a reason for being cautious, but also the outcomes can be stained because of the limited and unilateral data-offer. The outcomes are based on the data within the system and if the data is incomplete, unilateral or just exaggerated, it is likely that the outcomes and the decisions people take based on those outcomes should be incomplete and not the most optimal ones.

Moreover, the mathematical calculations of those algorithms are so complex that nobody can be sure that the outcomes are 100% right.


Personally, I think that decisions should not always be based on computers and algorithms alone. Personal thoughts can be just as valuable for the decision-making process as algorithms. I think that when people base their decisions on algorithms, they always should consider their personal opinion about the subject. People should not only base their decision on the outcomes computers generate. With the upcoming future of more and more decisions based on algorithms and computer-based outcomes, I am interested in what your opinion is about this subject? Are you feeling 100% sure when basing your decisions on computer-based outcomes? Or are you always considering your own personal thoughts when deciding in combination with algorithms?



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How does the transformation of media affect our society?

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Technological progress in digital media had not only a great impact on how people use media, but also changed our daily lives. The way people communicate with each other has changed as well as their sensibilities and psychologies. The World Economic Forum investigated how digital media affect our society in its report “Digital Media and Society”. The report is based on desk research, interviews, workshops, and surveys. It aims to highlight the positive implications of digital media as well as to make people think about potential negative impacts of digital media. The report is divided into four sections.

The first section of the report deals with the behaviour, preferences, and concerns of digital media user. The time people spend online is still increasing. Pcs are still most common used to go online; however, mobile devices are about to catch up. Increased time spending online is mainly due to information seeking activities followed by social and entertainment activities. A major element of digital media use is sharing content. Nevertheless, user also have concerns about digital media. Most notable are concerns about the truthfulness of content and security of personal data.

User engagement is the headline of the second section. The report finds that digital media is not anymore about only “pushing” advertisement on users. Users start to ignore huge display advertisements. Moreover, more consumers are using adblockers. The report shows that it is important to provide content which is valued by user in order to pull in users.

The third section is about the impact of digital media on individuals, organizations and society. The report states various points about how the usage of digital media benefits individuals and society. Among the most noteworthy benefits are the empowerment of individuals across distances as well as increased civic participation and the facilitation of creating communities. Further, the report identifies improved flexibility of individuals through the greater enablement of work life integration, as benefits of digital media. Besides that, easier access to education and facilitation of lifelong learning are mentioned as benefits. Next to benefits the report also mentions risks which are related with higher consumption of digital media. Digital media facilitate the spread of harmful content and allows the mobilization of followers. Further, digital media affect human decision-making through filter mechanisms which can potentially create a biased image of the world. Moreover, digital media result in changes of social skills and empathy as people spend more time online. Furthermore, excessive screen time can lead to mental and physical health issues.

The report’s fourth section provides an outlook and gives suggestions which action the players to take in order to benefit from the frequent use of digital media while mitigating the related risks. The public sector should leverage the benefits of digital media and try to mitigate the risks. This can be done by fostering the creation of institutions and programmes which assist companies and individuals to create a healthier digital culture. The private sector should consider the implications for individuals when developing platforms and services or when creating content. Lastly, individuals should work on their digital skills to enable to better benefit from digital media as well as acting more responsible and to mitigate related risks.

In my opinion, it is crucial to do further research on the effects of digital media, especially with respect its effects on human decision-making. Filter mechanisms and recommendation systems create a biased picture of the world or echo chambers. This can lead to the radicalization of society. Furthermore, bots in social media become more and more common. They spread false or biased information and try to affect the public atmosphere. Furthermore, bots and propaganda make people question established media players. Our societies have to think about how to solve these problems to prevent radicalization and isolation.



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The sharing economy is the way to go

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We are going back to the old days, the days where people start trading their own staff or products again to gain money instead of working for company. The thing that facilitates this is technology and companies that act as intermediaries. Everybody knows. But how far will this trend continue?

Starting from the company perspective, the sharing economy is the best thing that could’ve ever happened. Uber doesn’t have their own taxi’s and Airbnb doesn’t have their own. They only ‘pass on’ what has been given to them. And get money for it. They are on the top of the ecosystem and no one can stop them. Without any production costs to make, marketing can be aggressive, and prices would still be acceptable. Does the sharing economy also have any disadvantage for companies? I suppose not, because they have high bargaining power over their suppliers and buyers, because of the low transaction costs, these intermediaries create for them. This ecosystem creates strong network effects, which increases barriers to entry, and make substitutes the only possible threat, which basically always is a threat. Looking from this perspective, practically all companies should use the sharing economy, as it creates an ecosystem, where companies have a strong, almost untouchable, market position.

