By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: What else is going on in the broader market right now? Is e-commerce is really starting to come alive again? I have seen some statistics; 20,000 e-commerce stores are coming online every week. My point is, whatever category you are a supplier or supplier group in, if that category lends itself to e-commerce – and almost every category, at least in America, lends itself to e-commerce – and if you have to cater to such a fragmented set of electronic stores, the standardization of taxonomy for that industry segment becomes vital, right?
SM: Otherwise, how do you cater to all these different stores, electronic stores?
SS: I agree wholeheartedly; this is one of the big things that we have been socializing as we have come out of the inventory club. If you really look at multichannel commerce, there is a lively conversation going on at Microsoft right now among several groups because at the end of the day, many of the people in our ecosystem currently act as facilitating partners for a company like Amazon. They unto themselves also create their own online store and by themselves act as facilitators for e-stores and competitors to Amazon. Every single one of those companies has come to us saying, We love this because you are taking the best of the online world, the access points, the visibility on inventory, all the way back to the original source – the supplier. However, you are driving it not in a way that downplays the channels but in a way that supports them. Now people can go to a store from their house, log on to a smart phone and check some stock, place the order, and have it drop shipped to their house. The formation of the multichannel commerce is a big topic across every industry, including the apparel industry. This is exactly where the virtual inventory cloud (VIC) is centered; it is at the middle of this huge industry dialogue. This pattern that you have mentioned, it is a big deal.
SM: And when you look at usability side of e-commerce or Web stores, vertical search is really a powerful concept. We have seen vertical search evolve from multiple directions, as if we have seen travel search becoming a big category before we knew horizontal search, which was Google. Now we see vertical search in travel, real estate, personals and job search. However, on the e-commerce side, there are already product search engines that are working in a comparison-shopping engine that go across various verticals, and they have created their own taxonomies. It is not there yet from the point of view of streamlining the supply chain to the extent you have streamlined your automotive industry. I think e-commerce will gain a huge leg up if this kind of taxonomy standardization happens across the various different industries. That will make it easier for all e-commerce companies to offer vertical search on their sites according to those taxonomies.
SS: Yes, that is exactly right. This is the other attractive, appealing thing about the VIC – the fact that it is a replicate-able process across industries.
SM: Right! What is your plan with GCommerce – is it to do this kind of taxonomy standardization across different verticals, or are you going to go into the automotive vertical?
SS: We certainly plan to bring the canonical approach, the canonized approach to data, which you just mentioned, but we also plan to bring the procurement model. You see, these patterns replicate themselves across verticals: the construction market, the plumbing and electrical markets, the medical device market, the marine industry, the industrial supply, industrial MRO, and so forth. About 15 standard industrial classification segments have a replicate-able situation; you see this pattern replicating repeatedly. To address this, there is Microsoft, GCommerce, and we have a large stakeholder that is joining this initiative in about 45 days. This is well aligned with Microsoft’s plan to push this body of work to verticals beyond the automotive aftermarket because we have companies like 3M and NGK and others with which we do business in other segments. We have existing relationships that we can leverage that allow us to be welcome when we move into other vertical markets. We are very excited that this thing is highly portable.
Now GCommerce unto itself is only 40 people; although we have an innovative approach, we do not have the muscle. However, Microsoft and the other entity, which is currently under a nondisclosure agreement, have the desire, the muscle and the platform to allow us to migrate across different vertical markets, so that is part of our playbook.
SM: Interesting! I am glad to have listened to you and learned about your industry, so thank you. In addition, we would appreciate if you have other suggestions for people who are knowledgeable in your industry and are leveraging cloud computing in ways that are worth understanding for us for this series, and we would definitely appreciate referrals.
SS: I will send you the link to the senior VP for the supply chain industry association because he may have a good amount of knowledge of SCOR model application references in the supply chain.
SM: Okay, that would be great.
SS: Let me let Jason circle back on the whole cloud thing; I think there are probably a couple of people who can provide you good insights on cloud adoption in the supply chain industry.
JP: Yes, thanks.
SS: Thanks very much for your time. It has been an invigorating discussion.