Romani an Di st r i but i on Commi t t ee
VOL UME12 I S S UE1 2021
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Editorial: Rethinking Strategic Planning for the Smart Phygital Future to Enable Resilience, Talent, Agility, and Improve Customer Experience
Indeed, things are appearing to becoming more hopeful if we take into account some of the ideas highlighted in our last RDC Magazine issue with regard to how we act with responsibility on the path to economy of care, encouraging the development of wellbeing, better connecting what has happened with the next normal, valorizing this extraordinary time for learning and bringing the necessary clarity of cascading priorities (Purcarea a, 2021). Three years ago, in September 2018, we also wrote an article entitled “The Future of Retail Impacted by the Smart Phygital Era”, underlining how the need for harmonizing the digital environment with the in-store environment is clearly recognized within retailers’ struggling of adapting to the new reality and to improve the shopping experience (including by considering mobile and artificial intelligence as disruptive forces in retail, smartphones’ rising role in improving the retail CX within the constant disruption and transformation, and the renewed interest in retail apps), blending digital experiences with physical ones, valorizing actionable insights from the analysis of data, and ensuring this way the retail renaissance (Purcarea, 2018). Very recently, the reputed McKinsey & Company brought to our attention – within the framework of a traditional COVID-19: Briefing note – that: “The new edition of The Next
Normal takes a deep dive into the post-COVID-19 world of shopping, where the tech-enabled “store of the future” can double retailers’ earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) margins. The catch? Retailers need to make plans for the “phygital” future now, or get left behind” (McKinsey & Company, 2021). Also very recently, a newsletter from Baker Library, Harvard Business School, Bloomberg Center (entitled “COVID-19 Business Impact, Info Blast” and highlighting the latest Harvard Business School faculty research related to COVID-19), has represented an opportunity to read among many valuable articles one entitled “Defining a Post-Pandemic Channel Strategy”, and written by the reputed senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Frank V. Cespedes (who is also the author of a new book: “Sales Management That Works: How to Sell in a World That Never Stops Changing, Harvard Business Review Press, February 23, 2021), in which he argues that: “Predicting the future is hard, but it can be broken into manageriallyrelevant chunks that help to separate the knowable and unknowable. First, consider whether past is prologue. E-commerce is not new… Second, recognize that predictions about technology are often overblown… Third, what is under way is a shift to omnichannel buying, and that has implications as managers allocate resources in order to achieve profitable growth… So, in adjusting to the future, beware of channel inertia… The future is never what it used to be. It now involves rivalry between channel systems, not only between individual firms. Competing with Amazon means competing with that supply and distribution chain, not just price and product on a web site. Across industries, sales effectiveness… requires the intersection of company and channel capabilities with customers throughout their buying journeys.” (Cespedes, 2021). Another article making reference to the e-commerce giant Amazon (as one of the “Notable examples of reinforcement learning applications”) grab our attention very recently, being also written by McKinsey’s representatives, and entitled “It’s time for businesses to chart a course for reinforcement learning”: “Retail: Amazon has used reinforcement learning to automate some warehouse fulfillment activities and power its fleet of autonomous drones that, once fully certified and deployed, will be able to bring packages to customers’ doors in hours” (Corbo, Fleming and Hohn, 2021). And from the point of view of the reinforcement learning applications in retail industry the following were underlined: “Optimize routing, logistics network planning, and warehouse operations to reduce costs and keep shelves stocked; Implement advanced inventory modeling and digitize supply-chain planning to prevent out-ofstocks and waste; Deliver advanced personalization capabilities that adapt promotions, offers, and recommendations daily for increased customer satisfaction and sales”. We recently referred to a discussion about “Leading the RAU Customer Experience” with the distinguished Founder and Rector of the Romanian-American University (RAU), Professor Ion Smedescu(1991-2008) and President of the Romanian-American Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture (FRAPEC), a valuable traditional meeting which took place at the beginning of the second semester of the academic year 2002-2003, Professor Smedescu being accompanied at that 2003 meeting by his young Marketing teaching assistant
who now is the RAU Rector, Professor Costel Negricea, being also well-known as a longstanding advocate of digital marketing (Purcarea b, 2021). The first 2021 issue of RAU Holistic Marketing Management Journal also made reference to the distinguished RAU Professor Ion Bulborea (a Great Friend of Professor Smedescu, an Honorary Member of our scientific association Romanian Distribution Committee) and his first academic conversation, in US, with the reputed Professor Ronald E. Carrier, widely known as one of the most dynamic and effective college leaders in US, who served as JMU’s president for 27 years.
Professor Ronald E. Carrier, President Emeritus of James Madison University, Professors Stephen Bowers and Kent Zimmerman, and also Virginia State Senator Ryan McDougle participated in April 2006 ceremonies on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of RAU founding. It is of our honor and pleasure to share with our Readers the message sent by Professor Ronald Carrier, Chancellor at James Madison University, on 2nd October 2003: “James Madison University is a friend of the Romanian-American University. On this day of October 2nd, 2003, we, the people from JMU are looking forward to the development of our relation. This university is an important force in the Romanian high education and the future leaders in business and government will be from among its students. The knowledge is essential in a free society. Congratulations to the management of the RAU and especially to Mr. Smedescu.”
This year participants at RAU events (conferences and workshops, cultural shows and virtual tours through RAU campus, online meetings with university friends etc.) organized on 19, 21 and 22nd of April 2021, on the occasion of the 30th RAU Anniversary, will enjoy a unique experience thanks to a digital platform. In advance of the opening Ceremony of the Anniversary Celebration – 30 years since RAU foundation, in the year 1991, with the aim of promoting the educational values of the American higher education on the background of the rich values of Romanian education – RAU Rector Costel Negricea (also an Honorary Member and a Member of the Board of our scientific association Romanian Distribution Committee) stated (among other aspects): “We started in the year 1991, with a dream project of our visionary Founding Rector, Professor Ion Smedescu, PhD – an idea, a dream which came true through the efforts and knowledge of many professionals, through the dedication and talent of many professors and nonacademic staff members, through the involvement of generations of students and alumni, through the trust of parents and grandparents and numerous other partners. The three decades until now challenged us enormously and demanded us to continuously adapt, harmoniously develop, to be stronger and more daring, in assuming the noble role of education, of promoting academic excellence and cultivating the values of knowledge and culture. We have grown together, and we are extremely grateful to you for that!” (“The message of the Rector”: https://www.rau.ro/30years/?lang=en). Happy Anniversary RAU! VIVAT, CRESCAT, FLOREAT! Theodor Valentin Purcărea Editor-in-Chief
References Cespedes, F. V., 2021. Defining a Post-Pandemic Channel Strategy, Harvard Business Review, Sales, April 05. [online] Available at: <https://hbr.org/2021/04/defining-a-post-pandemicchannel-strategy>. [Accessed on 16 April 2021] Corbo, J., Fleming, O. and Hohn, N., 2021. It’s time for businesses to chart a course for reinforcement learning. [pdf] McKinsey Analytics, pp. 3, 6, April. Available at: <Its-time-forbusinesses-to-chart-a-course-for-reinforcement-learning.pdf>. [Accessed on 6 April 2021]. McKinsey & Company, 2021. A COVID-19: Briefing note #50, April 14. [pdf] Risk Practice, p. 3. Available at: <COVID-19-briefing-note-50-April-14-2021.pdf>. [Accessed on 15 April 2021]. Purcarea, T., 2021. Economy of Care, Wellbeing, the Necessary Transformative Change, Human Resilience, the Virtue that Comes After Science, Compliance & Ethics, Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine, vol. 11(4), pp. 10-13, January. Purcarea, T., 2018. The Future of Retail Impacted by the Smart Phygital Era, Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine, vol. 9(3), pp. 34-46, September. Purcarea, T., 2021. Honoring building organizational resilience and driving value, impacting positively on society, showing respect, Holistic Marketing Management, vol. 11(1), pp. 04-08, April.
Information and Communications Technology is Merging Data Science and Advanced Artificial Intelligence Towards the Core of Knowledge Based Society -Part 1-
Prof. Eng. Ph.D. Victor GREU Abstract The paper analyses the context of evolution of the Data Science (DS) concept, considering the importance of the mutual relations between the evolution of the technology/economy and generally of the society and the ways this is reflected in the people’s minds, as knowledge, which is crucial as information and communication technology (ICT) became the main driving factor of the human society by the complex consequences of ICT services, products and applications when supporting the Information Society (IS) on the way towards the Knowledge Based Society (KBS). In fact, just the actual phase of the mutual relations between the evolution of the society and the knowledge across the individuals became such complex and potentially productive, so we consider it a strategic area for a timely evaluation and optimization, firstly for the obvious reason that the mechanisms behind these relations are building the foundation of the KBS. Although this phase is part of a process with a dynamic evolution in the last decades, the combination of the huge volume of data that are more and more generated on Earth (known as Data Deluge, Big Data etc.), with the naturally higher objectives of KBS, makes knowledge generation and its optimal use a real challenge for ICT specialists (and others too), which led to the DS concept and applications. The analysis started from the remarkable vision of Jim Gray on science evolution (the fourth paradigm: the eScience), just when the World and humankind are experiencing such complex and fast changes in the technology and science domains, facing unprecedented volume and diversity of available data which make difficult to estimate the future and the right strategy to approach it. We think, on the other hand, that, in a complicate circle, ICT has the benefic potential, by continuously improving performances, to solve the complex problems which are associated with extracting information from the Data Deluge at Earth scale and eventually with the generation of knowledge that could be used by ICT too. We also consider that the fundamental and most difficult problem when evaluating these processes remain the content and profile of knowledge, which are time sensitive in a World where ICT exponentially generates changes in every human activity field. This way we consider that solving such complex problems of evaluating knowledge generation and use has to be supported by the most performant ICT advances, where AI is by far the appropriate instrument for data/information high level processing. From these conclusions, the reasons for including DS and advanced AI in the ICT context for supporting the most critical core/part of KBS progress became clear, but this is just the tip of an iceberg we try to timely analyse step by step. The real challenges still begin just from here, because each of these 3 connected areas are very complex and their mutual relations are another complicate issue where knowledge is a common thread, as approaching them could be done only timely following all the impacted processes.
We also concluded that evaluating knowledge generation and use is a matter of criteria that is essentially depending on human personality and generally on Earth ecosystem priorities, this way entering a complex circle with economical, social, philosophical and political main points of view. Just observing this (iceberg) circle of complicate interactions, we could understand why in our days it is more and more difficult to extract knowledge and especially to refine knowledge from the huge amount of generated data, if we want to continuously adapt/refine this knowledge to the optimal use and eventual effects for KBS. Based on the fact that ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) recognized Jim Gray’s vision on ICT by 1998 ACM Turing Award and in 1999 he expressed the new vision of ICT evolution as Cyberspace is a New World, we considered that, while in the ICT exponential evolution any estimation is time sensitive, it is worth to analyse them by updating the implications of his vision due to the pillars he identified for this evolution. Our opinion is that the essential feature of the ICT amazing evolution, which is manifest lately in each of its steps, is about the necessity to continuously re-invent (redefine) itself and learn from nature’s millions of years research and the practical value of Jim Gray’s vision goes beyond its concrete pillars and features aimed to support the development of ICT, because it is a sustainable set of ways of thinking about such complex and difficult approach like the ICT amazing evolution. Here we include a systemic way to spread knowledge and the need for it, across all individuals of KBS, beyond the usual approach of considering the ICT specialists, just to contribute and improve at least the interest for the necessary core of knowledge our paper aimed for KBS. In addition, even if some of the goals could become sooner or later obsolete, we have to timely analyse the ICT evolution processes and imagine the best updated milestones, that will be surely better than having nothing ahead just for the reason that the challenges of prediction are overwhelming for such complex and complicate ecosystem at Earth scale. As we are in a spectacular development phase of this DS/AI/ICT/KBS context, its evolution naturally has to be further analysed, along with the appropriate features, consequences and learned lessons provided by ICT for all impact areas of the human activity and Earth ecosystem. Keywords: fourth paradigm of science, data deluge, big data, knowledge generation, data science, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, telepresence, automatic programmer, knowledge based society, eScience JEL Classification: L63; L86; M15; O31; O33
The only source of knowledge is experience Albert Einstein
1. Data science - The “fourth paradigm” of science Watching movies with the first automobiles we can see how humans were scared, but along the centuries it seems that peoples became more habituated with such unprecedented technical wonders that massively get into their lives. We could say that the way people perceive the surrounding picture is more and more influenced by technology, but even such largely shared opinion has to be suspected and analysed as a consequence of the evolution of the same technological context, which, among other things we actually see, is rapidly changing, not in centuries, not in decades, but day by day. From here, the sensation of a dizzy carousel is not far and the aim of understanding, where we are and the direction we are moving to, becomes elusive. Still, even neglecting such, sometimes subjective, impressions, the problem of knowing the importance of the mutual relations between the evolution of the technology/economy and generally of the society and the ways this is reflected in the people’s minds, as knowledge, became crucial as information and communication technology (ICT) became the main driving factor of the society. On this way, we have repeatedly approached  the complex consequences of ICT services, products and applications when supporting the Information Society (IS) on the way
towards the Knowledge Based Society (KBS), but actualizing the extent of the mentioned importance and its concrete influence on future KBS remains crucial for the sustainable development of Earth. In fact, just the actual phase of the mutual relations between the evolution of the society and the knowledge across the individuals became such complex and potentially productive, so we consider it a strategic area for a timely evaluation and optimization, firstly for the obvious reason that the mechanisms behind these relations are building the foundation of the KBS. Although this phase is part of a process with a dynamic evolution in the last decades, the combination of the huge volume of data that are more and more generated on Earth (known as Data Deluge, Big Data etc.), with the naturally higher objectives of KBS, makes knowledge generation and its optimal use a real challenge for ICT specialists (and others too), which led to the Data Science (DS) concept and applications : <<This book presents the first broad look at the rapidly emerging field of dataintensive science, with the goal of influencing the worldwide scientific and computing research communities and inspiring the next generation of scientists. Increasingly, scientific breakthroughs will be powered by advanced computing capabilities that help researchers manipulate and explore massive datasets. The speed at which any given scientific discipline advances will depend on how well its researchers collaborate with one another, and with technologists, in areas of eScience such as databases, workflow management, visualization, and cloud-computing technologies. This collection of essays expands on the vision of pioneering computer scientist Jim Gray for a new, fourth paradigm of discovery based on dataintensive science and offers insights into how it can be fully realized…. Turing award winner Jim Gray imagined data science as a "fourth paradigm" of science (empirical, theoretical, computational and now data-driven) and asserted that "everything about science is changing because of the impact of information technology" and the data deluge.>> Here we have to notice the remarkable vision of Jim Gray on science evolution (the fourth paradigm: the eScience), just when the World and humankind are experiencing such complex and fast changes in the technology and science domains, facing unprecedented volume and diversity of available data which make difficult to estimate the future and the right strategy to approach it, as it is also presented by : ”In 2007 Jim Gray preached about the effects of the Data Deluge in the sciences (Hey,Tansley, and Tolle 2009). Whereas experimental and theoretical paradigms originally led science, some natural phenomena were not easily addressed by analytical models. In this scenario, computational simulation arose as a new paradigm enabling scientists to deal with these complex phenomena. Simulation produced increasing amounts of data, particularly from the use of advanced exploration instruments (large-scale telescopes, particle colliders, etc.) In this scenario, scientists were no longer interacting directly with the phenomena, but used powerful computational configurations to analyse the data gathered from simulations or captured by instruments. Sky maps built from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey observations, or the evidences found about the Higgs Boson are just two successful stories of just another paradigm, what Gray called the fourth paradigm: the eScience.” On the other hand, in a complicate circle, ICT has the benefic potential, by continuously improving performances, to solve the complex problems which are