Looking at the suppliers’ perspective, the sharing economy is beneficial for them as they otherwise wouldn’t have any other way to sell their products or services or create awareness for whatever. For example, how many people have already tried to become famous through YouTube? More than many. As suppliers of content, houses, taxis, etc. there is a continuous dependency on these intermediaries that create powerful channels. So if you ever have a great service, product or idea you want to market, and cannot use current channels or intermediaries to market it, think of how you can use a company to market it, start the company, and create your own ecosystem. This mindset is also probably why these types of companies, pop-up from the ground like weed, but then in a beautiful way.

Looking at the buyers’ perspective, products that weren’t available before are now available, or are available at a much lower price. The sharing economy ads to the long-tail big way. However, depending on the branch, there is a certain degree of trust that is needed. For example, with an Airbnb, do you always trust the pictures you are seeing? Some people are still reluctant, because they won’t trust the room is as clean as it would be in a hotel. One step further, in the sharing economy where you have to ‘share’ the product with the supplier, you don’t want to end-up sharing it with some creep. This might happen in for example at BlaBla Car where you might end-up to drive from Amsterdam to Berlin with some freak. Therefore, from the buyers’ perspective the question for the sharing economy rises: ‘do you always get the value for a product or service you expect to get?’

In conclusion, when each perspective is taken into account, the sharing economy will probably continue to rise. For companies it creates a unique market position that is barely untouchable, which also why suppliers will continue to rely on these companies. From the buyers’ perspective it will give rise to new products and services, or products and services for a lower price. The question rises if the products will have the same value as it could have, but it could also have more value. However, as companies have an everlasting battle for gaining a strong market position, they will probably all try to adopt an ecosystem strategy where the sharing economy is one of the strongest ones, because of the low costs.

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Benefits of mobile apps in business perspective

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Together with the explosion of digital development, mobile apps are becoming an indispensable part, everyone have experience how convenient and amazing this technology is in our daily life. With mobile devices we have the ability to be social in every aspect of our lives, and we love it. However, there is not many people have thought about what can mobile apps do for businesses. Businesses have learned that Facebook pages are great ways to interact and develop relationships with customers. However, social trends are changing, and a business is no longer being social enough by just having a Facebook or account. There are many more things they can do with mobile.

Build strong brand

With in-app advertising is developed to capitalize simply upon the advertisements present within the apps. Other businesses use their app through in-app purchasing for using advanced features. However, most of the companies use mobile apps purely to extend their presence worldwide, with the majority of people getting access to their products or services irrespective of the geographical region.

Connect Better with Customers

Customer service isn’t just about face to face communication; it is not only about “smiling” strategy anymore. With a mobile app on customers’ devices, they can update with the latest information about your products and your business activities. And, through a solid mobile presence, you can provide them with the best experience of studying and deciding whether they want to buy your product.

Boost profits

When customer satisfaction increases, in other words, the more interested people become with your product and your business, the greater consumer demand will grow, that demand will definitely provide you with some serious returns. Moreover, by offering discounts and coupons via mobile apps, you are encouraging your customers to make more purchases with lower prices. In fact, the vast majority of marketers see their apps as a means to primarily improve customer service.

Can you see the trend here? If you are thinking a mobile app is most used in entertainment, you are missing out on a huge chunk of change from an ever-growing market.


5 Things you don’t know about benefits of mobile apps

4 Ways Your Business Can Benefit From Having a Mobile App


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Supermarkets are going digital

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Recent research found out that supermarkets will face an increase of 30% growth of their online sales next year. The expectation is that this number will continue to rise in the coming years. The consumer benefits as it is easy to order the groceries behind their computers at home. But not only the customer will benefit from this development. Supermarkets will have the opportunity to collect huge amount of data of the demographics of their customers. With online purchases, supermarkets can discover the composition of a household, the income, if they are brand loyal etc. Also they will be able to target individual households.

But this development may not be solely positive for supermarkets and customers. Supermarkets can get competition out of an unexpected corner: Alibaba, Google and Amazon. These huge online companies are researching if it is attractive for them to enter this market. Basically their plan is to sell the groceries for their cost price or maybe even slightly below. In exchange for the super cheap groceries they will sell customer data to other companies. Actually, Amazon already started this. AmazonFresh delivers groceries at households. Right now it is only available in some large cities in the United States and London, but they are thinking about expanding to other countries as well. Supermarkets will have to act fast, they need to make the transition to online delivery otherwise they may find themselves bankrupt in the coming years.

Customers are watching it from the side line. People are mostly quite price sensitive when it comes to groceries. So hearing that in the future groceries might get cheaper sounds good. But is it? If you agree to the terms of agreement of Google or Amazon, you will probably not know to which companies the data will be sold. The question is if consumers are willing to give up a part of their privacy in exchange for cheaper groceries. What do you think? Will you be willing give up part of your privacy in exchange for cheap groceries?


