As a veteran of high tech consulting, business development, and data analytics, David Rich is intimately familiar with the process of growing innovative business solutions. He is the former CEO of Revolution Analytics, and spent nearly three decades at Accenture, where he served as Global Managing Director, founded Accenture Analytics and led the CRM Service Line and the High Tech Industry. So his interest in virtual reality and its impact on retail business processes does not come as a surprise.
Which is why the newly appointed Executive Chairman of the Board at InContext hopes to establish partner programs and help the company continue to develop impactful VR solutions for retail—as well as guide the technology further down the road to virtual commerce.
David sat down with us to talk a bit more about his experience in the industry, and why he’s excited about where InContext is headed.
How did you first hear about InContext Solutions?
I've had an ongoing relationship with Intel Capital over the years, starting when I was at Accenture and leading several global services businesses in the high tech space. More recently, they were the lead investor at Revolution Analytics (now Microsoft Advanced Analytics) and asked me to represent them on the board. Eventually, they asked me to serve as CEO where I successfully led a growth and expansion program. When Intel Capital decided to place a big bet on AI and VR/AR as one of the lead investors in InContext, they asked me to get involved. We both agreed the patterns in the business were familiar, thus the playbook could be similar.
What stood out about InContext that made you decide to join our board?
As any technology investor knows, in the end you are placing a bet on the talent and teams. InContext has assembled some of the foremost minds in the space. And, as a consequence, they have no rival—they are easily two years ahead of the market. Which is significant when it comes to emerging technologies. The trick now is how to scale it so it can be easily maintained across the enterprise in a self-sufficient way. We faced a similar challenge at Revolution five years ago, so I think I have an idea or two.
As chairman and CEO of DBR & Associates, and as the founder of Accenture Analytics, it’s safe to say you have a robust background in analytics and big data. Can you talk little about how technology has changed how we approach analytics over the last decade?
It's really quite simple. We brought the math to the data. For decades, the old paradigm for commuting required that you bring all the data to the data appliance in order for people to process it, and then have the critically-few data scientists interpret the results (and send it back to the application). The models took days or weeks to construct and took on a life of their own. As a result, it was very expensive and time-consuming moving data and results back and forth. Tools like Open Source/R and Python, advances in database technology, like Hadoop, massively parallel processing and AI and cloud-computing changed everything.
What do you see as VR’s biggest advantage when it comes to retail solutions?
Also quite simple—speed to value. The time and investment required to manipulate the shelves and/or make changes to product packaging along the way—not to mention the ensuing trial and error before having proof of value—is really an archaic "hope for the best" strategy.
InContext revolutionizes how planograms are built, optimized and deployed, while predicting the impact on sales with amazing accuracy. Months to value gets replaced by weeks—thus growing the top-line sooner, while decreasing costs, and leading to improved profits. Let's face it, retailers are under siege. They will need a relentless focus on revolutionizing the shopper experience, improving the compliance and unit economics of their shrinking footprint of stores, and, over time, offering a consistent shopping experience whether you’re physically present or are in their online stores.
"The time and investment required to manipulate the shelves and/or make changes to product packaging along the way—not to mention the ensuing trial and error before having proof of value—is really an archaic 'hope for the best' strategy."
Let’s fast forward to the next 10+ years – in your mind, what does shopping look like?
You won't recognize much of a difference whether shopping online or off-line. We’ll all have a Smart Bot or Personal Shopping Assistant, and the lines between retail and CPG companies will blur as they joint venture to create real or virtual shopper experience centers. Fulfillment will be near immediate for precisely what the shopper wants, making the returns process a thing of the past.
What gets you pumped for the future of VR technology at InContext?
This is a business solution powered by new technology. It was the same thing for predictive analytics at Accenture and Revolution, and that’s where I intend to apply my talents and experience. My hope is that soon the "InContext Way" becomes the tried and true path to V-commerce—enabling the world's most vibrant and innovative retailers and brands. There’s a lot between here and there, but this platform can be a building block for that eventuality.