associated with extracting information from the Data Deluge at Earth scale and eventually with the generation of knowledge that could be used by ICT too. Still, the fundamental and most difficult problem when evaluating these processes remain the content and profile of knowledge, which are time sensitive in a World where ICT exponentially generates changes in every human activity field. This way we have just arrived to the point where it became clear that solving such complex problems of evaluating knowledge generation and use has to be supported by the most performant ICT advances, where artificial intelligence (AI) is by far the appropriate instrument for data/information high level processing. In the same time, it is important to notice that evaluating knowledge generation and use is a matter of criteria that is essentially depending on human personality and generally on Earth ecosystem priorities, this way entering a complex circle with economical, social, philosophical and political main points of view. Just observing this (iceberg) circle of complicate interactions, we could understand why in our days it is more and more difficult to extract knowledge and especially to refine knowledge from the huge amount of generated data, if we want to continuously adapt/refine this knowledge to the optimal use and eventual effects for KBS . As a matter of fact, we have already mentioned  that approaching the human brain performance, AI could face just this sensitive feature of generation or extracting information from large amounts of data and more than these, of competing human brain for finding rules/solutions/knowledge even from smaller sets of data. It is also worth to observe that knowledge always played a significant role for human progress, but actually it became overwhelming just due to the inherent capacity of knowledge to empower people to innovate, create and apply the powerful instruments of ICT in order to enable exponential changes in the whole Earth ecosystem, most (but not all) with benefic consequences for World sustainable progress. Now it is clear that the premises of the paper title/aim include DS and advanced AI in the ICT context of supporting the most critical core/part of KBS progress, but this is just the tip of an iceberg we try to analyse step by step. The real challenges still begin just from here, because each of these 3 connected areas are very complex and their mutual relations are another complicate issue where knowledge is a common thread, as approaching them could be done only timely following all the impacted processes. As a result of advances in computing technology and data explosion, the complexity and the links between these 3 domains are also confirmed, in a comprehensive form, and then analysed focusing on DS, by : “To solve big data problems in the era of big data and the data-driven paradigm, data science should incorporate the following factors: big data infrastructure, a big data analytics lifecycle, data management skills, and behavioural disciplines. Big data infrastructures include big data technologies such as Hadoop ecosystems, NoSQL databases, in-memory computing, as well as big data enabling technologies such as cloud computing.” As it is indirectly above suggested, we also consider that DS is strongly linked with the education domain and this is then confirmed:
“We proposed various approaches for data science education based on an extensive survey of current data science education programmes as well as domain knowledge in the field. To summarize, data science education should try to (1) teach CDO disciplines; (2) teach with the eight-step data analytics lifecycle in mind; (3) teach big data technologies and modelbuilding techniques; (4) incorporate research methods in data analysis; (5) teach big data analytics as well as small data analytics; (6) provide students with real-world project experience; (7) collaborate with many departments; (8) collaborate with industry/ government for data, projects, resources, and practicums; and (9) actively use MOOCs= massive open online courses (MOOCs)” Unfortunately, but expected, the instruction in DS could not be covered simply by teaching the future chief data officers (CDO) by diverse courses: “We do not think that any single data science programme can adopt all of these approaches, and no data scientists could master all of these skills and knowledge that we have recommended. Each programme should focus on what they do best, and each data scientist should focus on what they do best. However, a certain level of broad coverage of topics is strongly recommended. We note the emergence of big data analytics with the usage of automated tools such as IBM Watson Analytics. Using automated tools or dashboards that use a black-box approach would be an important solution in training data scientists. However, the users of those tools should still be familiar with the methods implemented in the systems to choose a right method that fits the given data set and to interpret the outcomes properly. Those users should have critical thinking and reasoning ability to explore the solution space provided in the tool and to determine whether the tool can indeed provide a satisfactory outcome” More than these, we consider that, becoming a DS expert is a long process that should be timely updated, because having “critical thinking and reasoning ability to explore the solution space” is beyond of understanding the new tools, but in the same time understanding how Big Data appeared and what will mean in every area of applications, as it is also further indirectly mentioned: “How and why did the era of big data come about? Two of the major contributing factors to the emergence of the big data era include rapid advances in computing technologies and the resulting explosion of data; the former including hardware technologies such as CPU speeds and network bandwidths, as well as software technologies such as advent of distributed parallel processing frameworks (e.g. MapReduce and Hadoop); the latter including the increasing popularity of web-based software (e.g. search engines, social media networks, and e-commerce systems) as well as widespread usages of various sensors. These factors have collectively brought sudden explosion of data and contributed to the emergence of the big data era…How do people define big data? Gartner popularly defined it as 3Vs: ‘high-volume, highvelocity, and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision-making’ (Gartner, 2012b). Based on this definition, 4Vs were coined by adding the veracity dimension to the 3Vs, and 5Vs are also frequently mentioned by further adding the value dimension to the 4Vs.” Beyond Gartner recognized expertise in assessing the ICT evolutions, it is worth to notice the concrete/practical interpretations “on experiences” of the above V as: “… (1) Volume means the size of data that scales to terabytes, petabytes, or even more. We view volume as a technology solution as we can easily buy those technologies. (2) Velocity
means the speed of creating/processing/analysing/storing data. We view velocity as a semitechnology solution, as we can buy some solutions, but we still need to develop creative software to handle them. (3) Variety means different data types, sources, and modes to handle. We view variety as a software solution, as there are still many remaining challenging software issues that need to be addressed. (4) Veracity means quality, reliability, and uncertainty in data. We view veracity as a challenging research dimension, as it is an area that still needs to be more thoroughly researched, especially on the impacts of veracity to data integration and analytics. (5) Value means the discovery of actionable knowledge, high return on investment, increased relevancy to customers or products, or innovations in business operations/processes. We consider value as the most important V in the big data era. Without extracting value from big data, big data projects would not be meaningful. While we view variety and veracity as challenging dimensions, value is by far the most challenging dimension. If we are able to address these challenges and extract value from big data, then big data projects will give us opportunities for innovative solutions and chances to make an impact on technology, society, and business. We are beginning to see profound impacts of big data in every aspect of our lives and society” This way (profound impacts of big data in every aspect of our lives and society), our paper point is clearly confirmed and the reasons, for further and deep analyses of the processes that link DS with advanced AI toward generating knowledge to support the core of KBS, are revealed as influencing all the levels and directions of developing the World (an impact on technology, society, and business). 2. Cyberspace as a New World The evolution of terms which are associated with ICT/KBS context and the necessary strategies for a sustainable development are also issues that are worth to be analysed. For the same context, ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) recognized Jim Gray’s vision on ICT by 1998 ACM Turing Award and we also consider important to recall that in 1999 he expressed the new vision of ICT evolution as Cyberspace is a New World . Because in the ICT exponential evolution any estimation and even term is time sensitive, it is worth to notice that the updated analysis and vision of Jim Gray on ICT context still remain remarkable and with actual importance, due to the pillars he identified for this evolution : “…long-range research has societal benefits, both in creating new ideas and in training people who can make even better ideas and who can turn those ideas into products. The education component is why much of the research should be done in a university setting. This argues for government support of long-term university research…” It is important to observe the same confirmation of the fundamental “circle” (where knowledge is generated and used) we have above pointed, as “training people who can make even better ideas and who can turn those ideas into products”. In addition, Jim Gray also confirms the strategic role of education for the KBS and consequently argued for government support of long-term university research. As we have repeatedly mentioned  and pointed above, when experiencing such complex and fast changes in the technology and science domains it is difficult to estimate the
future and the right strategy to approach ICT/KBS, Earth ecosystem and humankind evolution, i.e., what Jim Gray did, just because Exponential Growth Means Constant Radical Change : “Exponential growth has been driving the information industry for the last 100 years. Moore’s law predicts a doubling every 18 months. This means that in the next 18 months there will be as much new storage as all storage ever built, as much new processing as all the processors ever built… In 1995, George Glider predicted that deployed bandwidth would triple every year, meaning that it doubles every 8 months. So far his prediction has been pessimistic: deployed bandwidth seems to be growing faster than that!” More than these, as we also mentioned , ICT is in a continuous struggle to maintain this growing, although it is harder and harder to succeed that, even by inventing new radical advances: “Exponential growth cannot go on forever. E. coli (bacteria in your stomach) double every 20 minutes. Eventually something happens to limit growth. But, for the last 100 years, the information industry has managed to sustain this doubling by inventing its way around each successive barrier. Indeed, progress seems to be accelerating … Some argue that this acceleration will continue, while others argue that it may stop soon – certainly if we stop innovating it will stop tomorrow. These rapid technology doublings mean that information technology must constantly redefine itself: many things that were impossibly hard ten years ago, are now relatively easy. Tradeoffs are different now, and they will be very different in ten years.” Our opinion is that here the essential feature of the ICT amazing evolution is excellently pointed as: “information technology must constantly redefine itself: many things that were impossibly hard ten years ago, are now relatively easy”. Generally, we also mentioned that the ICT exponential evolution could only based on the necessity to continuously re-invent itself and learn from nature’s millions years research. Consequently, Jim Gray expressed the ICT evolution and premises (Cyberspace is a New World) as the place of a new revolution: “One way to think of the Information Technology revolution is to think of cyberspace as a new continent -- equivalent to discovery of the Americas 500 years ago. Cyberspace is transforming the old world with new goods and services. It is changing the way we learn, work, and play” It is worth to notice that, apparently in contradiction with the mentioned “rapid technology doublings”, some old references in the same area of predicting ICT evolution are important and worth to be considered: <<… recall Alan Turing’s famous “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” paper published in 1950Error! Reference source not found.. Turing argued that in 50 years, computers would be intelligent. This was a very radical idea at that time. Turing’s actual text on this matter is worth re-reading. What he said was: “I believe that in about fifty years' time it will be possible, to programme computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning. The original question, "Can machines think?" I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless, I believe
that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”>> This incredible evolution and prediction are explained by identifying another of the mentioned pillars of ICT/KBS, we called circle evolution, as “long-term research is a social good” : “One reason for this is that long-term research is a social good, not necessarily a benefit to the company. AT&T invented the transistor, UNIX, and the C and C++ languages. Xerox invented Ethernet, bitmap printing, iconic interfaces, and WYSIWYG editing. Other companies like Intel, Sun, 3Com, HP, Apple, and Microsoft got the main commercial benefits from this research. Society got much better products and services -- that is why the research is a public good.” By Jim Gray’s vision, the sustainable evolution of ICT should include some other reliable pillars which were expressed as: “8. TelePresence: Simulate being some other place retrospectively as an observer (TeleOberserver): hear and see as well as actually being there, and as well as a participant, and simulate being some other place as a participant (TelePresent): interacting with others and with the environment as though you are actually there. …9. Trouble-Free Systems: Build a system used by millions of people each day and yet administered and managed by a single part-time person …10. Secure System: Assure that the system of problem 9 only services authorized users, service cannot be denied by unauthorized users, and information cannot be stolen (and prove it.) … 11. AlwaysUp: Assure that the system is unavailable for less than one second per hundred years -- 8 9's of availability (and prove it.)” Perhaps telepresence could be considered not very relevant on long term, but lets just make an exercise of imagination, beyond the obvious benefits of efficiently sharing experience and real time collaboration in the research and technology areas: Which was our opinion on telepresence before Covid 19 pandemic and which is now? Another opinion test should come if imagining the possible consequences of climate (agressive) changes, Earth resources fading or economical/social crises/unbalances at planetary scale. Although the features 9, 10 and 11 could be seen similarly, as mainly concerning the safety areas, we consider that finally the net reliability (unavailable for less than one second per hundred years -- 8 9's of availability) is a crucial feature, considering the strategic impact of ICT on all activity fields, but mainly on the critical infrastructures. Here, the number of 9’s is very significant by its evolution, as it is also further detailed: “We have gone from 90% availability in the 1950s to 99.99% availability today for well managed systems. Web uses experience about 99% availability due to the fragile nature of the web, its protocols, and the current emphasis on time-to-market. Nonetheless, we have added three 9s in 45 years, or about 15 years per order-of-magnitude improvement in availability. We should aim for five more 9s: an expectation of one second outage in a century. This is an extreme goal, but it seems achievable if hardware is very cheap and bandwidth is very high. One can replicate the services in many places, use transactions
to manage the data consistency, use design diversity to avoid common mode failures, and quickly repair nodes when they fail. Again, this is not something you will be able to test: so achieving this goal will require careful analysis and proof.” We appreciate that, among other pillars, a special relevance has and always will have the Automatic Programmer, i.e. one of the most advanced skills/features of AI that could compete with the human brain in the future: “…12. Automatic Programmer: Devise a specification language or user interface that: (a) makes it easy for people to express designs (1,000x easier), (b) computers can compile, and (c) can describe all applications (is complete).” The system should reason about application, asking questions about exception cases and incomplete specification. But it should not be onerous to use.” Although in such fast changing domain like ICT it is difficult to keep the coarse for a long time even with a good strategic plan, in this case the Jim Gray’s remarkable vision included some featureas (What Makes a Good Long Range Research Goal?) that could just attenuate the chances that vision content will become obsolete: “Understandable: The goal should be simple to state. A sentence, or at most a paragraph should suffice to explain the goal to intelligent people. Having a clear statement helps recruit colleagues and support. It is also great to be able to tell your friends and family what you actually do. Challenging: It should not be obvious how to achieve the goal. Indeed, often the goal has been around for a long time. Most of the goals I am going to describe have been explicit or implicit goals for many years. Often, there is a camp who believe the goal is impossible. Useful: If the goal is achieved, the resulting system should be clearly useful to many people -- I do not mean just computer scientists, I mean people at large. Testable: Solutions to the goal should have a simple test so that one can measure progress and one can tell when the goal is achieved. Incremental: It is very desirable that the goal has intermediate milestones so that progress can be measured along the way. These small steps are what keep the researchers going.” We consider that the importance of this strategic vision goes beyond its concrete pillars and features aimed to support the development of ICT, because it is a sustainable set of ways of thinking about such complex and difficult approach like the ICT amazing evolution. Among these strategic ideas we would remark that “to be able to tell your friends and family what you actually do” is not a simply advice about DS/ICT image, but a systemic way to spread knowledge and the need for it, across all individuals of KBS (I mean people at large), just to contribute and improve at least the interest for the necessary core of knowledge. In spite of the complexity and difficulty of the approached research fields, the features of simplicity, that are very clearly suggested, at goal, testing or progress steps, are very important for the realistic approach and sustainable development of DS/ICT/KBS context (Cyberspace New World). In addition, our opinion is that, even if some of the goals could become sooner or later obsolete, we have to timely analyse the ICT evolution processes and imagine the best updated milestones, that will be surely better than having nothing ahead just for the reason that the