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6 IoT Platforms to transform digital strategy

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Most of us have heard or read about the “Internet of Things” (the IoT) but some of us are uncertain about what exactly the IoT is and what it can apply to. Therefore, I found this article interesting and I would like to share it with you.

As the Internet goes worldwide and wireless, we want everything we can access be in wireless control, and the IoT is the key to make this possible. The IoT is the information carrier of the Internetworking and enables independent objects to collect and exchange data. For instance, in a supermarket or a warehouse, the IoT allows employers to manage the current stock and positions by using RFID tags on every item. In a factory or a production line, workers are able to use computers to control all the machines, quantity, and quality. The IoT collects and exchanges data, then combines with Big Data analysis, eventually makes our world digital become a smart city or a smart world.

The Internet changes the world, transforming the way we access and share information. It revolutionizes interaction, communication, and the buying experience. The IoT is indispensable and inevitable to enterprises. Decision makers obtain the information from enterprise IoT platforms integrated with ERP, MRP, and business intelligence systems. The IoT is a crucial tool which makes enterprises achieve the optimum capacity and scale. The IoT improves the efficiency of supply chain management and material resource planning. Then, you might ask what enterprise IoT platforms we can use to optimize current performances or to transform the business. Here are six platforms for you taking into consideration:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has integrated several systems and acquired 2lementry, an IoT startup. From devices to visualizations, AWS provides customers nearly everything to easily integrate with their cloud solutions. Instagram and Pinterest are the perfect examples of using AWS while they were newly set-up startups.

IBM Watson IoT Platform allows customers to connect Watson APIs to their IoT solution and to apply real-time analytics to monitor and act on both structured and unstructured data. A young startup can grow quickly through using Watson IoT Platform.

Cisco is partnering with Intel and Microsoft to drive the innovation in edge analytics. Cisco provides a wider range of products to grow customers’ business, such as, network connectivity, connectivity management, data analytics, management and automation… etc.

General Electric (GE):
GE’s Predix platform aims at industrial enterprises. Predix is an industrial internet platform. Businesses can create innovative apps on Predix that convert real-time operational data into actionable insights. Predix is equipped with everything they need to rapidly build, securely deploy, and effectively operate industrial apps. It says that Predix is suitable for either a traditional industrial enterprise or an expending enterprise to transform.

Azure IoT Suite connects the IoT to our daily life. Azure connects unstructured data and integrates business systems. It allows enterprises to transform while they are developing new business models and revenue streams.

PTC enhances enterprises’ IoT capabilities through acquiring leading IoT technologies, ThingWorx, Axeda, and Coldlight. Its IoT platform assists customers to transform in a secure, rapid, and accurate way.




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Project evaluation: stop before you start?

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Failing (IT) projects are a clear risk to companies. A lot of time, money and other resources are invested into these projects, which makes failure a very expensive outcome. If a big project fails, this could even cause the entire business to go bankrupt. Of course, some projects carry more risk than others, and without taking risks we would never get anywhere. But wouldn’t it be interesting if we could predict fairly accurately whether a project is going to succeed or fail from the start? That way, we could stop a project before large investments are made. Companies already do a careful analysis of whether a project is worth the investment before actually starting a project. However, once the idea is approved, there is often not really a clear evaluation during the project that makes it possible to already say fairly shortly after starting that the project is likely going to fail. Even so, we already have a lot of information about characteristics of projects that failed and projects that were successful. Theoretically, we should be able to just create a checklist and decide on a benchmark. Then, if the score of the checklist is below the benchmark, the project is terminated. There could be different benchmarks for different points of time during the project. This could for example be after 10% completion, 20% completion and so on, or the project could be evaluated after particular phases, such as after the planning phase, the implementation phase, and so on. It would probably even be possible to hire an expert evaluator, who can determine based on the material available and current steps taken whether a project is likely to fail or not, without even seeing any outcomes. After all, what we’ve seen so far is that if projects do not have a good requirement specification or don’t have enough IT-business alignment from the start tend to fail. So then why isn’t this applied yet? Is it that people are bad at determining whether a project is likely to fail or not, even when taking historical information into account and knowing what to look for? Or perhaps it is just that people find it hard to admit failure, especially when this is not clearly visible yet. In the end, I think it is very valuable to find good methods to evaluate projects early on, and develop the ability and culture that makes it possible to also stop projects that are likely to fail. I personally like the approach to fail often and fail early: not trying to avoid failure, or seeing it as something terrible, but instead seeing it as a natural occurrence that is good to recognize. And while it is true that we can learn a lot from failure and making mistakes, we can probably still get a lot better at learning from the mistakes of others.

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