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Pioneering the Digital Future for Omnichannel Retail Managers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PERFORM (Pioneering the Digital Future for Omnichannel Retail Managers)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-12-31

Due to new technological developments and the ongoing digitalisation the traditional retail sector is currently exposed to major challenges. Digital Retail started with the development of e-commerce when online companies such as Amazon began selling products online. These major online global players are still growing much faster than their smaller European retail competitors. As the absorption of buying power through online retailers is dominated by global players based in Asia (Alibaba, Rakuten) and the US (Amazon, eBay), Europe is experiencing a loss in revenue.

In this highly competitive market, traditional European brick-and-mortar retailers face hard challenges. However, studies show that most customers currently do not prefer pure online retailers, but a hybrid model, since traditional stores provide them with the opportunity to experience products, and to receive personal advice from experts. On the other hand, they switch to online retailers when they value lower prices, time and location independence, a bigger product selection, more detailed product descriptions and product reviews from other customers. Additionally, technological developments further enhance the customer experience. Advanced technologies may provide additional product information via mobile device, enhanced product presentations via augmented reality or personalized product recommendations. Thus, customer behaviour as well as their expectations changed and they switch between channels to suit their own personal requirements. This technology assisted channel integration is what we refer to as Omnichannel Management in Digital Retail.

However, research revealed that Europe lacks such retailers and consequently they are losing customers. Additionally, studies have found that insufficient human resources and skills development in Europe are obstacles to the retail’s innovation strategy.

Thus the overall goal of PERFORM is to establish a European training network to prepare the next generation of Digital Retail Managers to tackle Digital Retail challenges through a combination of training and research.

This objective should be achieved by the following sub-goals:
- Establish an international and intersectoral European Training Network to train a new generation of highly skilled professionals of Digital Retail Managers by offering training and research in an international, intersectoral and interdisciplinary environment that combines academic and non-academic practice and experiences.
- Sustain the training network by planning for a structured PhD Programme for Digital Retail and exploit the results by dissemination and communication to all relevant stakeholders and exploit IP results.
- Develop sustainable business models for the Digital Retail sector.
- Examine approaches to increase the customer experience along the customer journey.
- Investigate how technologies can be used to provide innovative Digital Retail services and create a unique customer experience.
- Develop a knowledge base on Digital Retail operations and analytics.
Due to the nature of MSC Training Networks activities and results cover different areas:

Early Stage Researchers (ESRs): The start of the project focused on the recruitment of ESRs. All 15 open positions could be successfully filled and ESRs were enrolled in PhD programmes. To align the project’s training and research activities with the aspired career paths of ESRs, Personal Career Development Plans were developed.

Research Preparation: To ensure all planned research activities meet the requirements and regulations regarding ethical behaviour, data protection and privacy, ESRs developed Data Management Plans and had to obtain ethics approvals from their organizations.

Training Week: A big part of the training are the training weeks where all ESRs and supervisors meet for 5 days of intensive training. Four of the planned seven training weeks have already been conducted. Evaluations by ESRs show the high quality of these trainings.

Individual Research Projects (IRPs) / Dissemination: Every ESR conducts an IRP that should lead to a PhD. All ESRs have developed research plans and have started their research. Currently studies are ongoing, but first results have already been published via 8 scientific papers.

Secondments: Secondments are an important part of the intersectoral and interdisciplinary training. The majority of ESRs have already conducted their first secondment.

Outreach: Engaging with the public has been done on a large scale. All ESRs and supervisors are involved and have conducted over 145 communication activities linked to the project in various categories to different stakeholders and the general public.

Additional Trainings: Tailored to the individual needs and in line with their Career Development Plan additional trainings were provided to ESRs.

Management: Management activities were based on a close coordination of the central management team, the Supervisory Board, committees and local coordinators. All deliverables could be submitted on time. There was a delay in one milestone due to enrollment issues with two ESRs, but this problem is already solved.
The progress beyond the state of the art is based on the expected results of the 15 Individual Research Projects, which are clustered in 4 topic:
- Business Models: We will develop sustainable business models for the Digital Retail industry. Individual research projects examine successful configuration of business models in Digital Retail (ESR1), develop an audit tool to facilitate diagnostics and roadmapping for Digital business models (ESR2) and a compliance monitor for legal Risks in digital retailing (ESR3).
- Customer Experience: We will create innovative approaches to increase the customer experience along the customer journey. Individual research projects will investigate psychological determinants and influencing factors (e.g. gender) of dynamic channel selection (ESR4), ways to increase the in-store customer experience (ESR5) and its impact on conversion optimisation along the customer journey (ESR6).
- Technology: We will investigate how technologies can be used to provide innovative Digital Retail services. Individual research projects investigate technologies for Small and Medium Retailers (ESR7), technologies for integrated systems (ESR8), recommender systems (ESR13), mixed reality technologies (ESR14) for enhancing product experience and mobile payment systems to provide a seamless digital process (ESR15).
- Operations and Analytics:We will develope a knowledge base on digital retail operations and analytics. Individual research projects will create business strategies for joint pricing and inventory decisions (ESR9) and investigate new last mile delivery methods (ESR10). To improve digital operations, we will use big data approaches to analyse customer behaviour (ESR11) and develop reference scorecards and visualisation to improve digital operations (ESR12).

The main impacts of the project are projected to be:
- ESRs: Through the extensive training activities the career perspective of involved ESRs will increase strongly.
- Beneficiaries and partners: Through the research activities beneficiaries produce new knowledge and artefacts that strengthen their research capabilities.
- EU: The trained ESRs and the research results strengthen the European retail sector by improving innovation capacity and making Europe more competitive.
Coherence and Rational of WP and Structure.
Example of an Omnichannel Integration in Digital Retail investigated by PERFORM
Consortium Composition, WPs and interdisciplinary Synergies