challenges of prediction are overwhelming for such complex and complicate ecosystem at Earth scale. In fact, we could observe that we are in a spectacular development phase of this ICT/KBS context, at Earth scale, that, continuing Jim Gray’s vision, is largely recognized and characterized, in the last decade, by terms like Cyberinfrastructure , which naturally have to be further analysed, along with the appropriate features, consequences and learned lessons provided by ICT for all impact areas of the human activity and Earth ecosystem. 3. Conclusions We consider that the importance of the mutual relations between the evolution of the technology/economy and generally of the society and the ways this is reflected in the people’s minds, as knowledge, became crucial as information and communication technology (ICT) became the main driving factor of the human society and also we repeatedly mentioned  the complex consequences of ICT services, products and applications when supporting the Information Society (IS) on the way towards the Knowledge Based Society (KBS), but actualizing the extent of the mentioned importance and its concrete influence on future KBS remain relevant for the sustainable development of Earth. In fact, just the actual phase of the mutual relations between the evolution of the society and the knowledge across the individuals became such complex and potentially productive, so we consider it a strategic area for a timely evaluation and optimization, firstly for the obvious reason that the mechanisms behind these relations are building the foundation of the KBS. Although this phase is part of a process with a dynamic evolution in the last decades, the combination of the huge volume of data that are more and more generated on Earth (known as Data Deluge, Big Data etc.), with the naturally higher objectives of KBS, makes knowledge generation and its optimal use a real challenge for ICT specialists (and others too), which led to the Data Science (DS) concept and applications. Our analysis started from the remarkable vision of Jim Gray on science evolution (the fourth paradigm: the eScience), just when the World and humankind are experiencing such complex and fast changes in the technology and science domains, facing unprecedented volume and diversity of available data which make difficult to estimate the future and the right strategy to approach it. We concluded, on the other hand, that, in a complicate circle, ICT has the benefic potential, by continuously improving performances, to solve the complex problems which are associated with extracting information from the Data Deluge at Earth scale and eventually with the generation of knowledge that could be used by ICT too. We also consider that the fundamental and most difficult problem when evaluating these processes remain the content and profile of knowledge, which are time sensitive in a World where ICT exponentially generates changes in every human activity field. This way we have just pointed that solving such complex problems of evaluating knowledge generation and use has to be supported by the most performant ICT advances, where AI is by far the appropriate instrument for data/information high level processing From these conclusions, the reasons for including DS and advanced AI in the ICT context for supporting the most critical core/part of KBS progress became clear, but this is just
the tip of an iceberg we try to timely analyse step by step. The real challenges still begin just from here, because each of these 3 connected areas are very complex and their mutual relations are another complicate issue where knowledge is a common thread, as approaching them could be done only timely following all the impacted processes. We also concluded that evaluating knowledge generation and use is a matter of criteria that is essentially depending on human personality and generally on Earth ecosystem priorities, this way entering a complex circle with economical, social, philosophical and political main points of view. Just observing this (iceberg) circle of complicate interactions, we could understand why in our days it is more and more difficult to extract knowledge and especially to refine knowledge from the huge amount of generated data, if we want to continuously adapt/refine this knowledge to the optimal use and eventual effects for KBS. As ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) recognized Jim Gray’s vision on ICT by 1998 ACM Turing Award and in 1999 he expressed the new vision of ICT evolution as Cyberspace is a New World, we considered that, while in the ICT exponential evolution any estimation and even term is time sensitive, it is worth to analyse them by updating the implications of his vision due to the pillars he identified for this evolution. Our opinion is that the essential feature of the ICT amazing evolution, which is manifest lately in each of its steps, is about the necessity to continuously re-invent (redefine) itself and learn from nature’s millions of years research. The practical value of Jim Gray’s vision goes beyond its concrete pillars and features aimed to support the development of ICT, because it is a sustainable set of ways of thinking about such complex and difficult approach like the ICT amazing evolution. Here we include a systemic way to spread knowledge and the need for it, across all individuals of KBS, beyond the usual approach of considering the ICT specialists, just to contribute and improve at least the interest for the necessary core of knowledge our paper aimed for KBS. In addition, even if some of the goals could become sooner or later obsolete, we have to timely analyse the ICT evolution processes and imagine the best updated milestones, that will be surely better than having nothing ahead just for the reason that the challenges of prediction are overwhelming for such complex and complicate ecosystem at Earth scale. Because we are in a spectacular development phase of this DS/AI/ICT/KBS context, its evolution naturally has to be further analysed, along with the appropriate features, consequences and learned lessons provided by ICT for all impact areas of the human activity and Earth ecosystem. REFERENCES Jim Gray, What Next?A Dozen Information-Technology Research Goals, Microsoft Research, June 1999, Technical Report MS-TR-99-50 Javier D. Fernandez, Mario Arias, Miguel A. Martınez-Prieto, Claudio Gutierrez, Management of Big Semantic Data, November 2013, https:// www.researchgate.net/ publication /259173878 Florin Enache, Victor Greu, Petrică Ciotîrnae, Florin Popescu, Model and Algorithms for Optimizing a Human Computing System Oriented to Knowledge Extraction by Use of Crowdsourcing, 2020, 13th International Conference on Communications (COMM), (Politehnica University of Bucharest, Military Technical Academy, IEEE Romania), (COMM 2020 is covered in IEEE Explore Database and ISI Web of Science in the Conference Proceedings Citation Index)
Tony Hey, The Fourth Paradigm: Data-intensive Scientific Discovery, Microsoft Research, 2009 - Science Il-Yeol Song and Yongjun Zhu, Big data and data science: What should we teach?, Expert Systems, August 2016, Vol. 33, No. 4, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282692841 Victor Greu, Searching the right tracks of new technologies in the earth race for a balance between progress and survival, Romanian Distribution Committee (affiliated to the “International Association of the Distributive Trade”-scientific association – A.I.D.A. Brussels) Magazine (international; electronic; covered in RePEc International Data Base), Volume 3, Issue1, Year 2012. Craig A. Stewart et all, What is Cyberinfrastructure?, SIGUCCS’10, October 24–27, 2010, Norfolk, Virginia, USA., https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49471518 Daniel E. Atkins et al, Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure: Report of the National Science Foundation Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure, 2003, https://www.nsf.gov/cise/sci/reports/atkins.pdf Victor Greu, The information and communications technology is driving artificial intelligence to leverage refined knowledge for the World sustainable development – (Part 2), Romanian Distribution Committee (affiliated to the “International Association of the Distributive Trade”-scientific association – A.I.D.A. Brussels) Magazine(international; electronic; covered in RePEc International Data Base), Volume 10, Issue 1, Year 2019. Robert W. Lucky, "The expiration date of knowledge [Opinion]", IEEE Spectrum, vol. 56, no. 09, pp. 21-21, Sept. 2019 Victor Greu, Using the information and communications technology data deluge from a semantic perspective of a dynamic challenge: What to learn and what to ignore? – (Part 2), Romanian Distribution Committee (affiliated to the “International Association of the Distributive Trade”-scientific association – A.I.D.A. Brussels) Magazine(international; electronic; covered in RePEc International Data Base) , Volume 10, Issue 4, Year 2019. Gerbrand Tholen, The problem with a knowledge-based society, November 26th 2017, https://blog.oup.com/authors/gerbrand-tholen/ Victor Greu, Extending information and communications technologies’ impact on knowledge based society through artificial and collective intelligence –(Part 3), Romanian Distribution Committee (affiliated to the “International Association of the Distributive Trade”scientific association – A.I.D.A. Brussels) Magazine(international; electronic; covered in RePEc International Data Base), Volume 9, Issue 3, Year 2018. E. S. Vorm, Computer-Centered Humans: Why Human-AI Interaction Research Will Be Critical to Successful AI Integration in the DoD, IEEE Intelligent Systems ( Volume: 35, Issue: 4, July-Aug. 1 2020),https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9179109/authors#authors Victor Greu et all, Human and artificial intelligence driven incentive-operation model and algorithms for a multi-purpose integrated crowdsensing-crowdsourcing scalable system, Proceedings of International Conference Communications 2018, (Politehnica University of Bucharest, Military Technical Academy, IEEE Romania), June 2018(COMM 2018 is covered in IEEE Explore Database and ISI Web of Science in the Conference Proceedings Citation Index). Fran Berman, Current Working Definitions Of Cyberinfrastructure, 2005, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/49471518_What_is_Cyberinfrastructure/link/0912f51085bd ceaf0a000000/download Tony Hey, Anne Trefethen, The Data Deluge: An e-Science Perspective, http://www.computing.surrey.ac.uk/courses/csm23/Papers/DataDeluge.pdf], Wiley, 2003. Victor GREU, Information and Communications Technologies are Learning from Nature’s “Research” to Push the Performance Limits, Romanian Distribution Committee (affiliated to the “International Association of the Distributive Trade”-scientific association – A.I.D.A. Brussels) Magazine(international; electronic; covered in RePEc International Data Base), Volume 5, Issue 1, Year 2014 Gordon Bell, Tony Hey, Alex Szalay, Beyond the Data Deluge, Science Vol 323 6 March 2009
THE NEW CUSTOMER PATH IN THE CONNECTIVITY AND DIGITALIZATION AGE
by Cosmin TĂNASE Abstract With the rise of digital channels, customers can constantly switch between online and offline channels (channel hopping) and are not easy to trace. Since customers’ expectations are also changing, firms look to multi- or Omnichannel approaches to make a consistent customer experience across all touchpoints possible. For customers, digital advancement has two consequences. Firms have the possibility to overwhelm customers with endless outbound marketing communication by sending emails, tailored online ads, etc. On the other hand, customers utilize more ways to search for information and are active via inbound marketing. They block intrusive communication measures and comb through a vast number of resources to find transparent information. Keywords: Innovation, Developments, Brand Advocacy, Social Context, Digitalized World JEL Classification: L81, M31, 031, O33, O35
A commoditization transforms value proposition models in many sectors. At the same time, the overexposure to stimuli overstrains customers and makes them look for other sources they can trust which they find in friends, colleagues, and family. With these new developments comes a new customer path, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure no.1 The new customer path in the connectivity era Source: Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., & Setiawan, I. (2017). Marketing 4.0: Moving from traditional to digital. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
In the pre-connectivity era, the understanding of people’s buying process was characterized by the 4 As: Customers become aware of a brand; then develop an attitude towards it, either positive or negative; decide how to act with purchase decision; and, finally, consider if they should buy again, act again. The 4A model is a typical funnel-shaped process, since with every step, the number of customers decrease. With connectivity, fundamental shifts in customer behavior took place, which created the need for a new customer path, the 5 As, to adequately map the buying process. Let’s have a look at these particular shifts: Shift 1: Liking or disliking a brand (the attitude) used to be defined individually, while today, the social context of the individual becomes a deciding factor. In the connectivity era, the initial appeal of a brand is influenced by the community surrounding the customer to determine the final attitude. Many seemingly personal decisions are actually social decisions. Shift 2 represents the changed meaning of loyalty and the target setting companies derive from it. While loyalty before was seen in the repurchase of a brand, in the connectivity era, loyalty is ultimately defined as the willing- ness to advocate a brand. Shift 3 is found in the growing connectedness among customers ask-and- advocate relationships, which rely on other customers to find out more about specific brands. The feedback they get positively or negatively affects the appeal of the brand. These three shifts lead us to the new customer path consisting of the 5 As. The path starts with the aware phase, in which customers know a brand as a result of past experience, marketing communications, and/or the advocacy of others. In the appeal phase, the customer then processes these impressions and develops attraction towards certain brands. He then tries to find out more in the ask phase about the brands he is attracted to by, for example, getting into contact with other customers or studying online reviews. 28
Figure no.2 The 5A customer path in detail Source: Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., & Setiawan, I. (2017). Marketing 4.0: Moving from traditional to digital. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
If convinced, the customer may take the next step with act. This does not only include the pur- chase of the product but also other interaction such as filing a complaint in case of a negative experience or postpurchase services. The advocate level is the last phase and is considered the highest goal in modern marketing by the creators of the 5A approach (a more detailed overview of the 5A customer path, as shown in Figure 2). The high valuation of brand advocacy stems from customers increasingly turning to their social environment for information, rather than to the firms. The increasing digitalization is reinforcing this effect. In a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) brands serve more and more as trust anchors. The increasing digitalization leads to less and less direct contacts between employees of the branding companies and the customers. A humanized brand takes over this role of direct contact in a digitalized world. The effects of typical outbound marketing measures are declining, which is partly due to a typical paradox in today’s marketing. While customers today are more informed than ever, distraction, thanks to connectivity, is also at a record high. As the attention span and the time customers have for decisions decrease, while decisions to be made are manifold, they turn to the ones they trust for advice, which comes with substantial loss of control on the company side. This process is described as the “democratization of branding,” essentially paraphrasing businessman Scott Cook: “Technology-driven empowerment of consumers, such as the production of brand meaning by (micro) blogging, interaction in social networks or producing and disseminating brand advocacy, leads to new power relationships in both the commercial and non-commercial realms of branding”. Already in 2010, it had recognized the mode of action and the importance of brand advocacy inside social networks. The influence that firms can have on brand communities and interpersonal communication is limited, which is why the loyal advocates of a brand come into play. When questions about a brand arise, there should be brand advocates stepping in to have a positive influence on the brand image and purchase decisions. Brand advocacy, another term for word of mouth, can be active, but only in rare cases, customers 29
actively promote a brand. Otherwise, it can be prompted, by triggering. The two main triggers for prompted advocacy are negative brand advocacy or questions by others. In the light of this, negative advocacy from so-called brand haters is not to be considered a necessarily bad thing, as it can help activate advocates that might have remained inactive. Going all the way towards brand advocacy, each step of the customer path is situated in different spheres of influence (indicated in Figure 3), a concept introduced as the O-Zone. Getting closer to the personal center of the customer towards his own influence sphere, the influence of the brand diminishes. In the outer sphere, the firms are still in charge, managing the communication and touchpoints with the customer. Entering the others’ zone, communities and social contacts of the customers (the f-factor) are the deciding factors in influencing customers. Conversations inside communities, reviews, and rating systems, as well as advice from family and friends, are driving the purchase decision, resulting in a loss of influence on the side of the firm. The own influence is characterized as “a result of past experience and interaction with several brands, personal judgment and evaluation of the brands, and ultimately individual preference towards the chosen brand(s) and is thus beyond any direct control of the firm. The three spheres are interconnected and interact with each other. For example, a brand does an
Figure no.3 The O-zone Source: Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., & Setiawan, I. (2017). Marketing 4.0: Moving from traditional to digital. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
excellent job on its outer influence sphere by providing a convincing experience, which results in positive word of mouth to others that consequently affects the personal brand assessment and preferences of the customer herself. Firms have a certain influence on the aware and ask phases, which lie at the intersection of the others’ and outer sphere, as well as exclusive influence on the brand appeal, while act and advocate are outside of the direct reach of the brand’s influence. Brands, therefore, must focus on the outer and partially the others’ sphere to affect the customers positively. Along the way from aware- ness to advocacy, there are catalysts that marketers can leverage to break up bottlenecks between the steps: • First Catalyst: Increasing Attraction. Various approaches are viable to improve a brand’s appeal. Brands with a human touch can make a brand more appealing to customers, since they are not perceived as robots without feelings but “a person with mind, heart and human spirit.” Brand activism, meaning, taking
