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Pioneering the Digital Future for Omnichannel Retail Managers

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PERFORM (Pioneering the Digital Future for Omnichannel Retail Managers)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2022-12-31

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, where major global players in Asia (Alibaba, Rakuten) and the US (Amazon, eBay) are dominating the market.

In this market, traditional European brick-and-mortar retailers face hard challenges. However, most customers 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. Thus, customer behaviour changed and they switch between channels to suit their personal requirements. This is what we refer to as Omnichannel Management in Digital Retail.

However, Europe lacks such retailers and consequently companies are losing customers. Thus the overall goal of PERFORM was 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 was 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 covered different areas:

Early Stage Researchers (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 of ESRs: The 15 Individual Research Projects of ESRs were conducted in the 4 work packages (i) Digitalisation of Business Models, (ii) Digital Retail Customer Exerpience, (iii) Digital Retail Technologies and (iv) Digital Retail Operations and Analytics. With the extension of the project all 15 projects could be finished and led to novel models, methods, systems or tools. The results of this research documented in the deliverables of the project and published in scientific papers. 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: After an initial training week with focus on project initalisation, 6 regular training weeks were organised to provide training in the main topics of Digital Retail (Business Models, User Experience, Technology, Operations), research skills and transferable skills. Apart from these training weeks further network-wide training activities were organized based on the needs of ESRs. Furthermore ESRs received training organized by their beneficiary on topics related to their individual research topic.

Secondments: Secondments were an important part of the intersectoral and interdisciplinary training. ESRs at academic organizations were primarily hosted at non-academic beneficiaries and partner organizations for secondments, ESRs at organizations not providing PhD programs were are also hosted at the corresponding academic beneficiaries. The COVID-19 travel and working restrictions led to a lot of changes compared to the initial secondment plan. In the end we managed to provide every ESR at least one secondment.

Outreach and Public Engagement: Engaging with the public has been done on a large scale. All ESRs and supervisors were involved and have conducted 337 communication activities linked to the project in various categories to different stakeholders and the general public. Outreach activities were focused on communicating research results and training activities. Apart from a focus on online channels, members participated in a number of conferences and events, however these activities were strongly limited by the COVID-19 restrictions through much of the project.

Management: Management activities were based on a close coordination of the central management team, the Supervisory Board, committees and local coordinators. With the extension of the project all deliverables could be produced and milestones could be met.
The progress beyond the state of the art is based on the results of the 15 Individual Research Projects, which were clustered in 4 topic:
- Business Models: We developed sustainable business models for the Digital Retail industry. Individual research projects examined successful configuration of business models in Digital Retail (ESR1), developed 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 created innovative approaches to increase the customer experience along the customer journey. Individual research projects investigated 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 investigated how technologies can be used to provide innovative Digital Retail services. Individual research projects investigated 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 developed a knowledge base on digital retail operations and analytics. Individual research projects created business strategies for joint pricing and inventory decisions (ESR9) and investigated new last mile delivery methods (ESR10). To improve digital operations, we used big data approaches to analyse customer behaviour (ESR11) and developed reference scorecards and visualisation to improve digital operations (ESR12).

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