Earlier this year I had a bit of an “aha” moment. After a long day at Retail’s Big Show #NRF2016 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York 25,000 people wanted to get back to their hotel – all of them, all at once, at 5 o’clock. I looked at the taxi lines where people were queuing and preparing themselves to wait in line for at least 30 minutes, if not more.

Of course, the tech-savvy people stepped outside armed and ready with their Uber app. Optimistically I checked Uber too. But that was a disappointment too – at least 10 minutes before the next Uber was available! Unless…? Unless I was willing to share a ride. I had never done this before, but why not give it a try, I thought. And sure enough, within 30 seconds my Uber arrived. On the way to my hotel, the other passenger, with whom I had an interesting conversation in the meantime, was dropped off and minutes later I was at my destination.

That evening I reflected on what had happened and what the impact on Retail might be. Early in my career, when I was working at a major international food retailer, I participated in the creation of our Master Plan for our supply chain. Once a year, we calculated all the routes our trucks would have to follow for delivery of goods from the distribution centers to the stores. We did this only once a year because the optimization took quite a bit of effort to calculate and execution of the plan was a major task (few mobile phones yet). The Master Plan was therefore not dynamic and once in execution mode, optimizing it was almost impossible. As with my Uber experience, today we are capable of solving and executing on the supply chain in real time. The supply chain has become a value network that is completely adaptive and can be monitored, optimized, and communicated in real time using cloud and mobile.

There are many examples of successfully leveraging cloud and mobile technologies to enhance the supply chain or solve the final mile. These include “crowd logistics” projects in progress, where consumers subscribe to a service and help deliver the final mile based on their proximity to the package, at home or in the office: The DHL project is one of these. Volvo is expanding its “deliver to my car” project to three more countries, where products you ordered are delivered to wherever your car happens to be parked. With a one-time soft key, the trunk of the car can be opened without the need for the driver to be present. It requires little imagination to understand the potential power of combining several of these models, all made possible by the cloud and mobile technologies.

What will the retail supply chain look like in a couple of years? Here are a few things you may want to consider:

  1. What are the possibilities when you apply cloud and mobile to your supply chain operation and change to a real-time monitored dynamic value network?
  2. Assuming an existing supply chain operation is not easily transformed into a value network, what would your migration strategy look like?
  3. Who would be your strategic partners to realize and operate such a system?

The success of your business will be determined by your attitude to innovate and revolutionize your supply chain operations with Mobile and Cloud solutions. Click here to learn how Cisco can help you stay competitive in this multi-channel retail world.