a clear stand on current social, political, environmental, or economic issues, can also strongly affect the brand appeal. • Second Catalyst: Optimizing Curiosity. Curiosity is the result of a discrepancy between the current and the desired state of knowledge. The true potential of creating curiosity lies in offering interesting information without being too revealing and thus demystifying the brand. • Third Catalyst: Increasing Commitment. At this point, the customers may be convinced of a brand, but there is still a way to go until the actual purchase takes place. For this to happen, firms need to provide a seamless experience along all touchpoints. As customers are constantly switching between online and offline channels, an integrating approach towards channel management is necessary, which can be found in Omnichannel Marketing. • Fourth Catalyst: Increasing Affinity. To successfully transition from the sole purchasing act to turning customers into loyal advocates, firms need to engage with their customers beyond the typical touchpoints. This can mean building a rewards and loyalty program and interaction on social media or using gamification to get into closer con- tact. Without question, the post-purchase phase is where, for customers, the moment of truth arrives: Does the product or service I purchased stand up to the pre-purchase promises given by the brand? The answer to the question has a strong effect on whether the customer develops an affinity towards a brand. Conclusion There is an enormous increase in the importance of the customers’ social context in purchasing decisions, whereby brands have to give up a part of their power. This makes it all the more important for companies to leverage phenomena and tools like word of mouth, brand advocacy, and brand communities in order to benefit from these developments. The loss of control is a wake-up call for marketers, showing that it is no longer they who sit in the driver’s seat. Or in the form of a subtler hint, brand management should rather be a guiding activity, not a controlling one. Companies need to adjust to the new networked world where the control over the perception of the brand only partially lies in their hands while the word of mouth from friends and family or online community rating systems (the f-factor) is becoming increasingly important for purchasing decisions and brand perception. References  Adlin, T., & Pruitt, J. (2009). Putting personas to work: Using data-driven personas to focus product planning, design, and development. In A. Sears & J. A. Jacko (Eds.), Human-computer interaction: Development process (1st ed., pp. 95–120). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.  Court, D., Elzinga, D., Mulder, S., & Vetvik, O. J. (2009). The consumer decision journey. McKinsey Quarterly, 3, 1–11. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey. com/business- functions/marketing- and- sales/our- insights/ the- consumerdecision- journey  Kotler, P., & Armstrong, G. (2010). Principles of marketing (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.  Kotler, P., Kartajaya, H., & Setiawan, I. (2017). Marketing 4.0: Moving from traditional to digital. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley  Kemming, J. D., & Humborg, C. (2010). Democracy and nation brand(ing): Friends or foes?, p. 193. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6(3), pp. 183-197. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/47378882_Democracy_and_nation_branding_Friends_or_foes  Oliva, R., Srivastava, R., Pfoertsch, W., & Chandler, J. (2009). Insights on ingredient branding, ISBM Report 08–2009. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.  Sisodia, R. S., Sheth, J. N., & Wolfe, D. (2014). Firms of endearment: How world- class companies profit from passion and purpose (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.  Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2016). Institutions and axioms: An extension and update of service-dominant logic. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 44(1), 5–23. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747- 015- 0456- 3. 31
E-Commerce Retailers’ Competition, Digital Technology and the Fast-Approaching Future of a New Standard Consisting of Cryptocurrency’s Commercial Use
Drd. Ioan Matei PURCĂREA
Abstract We are witnessing e-commerce accelerated growth and adoption within the context of the current pandemic. Within the current consumer trends, which are shaping the future of the complex online shopper journey, retailers need to challenge their imagination while investing in the future of retail. There is no doubt about digital consumers’ increased expectations, about the synergy between e-commerce and e-marketplaces, mobile/app commerce, and social media marketing in the age of Amazon. Step by step, cryptocurrency appears as an alternative payment option introduced by advancing retailers, making revealing retailers’ need of being ready for the fastapproaching future of a new standard consisting of cryptocurrency’s commercial use. Ecommerce represents one of the five platform archetypes to win in an ecosystem, getting the maximum advantage from new digital technology. It’s time to pay attention to CPG companies’ turning movement to DTC, to verified customer feedback, and to retail’s digital tipping point. Keywords: E-Commerce Retailers’ Competition; Digital Technology; E-Marketplaces, Mobile/App Commerce; Omni channel; Cryptocurrency’s Commercial Use JEL Classification: D21; D83; L21; M21; M31; O31; O33
E-Commerce accelerated growth and adoption within the context of the current pandemic. Consumer trends which are shaping the future of the complex online shopper journey, and retailers’ need for challenging their imagination while investing in the future of retail A year ago, McKinsey’s Retail Practice highlighted the accelerated adoption of ecommerce as a potentially longer-lasting behavioral change, also remembering consumers’ increasingly browsing and buying online even before the new coronavirus crisis (Adhi, et al. 2020). They invited retailers to pay attention to “Reimagining stores for retail’s next normal”, within the context in which they identified significant aspects, such as: consumers’ changed shopping and buying behavior during the pandemic, having deep implications on retailers’ profit and loss; in order to simultaneously improve both their revenues or gross sales, and their net income retailers need to consider strategic imperatives like to accelerate radically in-store omnichannel integration, to reflect the new reality by reimagining store operations, and to optimize the store network on the basis of omnichannel performance. In our latest RDC Magazine issue we showed how considering the evolving digital behaviour we are witnessing the transformation of the Omni channel business within the acceleration of e-commerce and the increasing pressure of removing friction from CX with the help of the innovative technology (Purcarea a, 2021). At the end of March this year Statista brought to our attention that one of the most popular online activities worldwide is online shopping, and with regard to 2022 there is a significant projection for e-retail revenues to grow to 5.4 trillion US dollars (Sabanoglu, 2021). While the well-known digital strategist Dr. Dave Chaffey (co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights) even invited online retailers and all those interested in growing their e-commerce business to take advantage of the huge growth potential in e-commerce (showing, among other aspects, how a 2020 report from the Centre for Retail Research confirmed that the main driver of growth in European and North American retailing is the retail online retail sector) by using practical marketing strategy and planning solutions (Chaffey, 2021). More recently, we underlined that within the framework of better understanding and implementing new concepts (such as Marketing 5.0, Society 5.0, and Engagement Capacity Gap), marketers are struggling to adopt a holistic view of CX and to do entirely different things in accordance with the changing customer needs (Purcarea b, 2021). On the occasion of a March 2021 interview (conducted by Cindy Van Horne, global communications director of McKinsey’s Marketing & Sales Practice), the Salesforce.com’s global innovation evangelist Brian Solis (well-known for studying how technology is changing markets and behaviors, pledging for marrying technology with CX in special ways, including by using a new type of discipline and expertise like experience architecture) launched the prediction that the most successful retailers (thinking about both profitability, and growth, and investing in the future of retail) will employ in the future people with expertise in video-game design and spatial computing, changing, for instance, the dynamic of how shoppers (taking full advantage of
the new technologies) are operating within retailer’s space by offering them micro fulfillment (Van Horne, 2021). Solis expressed the belief that it’s a matter of mindset, and launched the invitation to recognize retailers’ need for change, starting thinking about the talent question, and demonstrating imagination as part of retailers’ brand. Very new research from the reputed Information Resources Inc. – IRI is recognized for its valuable industry-standard metrics for consumer product demand and supply during the pandemic, its CPG inflation tracker and the latest data on significant aspects, such as category trends, out-of-stock levels, consumer sentiment etc. – revealed that: as the omnichannel shoppers tend to spend more share of their wallets with a single retailer, it is critical to win them, what involves including to consider retailers’ necessary additional investments in digital marketing in accordance with the many digital touch points within the complex online shopper journey, one hand, and the increasing shoppers’ comfort buying consumer packaged goods (CPG) online (they being more loyal to both brands, and retailers within this online framework, and also less price sensitive, while preferring pickup and delivery for food and beverage purchases, for instance). According to IRI, there is a real window of opportunity to increase online sales for both retailers (by right combining unique in-store and online experiences etc.), and CPG manufacturers (by investing in paid search, social media and shopping apps, by partnering with retailers in order to cater to omnichannel shoppers, and offering more personalized solutions etc.), including through the intermediary of direct-to-consumer initiatives and social media, as shown in the figure below (IRI, 2021).
Figure no. 1: The consumer path to purchase is shifting toward digital discovery and purchase vs. in-store as consumers prioritize lower prices, faster purchasing, easy access customer service and better loyalty rewards Source: IRI, 2021. WINNING IN CPG E-COMMERCE. [pdf] Information Resources Inc., Discovering Pockets of Demand, Part 04, March 26, p. 12 (work cited)
This above mentioned very new research from IRI made finally remarkable recommendations to both retailers (such as considering driving more pricing online for convenience, variety, and unique products), and manufacturers (such as optimizing omnichannel supply chain to reduce shipping and warehouse costs), as shown in the next figure below.
Figure no. 2: Retailer Implications and Manufacturer Implications Source: IRI, 2021. WINNING IN CPG E-COMMERCE. [pdf] Information Resources Inc., Discovering Pockets of Demand, Part 04, March 26, p. 26 (work cited)
A recent McKinsey analysis (representing views from McKinsey’s Oil & Gas Practice) concerning “Fuel retail in the age of new mobility” revealed that forecourt retail can grab significant incremental value both from convenience retail, and other nonfuel retail business thanks to the fuel retail operators better understanding the need of shifting from vehicles to customer needs, and using a phased approach to forecourt retail evolution, as shown in the figure below. According to McKinsey’s representatives: • There are three consumer trends (consumers’ tendency to go purchasing more of their groceries at small local stores, known as “fresh and frequent”; consumers’ tendency to both increase their online ordering of food for delivery, and rise their consumption outside their home, known as “delivery and on the go”; consumers’ tendency to use both digital menu boards, and contactless payment solutions in stores which are streamlining their shopping experience, known as “frictionless customer experience”) likely to shape the future of this nonfuel consumption, these consumer trends being driven by both lifestyle choices and technological developments;
Figure no. 3: The focus of fuel retail is shifting from vehicles to customer needs Source: Bau, A., Chopra, A., Fruk, M., Krstić, L., Mantel, K. and Nägele, F., 2021. Fuel retail in the age of new mobility. [pdf] Views from McKinsey’s Oil & Gas Practice, April, p. 6 (work cited)
• Some convenience categories (considered to be core, such as tobacco, sugary drinks, salty snacks, magazines, and phone cards) will be putted under structural pressure, what presupposes that fuel retail operators need two things: first, to have hyperlocal and customer-centric skills helping them succeed in the new world, competing with an unfamiliar set of competitors; second, to develop new or additional business models (such as multimission, multibrand, and retailing excellence) and formats (such as the so-called “food to go,” “food for later,” “take a break”, and “car care center” types). Digital consumers’ increased expectations for quality, assortment, convenience, speed, and value. E-commerce and e-marketplaces, mobile/app commerce, and social media marketing in the age of Amazon As argued – in an Introduction to the 2021 Edition of the “Brands, Amazon, and the Rise of E-Marketplaces” Report (which was based on a survey, conducted by Zogby Analytics on behalf of Feedvisor, of 1,000+ U.S. retail business decision makers – by the President and CEO of Feedvisor (known as the next-gen optimization platform and team of experts, fueled by proprietary AI and data, empowering brands and sellers to win on Amazon), Dani Nadel, the
biggest beneficiaries of consumers’ accelerated adoption of e-commerce (this accelerated adoption being driven by the current pandemic) were e-marketplaces (FEEDVISOR, 2021). According to this report: • The greatest source of opportunity for brands (considering the four categories: digitally native, 42%; private label, 44%; retail brand, 75%; national or global brand, 60%) in 2021 is represented by e-marketplaces (followed by mobile/app commerce, and social media marketing), which are key channel to drive sales and brand awareness, while these e-marketplaces are also representing from consumers’ standpoint the path to ensure a more convenient shopping experience (by discovering, comparing, and purchasing products – considering the top retail categories: clothing, shoes, & jewelry, 41%; electronics, 36%; home & kitchen, 30%; cell phones & accessories, 29%; beauty & personal care, 29%; grocery & gourmet food, 28% – from an array from brands on a single platform); • As supply chain challenges are ample and consumers’ convenience is a priority, in order to best engage with consumers brands are challenged to determine the best-selling models on Amazon (as entry point establishing the tone for the brand and CX, and impacting their overall ecommerce strategy) in accordance with their unique needs, taking a hybrid approach (valorizing both first-party/1P, and third-party/3P selling models)m and expanding to Amazon’s 3P marketplace as shown by Feedvisor in the table below; Table no. 1: Comparing the advantages offered by Amazons’ 1P and 3P marketplaces in order to take the opportunity on Amazon’s 3P marketplace
Source: FEEDVISOR, 2021. Brands, Amazon, and the Rise of E-Marketplaces. [pdf] A Report Based on a Survey of 1,000+ U.S. Brands, 2021 Edition, p. 8 (work cited)
• As Amazon is the dominant platform in the U.S. e-commerce market, in order to both maximize their exposure, and drive incremental sales brands are more and more rely on it, considering lessons learned last year within the context of the powerful impact of COVID-19 on brands (the dramatic change in e-commerce sales and revenue, experiments with new strategies during the pandemic, and the disruption in Q4/holiday sales performance), as shown in the figure below;
Figure no. 4: How Covid-19 Impacted Brands in 2020 Source: FEEDVISOR, 2021. Brands, Amazon, and the Rise of E-Marketplaces. [pdf] A Report Based on a Survey of 1,000+ U.S. Brands, 2021 Edition, p. 14 (work cited)
• As consumers are more and more conducting transactions via their mobile devices (leading drivers of growth being the smartphones and the expansion of mobile pay options like Amazon Pay and Google Pay), and for this year being made a projection of shopper spending to exceed $290 billion compared to $240 billion last year (as revealed by Marketing Dive, 2001, cited by FEEDVISOR report), the above mentioned report underlines that the greatest ROI is driven by mobile ads (which appear as we all know as text, image, video, call-only or app/digital content formats on webpages and apps, being viewed on consumers’ mobile devices), this year brands planning to invest more in mobile ad formats, followed by video, desktop, and banner ads, as shown in the figure below.
Figure no. 5: Mobile ads drive the greatest ROI for a majority of brands, followed by video, desktop, and banner ads Source: FEEDVISOR, 2021. Brands, Amazon, and the Rise of E-Marketplaces. [pdf] A Report Based on a Survey of 1,000+ U.S. Brands, 2021 Edition, p. 22 (work cited)
Very recently, Nicole Perrin, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, showed how throughout last year a key performance lever (for advertisers with goods to sell in the marketplace) were Amazon ads, and this within in the context of an announced competition early in the pandemic between the e-commerce giant Amazon, one hand and Google and Facebook (which made these announcements) trying to do more with shoppable display formats (while recognizing that they stand to lose digital ad business to Amazon), on the other hand (eMarketer Editors, 2021). Within this framework it was also presented both: • The US triopoly digital ad revenue share, by company, 2019 & 2020, as shown in the figure below:
Figure no. 6: US Triopoly Digital Ad Revenue Share, by Company, 2019 & 2020 Source: eMarketer Editors, 2021. Amazon’s share of the US digital ad market surpassed 10% in 2020, eMarketer, Apr 6 (work cited)
• The US search ad revenue share, by company, 2021, as shown in the figure below:
Figure no. 7: US Search Ad Revenue Share, by Company, 2021 Source: eMarketer Editors, 2021. Amazon’s share of the US digital ad market surpassed 10% in 2020, eMarketer, Apr 6 (work cited)
The above mentioned eMarketer Editors’ article also revealed, among other significant aspects, that from the nearly $24 billion e-commerce channel ad market, 76.2% will be controlled by Amazon (e-commerce channel advertising accounting for approximately 89% of Amazon’s ad business), while 6.5% of this relevant market will be catched by Walmart. In fact, as also highlighted very recently by eMarketer created infographic 2021 US Retail and Ecommerce Snapshot (made possible by Amazon Pay) the biggest digital ad spender in the US remains the retail industry which will cover this year 21.8% of all US digital ad spending, being expected that this industry will grow further at a faster rate than overall digital ad spending, as shown in the figure below (eMarketer, 2021). As we can also see from the below figure there some differences concerning the retail share of 2021 digital ad spending by format: retail as a % of digital display (18.8%), retail as a % of digital video (18.7%), and retail as a % of search (25.7%) .
