Expo Panel: Technology Enablers Along the Path

Cyndi Loza
Managing Editor, Member Content, P2PI
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From left to right, Brendan Witcher, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research, Jehan Hamedi, VIZIT’s chief executive officer, and Johnson & Johnson's Neil Ackerman, head of advanced technologies, global supply chain, Middle East and Africa.

From image optimization to robotic process automation, speakers at the Path to Purchase Institute's sixth and final "Community Gathering" shared their insights on today's emerging technologies, technological needs and key digital trends.

"I feel that there is a ... really big technological need to get better and more granular shopper insights," said Jehan Hamedi, VIZIT’s chief executive officer, during the session, which was held Nov. 4 as part of the Path to Purchase Digital Expo. “It's partly on the retailers to develop more open ecosystems and to share more of their e-commerce data with their manufacturers. But, a big part of that also lands on the brands and on tech vendors to develop new systems and platforms that can harness and really just make sense of data that they already have.”

Another technological need in the e-commerce space, according to Hamedi, relates to imagery and how brands present themselves on each step of the digital path to purchase. “What imagery is going to motivate behavior? What do consumers want to see from indulgence brands versus from electronic motorcycles? Every product is really different and you have to craft your visual experiences today almost surgically to appeal to specific segments of shoppers,” said Hamedi, who spoke alongside Johnson & Johnson's Neil Ackerman, head of advanced technologies, global supply chain, Middle East and Africa, and Brendan Witcher, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester Research. 

Hamedi added that even small adjustments to how a product is angled or photographed can make a big difference online. VIZIT found that on Amazon product pages, for example, simply changing the degree to which a Master Lock safe was ajar to show shoppers the interior contents drove conversion rates up 20%.

Ackerman echoed Hamedi’s sentiments on imagery, noting it's a "one-screen world" and whatever is in a consumer's face is what's selling. However, he also emphasized the importance of understanding supply chain logistics. "I think the greatest need is for [retailers] to understand the details of their end-to-end system," Ackerman said, noting the importance of understanding the cost of actions such as putting product in store and delivery. "Frankly, I don't think they know. These details have always been behind the curtain. They like to talk about more sexy things like ... marketing."

Witcher’s current philosophy is “what broke before is going to break more in Q4.” From crashing websites to problems with delivery partners, retailers need to address whatever issues they encountered earlier this year, he said. “There’s just too many people that are ignoring the things that broke,” Witcher said.

In terms of emerging technologies, Ackerman said CPG manufacturers should pay attention to robotic process automation (RPA), which is "essentially the automation of activities that humans don't need to be doing anymore. This is an up-skilling opportunity and if you're in a CPG company ... RPA is coming your way."

Another is the aggregation of delivery mechanisms, which are really important for last mile delivery. Ackerman noted one of the companies J&J works with is OneRail, which gives businesses multiple fulfillment modes while connecting them to an exclusive courier network, automated in real-time.

All Community Gathering webinars are available on demand for registrants of the Path to Purchase Digital Expo, which will take place virtually this year Nov. 10-12. For more information about P2PX and to register for the event, visit