Figure no. 8: Total Digital Ad Spending (Billions) in the US, Retail Industry Digital Ad Spending (Billions), and Retail Share of 2021 Digital Ad Spending by Format Source: eMarketer, 2021. US Retail and Ecommerce Snapshot. [pdf] Insider Intelligence Inc., Made possible by Amazon Pay, p. 7 (work cited)
On the other hand, considering the above-mentioned powerful impact of COVID-19 on brands, allow us to also go in Romania and look at: (Statista, 2021) • e-commerce sales during the new coronavirus pandemic last year, by product category (in 1,000 euros), as shown in the figure below. Research findings from Statista (citing as source: GPeC; 2Performant; ID 1130080; Conducted by: GPeC; 2Performant; Survey period: March 16 to May 14; Published by: GPeC; Publication date: May 2020) revealed that only the product category Pet supplies recorded a growth below one million euros, while the product category Beauty recorded one of the highest growths in sales in the e-commerce industry during the mentioned period.
Figure no. 9: E-commerce sales during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Romania in 2020, by product category (in 1,000 euros) Source: Statista, 2021. E-commerce in Romania. [pdf] Statista Dossier on the e-commerce market in Romania, p. 9 (work cited)
• The number of online sellers on the eMAG marketplace platform (eMAG being ranked as the third most popular store for FMCG products in Romania, after Carrefour and Kaufland, in October 2020) from 2018 to 2020. Research findings from Statista (citing as source: GPeC; eMAG; ID 1129945; Conducted by: eMAG; GPeC; Survey period: 2018 to 2020; Published by: GPeC; Publication date: February 2021) revealed that on the eMAG marketplace platform there were last year over 23 thousand online sellers, as shown in the figure below.
Figure no. 10: Number of online sellers on the eMAG Marketplace platform in Romania from 2018 to 2020 Source: Statista, 2021. E-commerce in Romania. [pdf] Statista Dossier on the e-commerce market in Romania, p. 18 (work cited)
E-Commerce retailers’ competition and shopping from anywhere at any time in times of unprecedented crisis. Cryptocurrency, as an alternative payment option introduced by advancing retailers, and the need of being ready for the fast-approaching future of a new standard consisting of cryptocurrency’s commercial use Coming back to the Introduction made by the President and CEO of Feedvisor to the above mentioned 2021 Edition of the “Brands, Amazon, and the Rise of E-Marketplaces” Report, it is worth underlining that it was also made reference to the fact that – according to eMarketer – while Amazon grew last year its e-commerce market share (to 39%), its traditional competitor Walmart (with 5.8% market share) displaced eBay as the second online player in the US. On the other hand, the very recent released 2021 US Retail and Ecommerce Snapshot (also mentioned above) confirmed: • How the share of mobile will increase (10.0% of the total retail sales by 2025, despite the fact that it will still represent only 6% of all retail in 2021), and this within the context in which, thanks in large part to digital commerce, total retail sales (which also includes automotive and gasoline station sales, for instance) will constantly increase, this being also the case of ecommerce which will rapidly rise from 15.5% in 2021 to 22.7% by 2025 (as shown in the figure below);
Figure no. 11: Sizing the US Retail Market, Online and Online Source: eMarketer, 2021. US Retail and Ecommerce Snapshot. [pdf] Insider Intelligence Inc., Made possible by Amazon Pay, p. 2 (work cited)
• Amazon’s continuous dominance (over 40% of all ecommerce sales this year), also highlighting that three of the most popular retail stores in US – Target (140.8%), Best Buy (135.6%), and Kroger (103.1%) – have seen last year their ecommerce sales even increasing by triple digits (as shown above in parentheses), the top retail ecommerce retailers (billions) being shown below; • That last year the biggest category winner of the pandemic was grocery ecommerce (an increase of 54%), current predictions indicating an increase of the share of online grocery sales to 8.5% in 2021 (compared to 2020 when online grocery sales represented 7.4% of total spending on grocery), as also shown below.
Figure no. 12: Top Retail Ecommerce Retailers (Billions) Source: eMarketer, 2021. US Retail and Ecommerce Snapshot. [pdf] Insider Intelligence Inc., Made possible by Amazon Pay, p. 6 (work cited)
It is interesting to note within this framework that in an article – entitled “The Future Of E-Commerce Grocery Has Arrived: 2021 Industry Outlook” – published on Forbes in February this year by the Co-founder and CEO at GrocerKey (e-commerce grocery technology and operations), Jeremy Neren (also a Forbes Councils Member), the author also kept the discussion going with regard to the use cryptocurrency, making reference to the possibility of introduction of cryptocurrency (by progressive retailers) as an alternative payment option in order to build loyalty among younger consumers (Neren, 2021). Seven years ago, for instance, a beginner’s
guide to ecommerce pointed out: the need of the e-commerce world to adapt to consumers’ changing preferences in how they want to shop online (mobile users at that time already spending more time on mobile apps, compared to the time spent on the desktop web); the increasing consumer pressures on online retailers (taking into account the rise in notoriety of Bitcoin at that time, Dell already invested in its cryptocurrency infrastructure) to integrate cryptocurrencies as a well-founded payment method (Quarton, 2014). Also in February 2021, in an article – entitled “The future of cryptocurrency in the eCommerce industry” – published on Global Banking & Finance Review, the author Josh Brooks, Head of Marketing at OnBuy.co, highlighted from the very beginning that: reputed businesses (such as: Tesla; Mastercard; Square; Fuse.io in partnership with Monerium) are already turning to cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (BTC), the most well-known cryptocurrency; the socalled ‘Altcoins’, as BTC alternatives like Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), Neo (NEO) and many others which appeared since 2018; the complementarity between cryptocurrency and eCommerce, and the further significant potential; the need of being ready for the fast-approaching future of starting to see the commercial use of cryptocurrency as standard. (Brooks, 2021). Brooks argued that there are clear benefits of using cryptocurrency in ecommerce (like market expansion, enhanced security, fast transactions, improved UX), in the same time being necessary for e-commerce companies to right manage some substantial risks associated with this infiltration of the e-commerce sector (such as the erratically fluctuation and the lack of trust surrounding the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency), better understanding both the benefits of cryptocurrency technologies and the way in which the future of cryptocurrency in e-commerce is shapped by stablecoin, preparing accordingly (on the basis of a contingency plan allowing the necessary implementation depending on the evolution of cryptocurrencies’ adoption and standardization). An article posted in March 2021 by the Founder of Buy Bitcoin Worldwide, Jordan Tuwiner, recommended companies to accept Bitcoin at least through a third-party gift card purchaser, giving examples of eleven major companies (beginning with Microsoft, as accepting since 2014 Bitcoin for use in its online Xbox Store) already accepting Bitcoin (Tuwiner, 2021).
Conclusions: E-commerce, one of the five platform archetypes to win in an ecosystem, getting the maximum advantage from new digital technology. Paying attention to CPG companies’ turning movement to DTC, to verified customer feedback, and to retail’s digital tipping point Recent findings from a logical and systematic research of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) with McKinsey & Company (as a knowledge partner) with regard to how US retailers (whose industry is affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people) are approaching their strategy and operations, revealed seven critical imperatives (both doubling down on consumer-driven commerce, and investing for growth) to retail success on the path to
the next normal, by struggling to adapt to a changing consumer landscape (which allows shopping from anywhere at any time on consumers’ mobile and nonmobile devices) while pursuing new opportunities (gradually innovative changing of stores into showrooms or fulfillment centers, ever-increasing speeds in products’ shipment for home delivery, and digitization everywhere). One of these critical imperatives is pursuing an eco(system)-friendly strategy, being identified five platform archetypes to win in an ecosystem (retailers considering an ecosystem position needing to figure out how to compete, participate, or coexist in an established ecosystem), with e-commerce being one of these five platform archetypes (as both fulfilling classic retail function digitally, and offering value-added services to suppliers), as shown in the figure below (RILA, 2021).
Figure no. 13: Top Retail Ecommerce Retailers (Billions) Source: RILA, 2021. Retail speaks. Seven imperatives for the industry. [pdf] Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), with McKinsey & Company as a knowledge partner, March 23, p. 28 (work cited)
It is worth remembering that the September 2020 McKinsey analysis cited by the abovementioned research of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) with McKinsey & Company (as a knowledge partner), made reference to the emerging world of Ecosystem 2.0, highlighting among other aspects: • The accelerated customers’ migration to digital and the magnification of the previous trend of traditional corporations’ creation or participation in digital ecosystems (only to fall
short, while ascendant tech companies launched ecosystems that are dominant today, generating much of their revenue from these digital ecosystems – as shown in the figure below – developing in virtuous cycles through network effects, and ensuring final users’ enjoyable end-to-end experience, customers’ costs going down), as a result of COVID-19 pandemic; • How within this context it was launched the question if more traditional competitors can play this new game, the research findings identifying a path becoming accessible (in part, by both the omnipresence of digitization and data, and the emergence of advanced analytics) and clarified during the so-called Ecosystem 1.0 era, then getting the maximum advantage from new digital technology and preparing companies to execute on practices which turn neither very good nor very bad ecosystem plays into significantly better ones as the promise of the emerging world of Ecosystem 2.0 in which data are wanted very much (but very hard to get), sector borders are disintegrated, control points are mastered, value chain reworked, so as to ensure company’s horizontally and vertically expansion across the grid (Chung, et al. 2020).
Figure no. 14: Six of the world’s top seven companies are ecosystem companies Source: Chung, V., Dietz, M., Rab, I. and Townsend, Z., 2020. Ecosystem 2.0: Climbing to the next level, McKinsey Quarterly, September, p. 2 (work cited)
On the other hand, retailers also have to take into account CPG companies’ turning movement to DTC (D2C, Direct-to-Consumer) business models (the digital transformation in the market as a whole of the changing CPG industry and the rising DTC brands being accelerated by COVID-19 pandemic), which have some well-known advantages (such as tracking every customer interaction, orders both fulfilled and shipped directly to the end customer, collecting
first-hand data and constant feedback loop of actionable insights etc.), and this within the context in which customers’ demand for more improved and personalized CX has been intensified by the increased need for next-day shipping, on-demand customer service etc. (Futurum Research, 2021). And in order to better meet consumer needs where they are, maximizing their role in DTC sales – as recently argued by Futurum Research in partnership with Treasure Data – CPG companies are challenged to invest in ecommerce platforms (Customer Data Platforms, like Treasure Data’s CDP, for instance, allowing both to access and monetize the necessary insights, and to measure value more rapidly and significantly). In a very recent press release, TruRating, a technology company (having offices offices on three continents) that specializes in CX insights for the retail industry, announced the performance of collecting over 200,000,000 consumer ratings, which confirmed its remarkable positioning not only as the largest, but also the fastest growing provider of verified customer feedback in the world (Retail Dive, 2021). TruRating ensures the connection between businesses (like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Finish Line) and their customers on a daily basis, partnering with international payment providers in order to allow consumers to rate their experiences as they pay, is a graduate of the prestigious Mastercard Start Path program and has won more than a dozen business awards. TruRating won different reputed awards and contributes to businesses’ adaptation to evolving consumer expectations. Also, very recently, the well-known service-first CRM company which builds software designed to improve customer relationships, Zendesk, brought to our attention the opinion expressed by the Founder of Six Pixels Group Inc., Mitch Joel, on the occasion of the US National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2021 (Ramroop, 2021). Within this framework, Joel made reference to the forced collective digital transformation (taking off with spring 2020) – coined as “The Great Compression” – making possible the compression into months instead of years of the chronological arrangement of evolution, retailers needing to prepare accordingly considering the retail compression in three stages (the survive phase – spring 2020; the sustain phase – around summer 2020; the strive phase – as the long-term reality having technology as a key element), taking and keeping a firm hold of e-commerce (being cited WGSN Retail Forecast 2021), and paying attention to the retail CX, including: CX tech budget and investments (being cited Zendesk Benchmark data), Omnichannel shopping experiences and BOPIS, and mobile experiences as the next necessary frontier, also thinking of experiences (services being considered the new experience) and innovations as now long-term elements of a strive strategy. And allow us finally to recall again what we showed in our latest RDC Magazine issue (beyond what we underlined at the beginning of this approach with regard to the transformation of the Omni channel business within the acceleration of e-commerce and the increasing pressure of removing friction from CX with the help of the innovative technology), namely how essential it is for retailers to confirm a better understanding of the shoppers by taking retail organization to the next level.
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Purcarea, I. M., 2021. Marketing 5.0, Society 5.0, Leading-Edge Technologies, New CX, and New Engagement Capacity within the Digital Transformation, Holistic Marketing Management, vol. 11(1), pp. 35-53, April. Quarton, S., 2014. The complete beginner’s guide to ecommerce, Prospress Inc., August 21st. [online] Available at <https://prospress.com/beginners-guide-to-ecommerce/>. [Accessed 13 April 2021]. Ramroop, T., 2021. How “The Great Compression” can lead to better retail CX, Zendesk, April 7, Last updated April 8. [online] Available at: <https://www.zendesk.com/blog/greatcompression-better-retail-cx/?> [Accessed 15 April 2021]. Retail Dive, 2021. Introducing the world’s biggest platform for validated consumer ratings… which you’ve probably never heard of (till now), Press Release from TruRating, Apr 07. [online] <https://www.retaildive.com/press-release/20210406-how-a-tech-company-youve-never-heardof-quietly-became-the-worlds-largest-1/> [Accessed 15 April 2021]. RILA, 2021. Retail speaks. Seven imperatives for the industry. [pdf] Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), with McKinsey & Company as a knowledge partner, March 23, pp 1-3, 2728. Available at: <retail-speaks-full-report.pdf> [Accessed 7 April 2021]. Sabanoglu, T., 2021. Global retail e-commerce sales 2014-2024, Statista, Mar 26. [online] Available at <https://www.statista.com/statistics/379046/worldwide-retail-e-commerce-sales/> [Accessed 11 April 2021]. Statista, 2021. E-commerce in Romania. [pdf] Statista Dossier on the e-commerce market in Romania, pp. 9, 18, 63, 71. Available at <https://www.statista.com/study/85365/e-commerce-inromania/> [Accessed 26 March 2021]. Tuwiner, J., 2021. Who Accepts Bitcoin? 11 Major Companies, Buy Bitcoin Worldwide, March 9. [online] Available at https://www.buybitcoinworldwide.com/who-accepts-bitcoin/>. [Accessed 13 April 2021]. Van Horne, C., 2021. Retailers as ‘experience designers’: Brian Solis on shopping in 2030. [pdf] McKinsey’s Marketing & Sales Practice, Interview, March, pp. 1-3. Available at: <Retailers-asexperience-designers-Brian-Solis-on-shopping-in-2030.pdf> [Accessed 3 April 2021].
Retail Specialists’ Survival, Group versus Individualism, Self-Check-out 1965/2021, Innovator Eklöh, Consumption 2050, RGH + ISB, Multiplier, and Innovation Catalyst
Prof. Dr. Bernd HALLIER
Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier, President of the European Retail Academy (ERA: http://www.european-retail-academy.org/), an Honorary Member of the Romanian Distribution Committee, and distinguished Member of both the Editorial Board of “Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine”, and the Editorial Board of RAU “Holistic Marketing Management” brought to our attention other great events happening in the last time, and allowed us to present them. It is also worth remembering that: immediately after visiting Romania for the first time on the occasion of the 24th International Congress of the International Association for the Distributive Trade (AIDA Brussels), Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier sent us, in May 1998, a memorable letter we have referred initially in the Journal of the Romanian Marketing Association (AROMAR), no. 5/1998, and also later, in 2010, in the first issue of the Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine; the Romanian-American University (RAU) has awarded Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier a “Diploma of Special Academic Merit”; the “Carol Davila” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, has awarded Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier a “Diploma of Excellence”.
Retail Specialists’ Survival Corona leaves traditional outlets in the cities in big financial problems: it is not only the lockdown but in the year 2020/21 also the competition with online-trade! For Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier it is a repetition of the Petrol-Crisis in 1974 when in Germany Autobahnen/Highways were closed on weekends and all industries were looking to reduce staff and to rationalize distribution. - Responsible at the time for Trade Policy of a cigarette producer the challenge was to support ailing small tobacconists as they offered still a broad assortment of about 200 brands versus cigarette vending wholesalers with only 10 columns per vending machine and an expanding sales-sector of supermarkets who sold at their cash-zone a maximum of 30 brands. All three trade channels have been in competition with each other: and at least seven cigarette manufacturers were fighting for their brands to get the biggest share of presentation at the outlets.
“The tobacconists had been under the biggest market pressure” Professor Hallier recalls the situation of 1974.” Actually, the best would have been if we could have offered a functional rebate to this channel as they offer a broad assortment being open also for the tests of new brands and they were able to establish by personal physical contacts good customer relationships: but due to German Cartel Law such a solution was not possible. So, we decided another way of subsidy for those ones who wanted still to invest into their future. We designed a
store lay-out which also included brand-advertising: tobacconists got standardized modules (by this way cheaper than individual new store-fitting) and we made advertising-contracts for a couple of years giving them an additional income by this action. It was a win-win for industry and tobacco-specialists, and also a part of modernization of stores in the city-centers”.
Group versus Individualism While in Western societies ethnologically hunters and collectors dominated the development of behaviour - in Asia rice-farming was only possible by groups and balance of interests with neighbours. For 50 years Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier studied first as an exchange-student (staying in families) and later as an international consultant the sociology of Japanese companies like Morinaga, JTI tobacco or Seibu/AEON. For him Japan's Post War Rise can be only understood by this traditional group-thinking and discipline: a family is not only defined by birth but also by being a member of a company or even by the nation. Leadership in Japan is not based on knowledge like in Marketing or Finance but on the skills to be a group-harmonizer according to Hallier.” The ringi-system is integrating young employees as well as senior staff; evenings are used for inter-department- or inter-company dialogues”.
“The Olympics 1964 was the initial to turn Tokyo towards a modern shopping benchmark with the department-stores at Ginza and Shibuya as show-cases of the Asian potential. Retail in Japan since then became one of its most important drivers of innovation!” Professor Hallier states. “The Seibu Future Store and automated deloading of trucks by robots had been
highlights of our EHI-Japan visit in 1986; convenience-stores with on-demand-delivery followed; AEON became the greatest Asian retailer with a broad portfolio of different storetypes and took over also responsibilities for the development of other countries via the Asian Pacific Retailers Association” (at the photo AEON’s Honorary Chairman Takuya Okada together with Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier).
Self-Check-out 1965/2021 One of the top-sessions of the EHI Innovation Days 2021 was dealing with innovation of SCO. According to Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier there is a tremendous development in the last decade - and even in the last six months due to Corona as an additional impact for retail innovations. The scope starts with self-scanning at the cash-zone or by hand-scanners fixed at the trolleys up to solutions of scanning by mobiles. EHI is hosting (see) as a platform to monitor and to discuss the latest state of art.
According to Professor Hallier it is worth mentioning that the first unmanned-store in the World started to be tested for one year already in April 1965 in Wiesbaden/Germany by the local food chain Latscha and its technical supplier Acker/Storematics. About 650 articles had been offered; the annual turnover was 600.000 DM; about 55 percent of the turnover was covered on Saturday/Sundays (which had been the times of store-closure in Germany). The entrance ticket for the store enabled the consumer to collect up to 30 items which were each registered at the picking point by the punch-card: which finally at the exit was used like a loyalty card but payment was in a coin-vending machine. Tempi mutandi!
Innovator Eklöh Innovation is mostly driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of personalities. In Germany such a person was Herbert Eklöh (1905 - 1978), learning chemist firstly he opened in a second phase his first food-shop in 1928, building the first European Self-Service store in 1938 in the city of Osnabrück, starting to become a medium-size chain-store operation just after World War II. In 1956 his 58 outlets had a turnover of 60 million DM (Deutsche Mark) - in 1957 he opened in Cologne the first big-sized supermarket/hypermarket with 2.000 square meters which had already in its first year in operation a turnover of 9,2 million DM. In the same year Herbert Eklöh became co-founder of the Cologne-based ISB Institute for Self-Service: a joint merchantowned institute for research and knowledge transfer. Already in 1935 Eklöh had offered consulting services for the Department-Store Chain Kaufhof - acting for some time there beside his other activities as a director for food; now in the greydawn of self-service he sold the main shares of his chain in 1958 to the four big Department Store Chains Hertie, Horten, Karstadt and Kaufhof as a joint holding for learning more about this growing sector in food business.
But Eklöh became also a driver of diversification. In 1962 he took-over the majority of the sweets-chain Hussel/Hagen with 160 outlets in top-shopping areas of cities in Western Germany; in the end of the 60ies he invested in perfume-stores among which have been the traditional brand Douglas. His son Dr.Jörn Kreke later reached its first benchmark of 200 outlets
in 1986. In 1989 “Douglas” became the name of the Holding for all diversifications: mainly Hussel sweets, Douglas perfume stores, Christ jewelries, Montanus/Thalia book-stores, Appelrath-Cüpper/Werdin fashion outlets. Due also to international expansion according to Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier since about the year 2000 Douglas could be called "An European LifeStyle Group" having at that time a total of about 2000 outlets with 18.000 employees acting in 10 countries with an annual turnover of 5 billion DM.
Consumption 2050 "Taken Global Marketing it is not only important to look at the figures of total population per area as a market - but to analyze where is the greatest potential of growing income as a targetgroup" Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier described strategies for 2050. “The development of middleclasses internationally for example is biggest in India followed by China and other Asian countries - topping the old and affluent societies of the EU and the USA” Professor Hallier added.
“We should take now the Corona Lock-downs as time for reflections about future markets - and check potentials for the restart of activities in new markets: compensating old fields of business” Hallier explained his strategic orientation. “We should also in this case apply Knowledge Competence Sharing: not doing all processes by own staff but to cooperate and to concentrate on own competences like in the Ricardo theory” referring also to last month’s Indian Business Focus.
RGH + ISB “Most probably it was also part of the destruction of Germany in World War II as well as the post-war spirit of the survivors that created a climate of cooperation beyond all different sectors in retail and wholesale in the newly founded Federal Republic of Western Germany which in 1951 led in the city of Cologne to a privately owned research institute RGH (Rationalization Institute) with trade companies and trade associations as share-holders” Prof. Dr. Hallier remembers the past. “It was the idea to gain knowledge together as entrepreneurs about modern/efficient retailing and to share experiences: it was the start of Applied Sciences in Germany. The first five topics on the agenda had been liquidity, accounting, transportation, assortment and self-service.” Deriving from the work-shop “self-service” of the RGH a special interest group founded in 1957 its own ISB Institute for Self-Service with the focus of shopfitting, articles with potential for self-service, packaging and training of staff for this new sector. Already in the first quarter of 1957 the ISB could evaluate questionnaires from about 650 self-service outlets about business-administration data to compare the efficiency of storeoperations.
Becoming CEO of ISB in 1985 Prof. Bernd Hallier prepared the stage for merging ISB and RGH again in 1988: “While segmentation was the right strategy in the 60ies to concentrate on innovation by self-service: in the 80ies we needed a joint Platform for the whole of different trade channels in Germany: the DHI (German Trade Institute) became the scientific institute for all German retailers/wholesalers. We did not want to spoil resources! With the ISB/RGH researchers we offered data free of charge for public purposes but could also act as consultants for individual clients if demanded; with 50 percent of the barcoding CCG/today GS 1 Germany we had a joint venture with the Branded Goods Industry and with our joint activities of EuroShop we had an excellent platform for all technical suppliers along the Total Supply Chain” Professor Hallier explained his strategies of the 80ies for Germany.
Multiplier The West-German “Economic Wunder” of the 70ies was according to Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier a combination of three factors: firstly Creative Heads open after World War II for new ideas - and second “Multipliers of Thought” as could be seen at the example of tobacco-wholesalers (see last ERA-news) or the retail-sector in general being confronted at that time with the innovative challenge of self-service/American Life-Style. Taken the year 1965 for example: the number of self-service stores increased by 18 percent to 62.714 units; 94 percent of those stores being upgraded to modern formats had been belonged to private retail entrepreneurs. On average the sales-area per store increased from 76 to 100 square meters.
“It shows that the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs had been small retailers who step by step changed their store format and POS-approach” Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier stated reviewing the time even from own memories. “A third factor was that such a big number of decision-makers very often look for different solutions for problems due to their individuality (otherwise they would not have been entrepreneurs) and due to profiling in Competition: that is the driver of speed for innovations. It was the luck of the moment to recognize that such a big number of innovative forces needed an international sector-platform for communication: launching the EuroShop exhibition in 1966 in the city of Duesseldorf (See also)” Hallier concluded. Today it is worldwide the Number One Exhibition in this field with 120.000 square meters net exhibition area in 2020 - being run triennially with two EuroCIS technology fairs in between the main EuroShop-events. (See more about the tactical tools at the link YouTube Innovation Drivers).
Innovation Catalyst 1974 the world was in the Petrol Crisis! Everybody in business was in search for potential rationalizations in processes and organizations. Computers for the first time became an important part of new business-models. Bernd Hallier of Brinkmann Cigarettes started a dialogue with leading tobacco wholesalers in Germany: together with Willi Weber he created a new filling system of cigarette vending machines as vending at that time covered about 50 percent of all sales (see News of 07.02.2021). He permanently was on tour in the field in search for automation/innovation and by this became an innovation-catalyst in the tobacco sector.
“We had defined a Trade Policy with the strategy not to endanger by any actions the permanent free access for our labels to all distribution channels: an innovation jump for vendingwholesalers needed immediately some action to be followed for wholesalers serving the kioskbusinesses or the tobacconist-retailers who had been due to their broad assortment (200 brands) important for Brand Innovations while vending machines in 1975 had only 10 columns on average” Professor Hallier remembers. “The tactics also demanded a balance between the wholesalers within each region to have a mix which should not challenge the manufacturers dominance. - Therefore, the engagement for alternatives was to pave the way externally as well as internally. The Learning was that innovation has more enemies than friends” Prof. Dr. Bernd Hallier summarizes: “Innovation is a challenge to change: it is always AGAINST traditional behaviour and against the MAYORITY: because ex definition otherwise it would not be innovative!” On the operative level Dr. Hallier used the power of letters of his customers to the DTZ Weekly to support his ideas for market restructures.
● James K. McCOLLUM – From “Idei Americane pentru Manageri Români” to
“The Professors Tales. Work & Play In Foreign Lands”
Note from the Editor-in-Chief Professor James K. McCollum, University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH), USA, is recognized as one of the Romanian-American University (RAU) most beloved Visiting Professors. It was a great honor and pleasure for us to publish Professor McCollum thoughts concerning the Project “Romania” and “Keeping cultural programs going despite the financial crisis” in the first issue of the Romanian Distribution Committee Magazine, in 2010. His original career was in the U.S. Army. He entered West Point Academy, the most prestigious military academy in the world, in 1956, graduated from West Point (he married his “life partner, Barbara” on graduation day, June 8, 1960), became an Army Officer, and spent two years in Vietnam. Later, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, becoming a Ph.D. in Business Management. At first, he was at Auburn University, then at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, describing both as “publish or perish” institutions.
James K. McCOLLUM – From “Idei Americane pentru Manageri Români” to “The Professors Tales. Work & Play In Foreign Lands” JEL Classification: Y30
James & Barbara McCollum have four children – Deanna, Jennifer, James jr., and Michael – and from them James sr. and his “life partner, Barbara” have 12 grandchildren. As author of “Romania. Opening All of the Doors. A travelogue of the Transition” (published by McTara Publishing Company in Association with Trafford Publishing, printed in Canada, 2003), Professor James K. McCollum dedicated this book to his “life partner, Barbara”. When he was in Romania the first time, Professor James K. McCollum began a book he called “American Ideas for Romanian Managers”, written in English. Later, in 2004, he added a few cases and had a 2nd edition of “Idei Americane pentru Manageri Romani” (published by Editura ASE), then he revised the book together with Dr. Ana-Maria Preda and added more cases, renaming this book “Applied Business Management” (published in English by Editura Universitara), and inviting students to develop skills by interacting with real-life business applications, by learning to design and implement action plans to address management challenges. As mentioned in RDC Magazine, the main objective of the book “Applied Business
Management” was to help students in identifying the strategic business opportunities, as well as in learning to recognize and capitalize on them, in learning to separate business requirements and analysis and to couple training with new experiences. With regard to the new book “The Professors Tales. Work & Play In Foreign Lands” (Book 1), First Printing November 2019, McCollum Books, another remarkable achievement that we are also honored to congratulate, being entitled (by courtesy of RAU Holistic Marketing Management Journal) to underline that “The Professors’ Tales” is confirming Professors’ dedication, efforts, energy and skills necessary for making work a pleasure and enjoying life, balancing family (the nature’s masterpiece) and work, scheduling priorities, considering a problem as a chance for doing their best, striving to do their best, receiving by believing. The design of this new book is capturing the reader’s attention, proving the in-depth knowledge of book structure and composition, and giving essential information beginning with the Preface (Move to Academia; The Fulbright Program), continuing with the 18 Chapters (organized chronologically), the Epilogue, the 5 Appendices, and a Romania Map. Allow us to mention some of this book’s chapters, such as: Chapter 1 (including “Entry into Romania” and “My First Class”) … Chapter 10 (including “A book on the evils of communism”) … Chapter 11 (including “Finishing Is Communism Dead Forever?”) …
• Chapter 14 (2003, including the first meeting with RAU Rector Ion Smedescu and the invitation to teach at RAU); Chapter 15 (2004, including discussions with regard to teach “Project Management” at RAU); Chapter 16 (2005, this year “began with a permanent connection with the RAU”; the 3rd edition of the “Idei Americane pentru Manageri Români”, in collaboration with Dean Ana-Maria Preda; discussions about the Summer Program with UAH students) … • Chapter 17 (2007-2009, including other meetings with RAU Rector Ion Smedescu and RAU Professors, Summer Program with UAH students, “Conversation of Idei Americane to Applied Business Management” etc. and… “The Death of Rector ION SMEDESCU… He had grown the RAU from nothing in 1991 to a student body of 14,000 in 2008 with a large modern campus. His goal was to create a university like the American universities”; celebration of the 18th anniversary for RAU… “I said how pleased I had been to teach at RAU and to bring some students from UAH to be in a summer study abroad program”);
• Chapter 18 (2010-2016, including “RAU 20th Anniversary celebration”, with the distinguished Professors Ronald Carrier and Steven Bowers from James Madison Universities, speech about his connection to RAU in 2004 and his admiration for RAU growth by that time).
C. IONESCU – Ciclurile și crizele economico-financiare
Note from the Editor-in-Chief Last year, two McKinsey’s representatives brought to our attention that: “Considering the lessons of history can help business leaders and policy makers figure out how to manage the challenging years ahead” (Sneader, K. and Singhal, S., 2020. ‘And now win the peace’: Ten lessons from history for the next normal, McKinsey & Company, July 27. Available at: <https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/and-now-win-thepeace-ten-lessons-from-history-for-the-next-normal>). At the beginning of this year, the same two McKinsey’s representatives stated: “2021 will be the year of transition. Barring any unexpected catastrophes, individuals, businesses, and society can start to look forward to shaping their futures rather than just grinding through the present. The next normal is going to be different. It will not mean going back to the conditions that prevailed in 2019. Indeed, just as the terms “prewar” and “postwar” are commonly used to describe the 20th century, generations to come will likely discuss the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras” (Sneader, K. and Singhal, S., 2020. The next normal arrives: Trends that will define 2021—and beyond, McKinsey & Company, January 4. Available at: <https://www.mckinsey.com/featuredinsights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond>). At the beginning of April 2021, an article published on the Agenda blog of The World Economic Forum and written by the Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, Salesforce, highlighted that: “By investing time to reflect on previous work and institutionalize ongoing learnings, we’re better able to face obstacles in the future” (Goldman, P., 2021. 4 ethical tech lessons we've learned during COVID-19 crisis, The World Economic Forum, Agenda blog, 06 Apr. Available at: <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/04/4ethical-tech-lessons-learned-during-covid-19-crisis/>). Prof. Dr. Lucian C. Ionescu is well-known for his major fields of specialization: International monetary and financial system, Monetary policy & foreign exchange (convertibility, exchange rate, balance of payments), Banking issues (especially the central bank’s role), Economic cycles & history of economic thinking, and Economic and Monetary Union etc. He was a member of the Board of Directors at the National Bank of Romania between 1991-1998. In 1992, it was mandated by the National Bank of Romania and the Romanian Association of Banks (RAB) management to establish and to coordinate the activity of some institutions for professional training and financial-banking university education. Thus, the Romanian Banking Institute (IBR) was created, on which L.C. Ionescu led and organized it, fulfilling the functions of General Manager, President and Rector.
Between 1993 and 2005, IBR included in its structure a university banking college and the Financial-Banking University (UFB).
Lucian C. Ionescu launched relatively recent his latest book, entitled “Economic-financial cycles in the evolution of the international monetary system, Studies/essays on international monetary issues”, INTEGRAL Publishing House, Bucharest, 2019. After today’s introduction in the deep relationship between financial cycle and economic cycle within the economic financial crisis, in the next RDCM issue we will publish some significant parts of this valuable book, such as “The rift between the real and nominal facets of the contemporary world economy” and “The crisis that burst in 2007/08...”, also considering the author’s opinion on the fact that: “The economic and financial crisis of 2020, aggravated by the COVID pandemic and being in the downward phase of a semi-secular cycle, will accentuate the stringent nature of the need for organic recorrelation between the real and the nominal economy”.
Ciclurile și crizele economico-financiare Lucian C. IONESCU
JEL Classification: Y30
Relativ recent, a fost publicată lucrarea „Ciclurile economico-financiare în evoluția sistemului monetar internaţional” (Editura Integral; lansare la Târgul de carte Gaudeamus – ROMEXPO), autor prof.dr. Lucian C. Ionescu. Prima parte a fost redactată în limba română, iar partea a doua include șase studii în limba engleză, corelate cu tematica de ansamblu a cărții. 1 Primele capitole ale lucrării abordează evoluția ciclică a societății social-economice, după ce homo sapiens a sesizat și urmărit ciclurile macro-cosmice. De altfel, întregul univers și, practic, toate formele de viață se află sub imperiul evoluției ciclice. O intuiție demnă de remarcat a avut filozoful român Vasile Conta: „Orice formă evolutivă, de la nașterea la moartea sa, face… o cale care ar putea fi figurată printr-un semicerc. Din cauza analogiei, voi da acestui semicerc denumirea de undă. (…) Orice formă evolutivă este o undă și… fiecare undă conține alte unde secundare… și la rândul său, ea este coținută de o undă mai mare…”2 Legea evoluției ciclice a macro- și microcosmosului a fost confirmată la granița sec. al XX-lea cu sec. al XXI-lea: „O consecință importantă a comportării ondulatorii din mecanica cuantică este că putem observa fenomenul numit interferență dintre două unde de particule. In mod normal, interferența este concepută ca un fenomen ondulatoriu…”3 Deși au fost semnalate numerose tipuri de cicluri economice și/sau financiare, analiza efectuată în lucrare se concentrează asupra a două tipuri de cicluri considerate edificatoare pentru subiectul abodat. Ciclul decenal (cu o durată de circa 8 -12 ani) și ciclul semisecular, cu o durată medie cuprinsă, aproximativ, între 45 – 55 ani. Referindu-ne direct la domeniul activității economice, după prima revoluție industrială, s-a accentuat evoluția ciclică a economiei, iar din sec. al XIX-lea viața economică a început să fie zguduită de crizele specifice ciclurilor economice medii (decenale) și lungi (semiseculare). Ciclurile lungi se caracterizează prin două faze majore – o fază ascendentă (20 -25 ani) și o fază descendentă sau stagnantă (20 -25 ani), în funcție de conjunctura economico-financiară națională și internațională. Se poate observa că de-a lungul unei faze a ciclului lung „se înfășoară”, în medie, două cicluri decenale. 1
Prof. Dr. Lucian C. Ionescu, Cicluri economico-financiare în evoluția sistemului monetar international, Studies/essays on international monetary issues, Ed. INTEGRAL, București, 2019. Unele studii au fost prezentate, intr-o primă formă, în dezbateri/conferințe organizate de CCFM (Academia Română). 2 Vasile Conta, Teoria ondulațiunii universale, în Opere filozofice, Editura Academiei, București, 1967, p.223. 3 St. Hauking, L. Mlodinow, O mai scurtă istorie a timpului, Ed.Humanitas,2016,p.106.
Incă de la începutul anilor 1970 (perioada studiilor de doctorat), autorul lucrării a identificat și analizat legătura dintre evoluția ciclului semisecular și succesiunea etaloanelor monetare internaționale4. Așa–numitului stadiu al liberei concurențe i-a corespuns, în linii generale, bimetalismul aur-argint, evoluând de la bimetalismul cu monedă paralelă la cel cu monedă dublă (fiind precizat oficial un raport obligatoriu între monedele de aur și cele de argint). Concentrarea capitalului și centralizarea capitalului productiv și bănesc a făcut necesară abandonarea, trpetată, a etalonului bimetalic (aur-argint), în favoarea trecerii la etalonul aur care, prin automatismul său specific, a favorizat îndepărtarea de preceptele liberei concurențe, stimulând expansiunea oligopolurilor și monopolurilor. De la începutul sec. al XIX-lea s-a manifestat ciclul decenal (menționat anterior), pentru ca de la mijlocul aceluiași secol să se contureze și ciclul semisecular (sub impactul celei de-a doua revoluții industriale): deceniile VVII au marcat o fază ascendentă, urmată de o fază stagnantă între deceniul VII și prima parte a deceniului X. Istoricește, s-a putut constata că, sub imperiul fenomenelor de criză, s-au intensificat eforturile internaționale de a identifica un nou etalon monetar. Astfel, faza ascendentă a ciclului semisecular care a debutat spre sfârșitul sec. al XIX-lea a coincis cu funcționarea generalizată a a etalonului aur „clasic”. Izbucnirea primului război mondial a perturbat grav funcționare normală a etalonului aur. Automatismul etalonului aur nu mai corespundea intervenției statului atât pentru mobilizarea resurselor necesare desfășurării războiului, cât și pentru stimularea expansiunii oligopolurilor și monopolurilor. Ca urmare, după încheierea primului război mondial, a fost organizată Conferința internațională de la Genova, în 1922, care a recomandat etalonul aur-devize (gold-exchange standard), permițând, pe lângă aur, utilizarea valutelor convertibile în aur în plățile internaționale. In acest mod, s-a manifestat, pe deplin vizibil, fisura dintre dimensiunea reală și cea nominală a funcționării organismului economic: pe de o parte, economia reală (valorificarea factorilor de producție prin bunuri și servicii) și, pe de altă parte, economia nominală (circuitul fluxurilor monetar-financiare, implicând creșterea importanței operațiunilor financiar-bancare speculative). Chiar dacă inițial recomandarea utilizării unui etalon aur-devize avea un caracter„temporar”, pentru a facilita refacera postbelică, evenimentele anilor 1920 și 1930 au făcut imposibilă întoarcerea la etalonul aur. Anii 1920 au înregistrat primul boom speculativ, în sensul modern al termenului, având elemente comune cu boomul speculativ care a precedat marea recesiune economico- financiară din 2007-09, prelungită în plan financiar spre 2014-15. De asemenea, boomul financiar speculativ din anii 1920 a provocat un fenomen relativ nou (pentru perioada respectivă) – multiplicarea, fără precedent, a proporțiilor îndatorăriii (financial leverage) ca principală sursă a finanțării operațiunilior de pe piața de capital. Astfel, a fost „pavat” drumul către izbucnirea marii depresiuni din anii 1930, care a marcat faza descendentă a ciclului semisecular. In sensul corelației dintre evoluția ciclului lung și etaloanele monetare, spre sfârșitul acestei faze descendente, a avut loc Conferința monetar-financiară internațională de la 4
Lucian C. Ionescu, Contribuții la analiza rolului internațional al dolarului SUA, a ciclului economic și a politicii monetare și fiscale americane, INCE (ASSP), 1975/76.
Bretton Woods (SUA), în iulie 1944, care a condus la „oficializarea” etalonului aur-devize (sub forma practică a etalonului aur – dolar SUA). Totodată, acordurile de la Bretton Woods au determinat înființarea Fondului Monetar Internațional, al cărui statut era constituit de the Articles of Agreement (of the IMF). Necesitățile refacerii postbelice și avansul tehnologic au determinat o reapropiere între economia reală și economia nominală în faza ascendentă a ciclului semisecular postbelic, ceea ce a stimulat creșterea economică internațională timp de peste două decenii, corespunzător fazei ascendente a ciclului postbelic. Nu întâmplător, în deceniile VI și VII, ciclurile decenale nu au înregistrat crize profunde, ci așa-numitele recesiuni – fenomene de criză de intensitate medie și cu o durată relativ redusă. Epuizarea potențialului etalonului aur-devize, sub forma aur-dolar SUA, s-a resimțit spre sfârșitul anilor 1960 și, mai ales, începutul anilor 1970, când a debutat faza stagnantă a ciclului semisecular. După încercări nereușite de „revigorare” a etalonului aur – dolar (între 1971-73), implicând două revalorizări simbolice ale dolaruli SUA, la mijlocul anilor 1970, a fost adoptat acordul de la Kingston (Jamaica), care a intrat în vigoare în aprilie 1978. Deci, încă o dată, în miezul unei faze stagnante sau descendente, înrăutățirea conjuncturii economico-financiare a determinat eforturi concertate pentru adaptarea etalonului monetar internațional la noile realități și raporturi de forțe pe plan mondial. Principala noutate a constituit-o în promovarea Drepturilor Speciale de Tragere (DST), cu intenția declarată de a deveni un nou etalon monetar internațional. Create inițial în 1969, DST au fost definite la început prin conținutul de aur specific dolarului (USD), pentru ca, ulterior, să se adopte metoda unui „coș valutar”(inițial 16 pentru a fi reduse, în 1980, la cele mai importante 5 valute liber convertibile). In consecință, urma să fie validat un etalon monetar „DST – multivalutar ”- denumirea preferată în lucrarea pe care o prezentăm (a se vedea studiul A new role and significance for the SDR, în partea a doua a lucrării). In acest context, era evidentă tranzița totală de la banul-marfă (aurul monetar) la proliferarea, practic fără limite, a banilor de credit (principalele valute convertibile). DST erau emise ”când se considera necesar” prin decizia unei majorități calificate a puterii de vot a membrilor FMI, stabilită inițial la 80% și apoi la 85% din totalul puterii de vot (proporțional cu cota de participare), asfel încât să fie asigurat un drept de veto de facto pentru SUA. Prevederile „acordului de la Kingston” schimbau radical principiile stabilite prin acordurile de la Bretton Woods. Dar odată depășit efectul primelor șocuri petroliere (creșterea bruscă și substanțială a prețului la barilul de petrol), s-a diminuat drastic interesul principalelor puteri economicofinanciare pentru aplicarea efectivă a prevederilor acordului adoptat în 1978, mai ales în ceea ce privește creșterea determinantă a rolului DST. Astfel, ponderea cumulată a emisiunilor DST nu reprezintă, în prezent, decât circa 3-4% din totalul rezervelor valutare internaționale, exprimând o discrepanță majoră între statutul de jure al FMI și funcționarea sa efectivă. Minimalizarea rolului aurului monetar și amplificarea utilizării principalelor valute „forte” a înlăturat una din ultimile frâne în calea speculațiilor financiar-bancare. Nu întâmplător, de la sfârșitul anilor 1970 și începutul anilor 1980, a fost lansată o puternică ofensivă a liberalismului neoclasic în favoarea
”liberalizării și dereglementării” sistemului financiar-bancar internațional. In consecință, de-a lungul anilor 1980--90, a fost demolat eșafodajul reglementărilor implementate în perioada rooseveltiană (anii 1930), sub impactul consecințelor crizei dramatice declanșate în 1929/30. Atacul generalizat al neoliberalismului asupra „statului bunăstării”(welfare state) corespundea obiectivului strategic al oligarhiei financiare transnaționale – expansiunea și consolidarea capitalismului patrimonial globalizat (pentru a folosi formularea lui Thomas Picketty)5. Semnalul a fost dat de SUA, la sfârșitul deceniului VIII al sec. al XX-lea, prin adoptarea unor amendamente drastice la the Bank Holding Company Act, iar în 1980 a intrat în vigoare the Depositary Institutions Deregulations and Monetary Control, astfel fiind golite de conținut prevederile din the Glass – Steagall Act, adoptat în 1933, care, pe baza învățămintelor extrase din evoluția Marii Depresiuni, au urmărit să separe activitatea băncilor comerciale de așa-numitele „bănci de investiții” care de fapt au fost – și sunt – specializate în comercializarea titlurilor financiare și în investiții financiare speculative (expresie a economiei nominale, detașate de economia reală). Deși la mijlocul anilor 1980 s-a manifestat un val de falimente și insolvabilitate, mai ales în domeniul financiar-bancar, acest avertisment al unei dereglementări pripite a fost ignorat total. Astfel, în continuarea anilor 1980 și în 1990, a fost înregistrată o avalanșă de așanumite „big bang”-uri ale tandemului liberalizare-dereglementare în sectorul financiar-bancar, în majoritatea statelor occidentale și în țările aflate în sfera lor de influență. Un exemplu edificator, îl poate constitui un prim „big bang” manifestat în Mare Britanie, prin adoptarea Financial Services Act în 1986. Anterior emiterii acestui cadru legislativ, faimoasele investment banks acționau mai prudent, deoarece utilizau propriile fonduri monetar-financiare, dar după ce a fost permisă fuziunea cu bănci comerciale, depozitele bancare ale clienților (persoane fizice și firme) au fost supuse unui risc major, în continuă creștere. In plus, noul „big bang” a permis apariția și expansiunea rapidă a shadow banking system – instituții financiar-bancare aflate în „umbră”, mascate, aflate în afara reglementării și supravegherii bancare. La începutul anilor 1990, a debutat o nouă fază ascendentă a unui ciclu lung care, pe fundalul semnalat al modificării cadrului legislativ în domeniul financiar-bancar, a avut un caracter atipic. Atât ciclul decenal al anilor 1990, cât și boomul financiar hiperspeculativ dintre 2002-07 au avut un evident caracter artificios, accentuând ruptura dintre economia reală și cea nominală: din anii 1980 și până la declanșarea marii crize financiare în 2007/08, volumul fluxurilor valutar-financiare (preponderent speculative) s-a multiplicat de 25 de ori, în timp ce volumul comerțului mondial de bunuri și servicii a crescut de numai 8 ori. In acest mod, peste sistemul productiv internațional s-a instalat o suprastructură monetar-financiar-bancară menită să genereze și comercializeze o gamă practic nelimitată de titluri financiar-bancare, sub forma unor „inovații” monetar-financiare, devenite cât mai opace pentru clienții obișnuiți, favorizând aranjamentele de culise, specula amplificată la maximum și, în ultimă instanță, frauda. Paradoxal, anii 1990, au fost numiți, mai ales în SUA, anii unei „mari stabilități sau moderații” datorită expansiunii rapide a firmelor implicate în tehnologia informațională (IT), care însă a fost 5
Th. Picketty, CAPITAL in the Twenty-First Century, Harvard University Press, 2014, p.24.
mult supraevaluată în cotațiile bursiere, ceea ce a determinat, în final, spargerea unei „bule speculative”, provocând o recesiune. In 1998, în Japonia a fost activată o formă revizuită a Legii controlului pieței valutare și a comerțului exterior (Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law), eliminându-se separarea dintre operațiunile propriu-zis bancare și comerțul – inerent speculativ – cu titluri financiare. Dar vârful eisbergului „liberalizării și dereglementării” (piesă de rezistență a oligarhiei financiare transnaționale) a fost reprezentat de adoptarea, în SUA, a legii Gramm-Leach-Bliley, în 1999. In acest mod, toate învățămintele extrase din evenimentele dramatice ale marii depresiuni (1929-33) au fost șterse din memoria și practica sistemului financiar-bancar internațional. Drumul era larg deschis unui nou experiment de tipul crizei anilor 1930. Să reamintim concluzia principală a analizei complexe, efectuate de Hyman Minsky asupra sistemului economico-financar bazat pe acumularea capitalului: „politica economică poate să aibă efect asupra tendinței spre instabilitate..., dar într-un cadru instituțional capitalist, instabilitatea nu poate fi eradicată...”6 Trendul descrescător al rentabilității medii a investițiilor de capital, în tandem cu diminuarea ratei dobânzii reale (pe termen lung), a determinat marele capital financiar să acorde un rol secundar investițiilor în economia reală, axându-se pe profiturile exorbitante obținute din speculațiile veroase monetar-financiare, specifice unor economii în care dimensiunea nominală pierduse legătura vitală cu activitatea și fluxurile reale. Erau, deci, create toate premisele necesare proliferării unui virulent boom speculativ, amplificat paroxistic de fenomenul de securitizare și utilizarea excesivă a derivativelor. Prin securitizare (conform termenului angloamerican securitization), erau transformate în titluri financiare negociabile un amalgam de contracte reprezentînd variate forme de îndatorare, cum sunt ipotecile imobiliare, contracte de leasing, datoriile rezultate din utilizarea unor credit cards, ș.a. Aceste produse financiare compozite erau vândute asemănător unor obligațiuni (bonds), mai ales sub două forme – mortgage-backed securities (titluri financiare bazate pe ipoteci) și collateralized debt obligations (CDO).7 Deși comercializarea acestor „inovații” financiare a fost prezentată drept un instrument de asigurare față de riscurile financiar-bancare, în realitate erau „bombe” cu explozie întârziată pentru majoritatea utilizatorilor. Doar „experții” marilor instituții financiar-bancare și ai unor instituții financiare non-bancare (IFN), cu cinism și perversiune au speculat credulitatea cumpărătorilor, bazându-se pe lipsa de transparență a respectivelor produse financiare „sofisticate”(analizate mai ales în studiile din partea a doua). Pe acest fundal, primul deceniu al sec. XXI-lea a scos în evidență un fenomen relativ nou – financializarea, prin care fluxurile financiar-bancare și valutare și-au subordonat economia reală, în condițiile globalizării vieții economice. De la un stimulent al dezvoltării factorilor de producție, activitatea financiar-bancară și-a subordonat economia reală, manipulând în interesul oligarhiei financiare transnaționale ansamblul resurselor economico-sociale. Procesul financializării s-a dovedit organic interconectat cu evoluția îndatorării și cu nivelul datoriilor 6 7
H.P. Minsky, Cum stabilizăm o economie instabilă, ed. Publica, București, 2011, p.354. In lucrare, termenii de strictă specialitate sunt explicați și exemplificați.
acumulate. Recurgerea la creditare în scopuri productive poate avea efecte pozitive atât timp cât creșterea volumului său nu depășește ritmul generării veniturilor obținute din investițiile efectuate, astfel încât serviciul datoriei (dobânzi plus rate scadente) poate fi satisfăcut fără apelul la noi datorii. In boomul speculativ declanșat în 2001/02, băncile centrale au început să ridice rata dobânzii de politică monetară pentru a evita amplificarea inflației și „supraîncălzirea” economiei. Dar sub aparența unui avânt economic impresionant, în realitate avea loc expansiunea rapidă a tranzacțiilor vizând achiziționarea de active monetar-financiare pe baza îndatorării masive. Astfel, s-a declanșat un boom financiar speculativ, având drept sursă primordială îndatorarea, în proporții fără precedent. Formele cele mai spectaculoase ale acestui demers speculativ s-au manifestat în SUA, dar regăsindu-se, în diferite intensități, în majoritatea statelor occidentale dezvoltate. Miezul fierbinte al acestui tsunami financiar speculativ l-a constituit domeniul tranzacțiilor imobiliare, prețul caselor a crescut cu 80% din anul 2000 până în 2006/07. În paralel, volumul datoriei gospodăriilor (households) a făcut un salt impresionant de la 85% din venitul disponibil la circa 120%. În final, datoria totală a SUA (guvern, companii, gospodării) a depășit 300% față de PIB. Exacerbarea speculațiilor imobiliare a condus și la finanțarea ipotecilor cu risc ridicat (faimoasele subprime mortgages). Principalele bănci centrale, sesizând (cu întârziere) amplificarea alarmantă a creditelor „neperformante” (fiind bazate mai ales pe ipotecile subprime), au încercat – începând cu Sistemul Federal de Rezerve al SUA – să imprime un caracter restrictiv politicii monetare (ridicând dobânzile). Dar era deja prea târziu: instituțiile financiar-bancare care apelaseră la piața monetar-financiară din SUA pentru obținerea de profituri facile au devenit transmițători ai efectelor spargerii „balonului” speculativ (de la mijlocul anului 2007). În consecință, a apărut adevărul brusc și dur: un număr surprinzător de mare de instituții financiar-bancare au devenit insolvabile, amenințate de spectrul falimentului. Inițial, alocarea de facilități cantitative prin alocarea de fonduri moneter-financiare (quantitative easing – QE) au fost considerate „excepții” de la regula non-intervenției directe a băncilor centrale în economia reală. Nu întâmplător, Grupul celor 7 (G7), reunit la Washington, în octombrie 2008, a luat hotărârea ca băncile centrale, în colaborare cu ministerele de finanțe, să furnizeze concertat lichiditatea „necesară” piețelor financiar-bancare. Dacă „marea recesiune economică” este, în general, delimitată între sem.II 2007 și sem.I 2009, în schimb criza financiară propriu-zisă s-a prelungit pînă spre mijlocul celui de-al doilea deceniu al sec. XXI-lea, expresie a adâncirii rupturii dintre economia nominală și cea reală. In SUA, UE și Japonia au fost activate mai multe „valuri” de facilități cantitative, dar cu rezultate modeste (mai ales în zona euro și în Japonia care deja se afla într-o stare de malaise, încă din anii 1990). Schimbarea radicală a menirii și rolului politicii monetare a primit denumirea de politică monetară neconvențională sau politica monetară non-standard, gândită inițial ca un set de măsuri excepționale pentru o perioadă strict limitată. Dar s-a dovedit că, după câțiva ani, politica monetară non-standrd, caracterizată prin „injecții” monetar-financiare periodice, a devenit un drog pentru economia statelor occidentale dezvoltate (în lucrare este analizat detaliat acest proces). Mai mult, acest tip de politică monetară a favorizat menținerea și, în anumite cazuri, amplificarea nivelului îndatorării. Astfel, la peste un deceniu de la marea criză financiară,
procesul de dez-îndatorare nu s-a mai realizat (la nivel global), iar ratele dobânzilor politicii monetare au crescut cu totul simbolic, pentru ca la scurt timp să scadă din nou. In aceste condiții, următoarea recesiune sau, mai probabil, următoarea criză economico-financiară (declanșată deja în 2019/20) va putea fi contracarată sau cel puțin atenuată mai greu prin instrumentele tradiționale ale politicilor macroeconomice, ca și prin cele specifice politicii non-standard (de până în prezent). Folosind metodologia evoluției ciclice a vieții economico-sociale, îmbinând ciclul decenal cu cel semisecular, într-un studiu publicat în 2011, am considerat că viitoarea criză ciclică se va declanșa în jurul anului 2020: „ Ciclurile medii se înfășoară de-a lungul fazelor unor cicluri lungi care, pe lângă factorii economico-financiari sunt modelate și de acțiunea unor factori social-politici și tehnologici care reflectă evoluția societății umane la scară planetară. Având în vedere comparația dintre criza izbucnită în 1929/30 și cea declanșată în 2007/08, voi prezenta propria periodizare a ciclurilor lungi (semiseculare). Cicluri lungi în secolele XX / XXI Faze descendente/stagnante
Faze ascendente/ expansionare
1929/30 – 1945/50
1951/52 – 1971/72
1973/74 – 1990/91
1992/93 – 2006/07
2007/08 - 2020*(…) Ca tendință istorică, în jurul punctelor de inflexiune ale ciclurilor lungi (trecerea de la faxele ascendente la cele descendente sau de la cele stagnante/descendente la cele ascendente) au loc, de regulă, evenimente care care stimulează sau fac necesară regândirea și restructurarea modului de organizare și funcționare al corelației dintre economia economia nominală (sistemul monetar/financiar) și economia reală (miezul „geo-magnetic” al economiei mondiale).”8 Astfel autorul cărții are satisfacția confirmării unor anticipări/prognoze formulate în lucrare. Intradevăr, în intervalul 2019/20, s-au înmulțit semnalele de alarmă privind manifestarea unei noi crize economico-financiare, corespunzător fazei descendente a ciclului semisecular.De asemenea, în lucrare se apreciază că „ interesul” pentru emiterea unei noi tranșe a DST se va manifesta odată cu o nouă criză economico-financiară. Si această anticipare este confirmată odată cu acordul Grupului celor 7 (G7), din martie a.c., pentru o nouă emisiune, sub egida FMI, de circa 500 mld. DST (probabil spre mijlocul anului). Dar, de data aceasta, apariția coronavirus – epidemie declașată în China și transformată în pandemie – complică la maximum contracararea fenomenelor de criză, fiind grav afectate atât economia reală cât și cea nominală. De fapt, omenirea începe să se confrunte cu un ecospasm, concept lansat de Alvin Toffler (la mijlocul anilor 1970 – începutul unei importante faze stagnante a ciclului semisecular): „Eco-spasmul sau 8
Prof. Dr. Lucian C. Ionescu, INTERDEPENDENȚA DINTRE ECONOMIA NOMINALĂ ȘI ECONOMIA REALĂ ÎN CONTEXTUL CRIZEI FINANCIARE INTERNAȚIONALE, în UFB REVIEW/REVISTA UFB, Nr.1/2011/ p. 14.
economia spasmodică semnifică o economie aflată în pragul catastrofei, care nu aștepta decât convergența – determinată [mai mult sau mai puțin] de hazard a unor evenimente care nu se mai produseseră simultan...”9 Putem interpreta actuala conjunctură deosebit de dramatică și ca pe un ultimatum dat omenirii de natură și de ciclurile globale pentru a renunța la comportamentul iresponsabil față de planeta Terra, în contextul legilor echilibrului cosmic. Profitul (mai ales de natură speculativă) nu mai poate fi unicul și nici cel mai important criteriu al realizării investițiilor de capital productiv. Restabilirea echilibrului ecologic, educația/învățământul, sănătatea publică, reducerea inegalităților sociale, eliminarea marilor decalaje dintre statele lumii pot oferi șansa depășirii crizei devenite iminente. Despre autor Prof. Dr. Lucian C. Ionescu a fost membru al Consiliului de Administrație al BNR între 1991-98. In 1992, a fost mandatat, de către conducerea BNR și ARB, să înființeze și să coordoneze activitatea unei instituții pentru training profesional și învățământ universitar financiar-bancar. Astfel, a fost creat Institutul Bancar Român (IBR), pe care L.C. Ionescu l-a condus și organizat, îndeplinind funcțiile de Director general, Președinte și Rector. Intre 1993 și 2005, IBR a inclus în structura sa un colegiu bancar universitar și Universitatea Financiar-bancară (UFB).
A. Toffler, Eco-spasme, Ed. Denoel, 1975, p. 100.
Dear Mr. Rector, Professor Costel NEGRICEA, Sincere and warm congratulations on the 30th Anniversary of the RomanianAmerican University, 1991-2021! I wish you good health, further success in the sacred mission of investing wisely in the development of human capital of our homeland, an essential contribution to the achievement of European Romania, a democratic, prosperous country, a loyal ally of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance and a reliable contributor to the universal human good. Eliot SOREL, MD, DLFAPA Founding Editor in Chief Global Mental Health and Psychiatry Review Clinical Professor Global Health, Health Policy & Management, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences School of Medicine & School of Public Health The George Washington University Founder Conflict Management Section World Psychiatric Association Washington, D.C.