The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With Michael Jaszczyk of GK Software USA

Fotis Georgiadis
Sep 8, 2020 · 6 min read

…Eliminating the distinction between purely eCommerce and purely brick and mortar retail. Successful retailers of the future will combine the benefits of both.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Jaszczyk.

Michael Jaszczyk is the CEO of GK Software USA, where he works to maintain and enhance the company’s global reputation as the supplier of one of the most innovative and complete retail software platforms and suite of services. He draws on an extensive wealth of experience, both in software development for the retail sector and as a manager at international IT companies, including MCRL AG, Pironet AG and SA2 Retail AG. GK Software provides a future-proof foundation to support retailers’ customer engagement strategies.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My first job, after having worked with computers already for 12 years, was with a large furniture retailer. Although I was hired as a programmer, I had to work in every department for three months: sales, accounting, marketing, the distribution center, etc. Having to do many processes triggered my passion to optimize retail with technology.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

In 2003, I was part of the Metro Group future store initiative. This was essentially the first future store in retail. Within three years, we saw more than 200,000 visitors from around the world. My company provided the software to integrate the store’s features, such as computers mounted on the shopping carts (which is now essentially what Amazon is doing), kiosks with projectors that would show an item’s specific location on the aisle, and RFID. Essentially, my career here showed me what the future of retail can really be, and how it’s all centered around a customer’s experience.

Funnily, Claudia Schiffer, a German model, attended the grand opening of the store, which aired on TV. However, something had gone wrong overnight and all the prices were displayed as $0. So, while they were in the store, I was in the data center fixing the touchpoints!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

My mistake is not necessarily funny, but it taught me to be very careful with anything I do. When I began working in IT, I worked for a furniture chain, and they had about 50 large stores connected to the data center. I was working as an intern one Saturday, and no one else on my team was around — but Saturdays were often busy for us.

While I was printing out revenue reports, we received an error message on the mainframe computer. One store called and said the cash registers weren’t working. No one had told me what to do in this type of situation, so I grabbed a manual for the mainframe and found a command. Turns out the mainframe shut down communications with all stores, and it took two hours to come back online, resulting in a massive loss of sales.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

As a result of COVID-19, we launched an app called GetMyGoods that enables simple grocery ordering and pickup while ensuring the protection of everyone involved. While many retailers without buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS) services would have to work for months to integrate these services with their existing technology, our app is designed to provide retailers a way to instantly deploy. That way, retailers are able to focus on ensuring their customers can safely get the products they need.

GetMyGooods is built on the idea that consumer behavior is changing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the adoption of contactless retail will accelerate as retailers and shoppers limit exposure to potential carriers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This is true for any job, not just the industry: if you get up in the morning and want to go to work, that means you’re passionate about it. Even though you might be stressed, it’s positive stress. When you wake up and don’t want to go to work because you’re not enthusiastic or it feels like a burden, then you should reconsider your job and seek change.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Rainer Gläß, our global CEO, is always asking for things that are impossible. As a leader, he doesn’t accept no for an answer, and when “no” doesn’t exist in someone’s vocabulary, that is when impossible things do happen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This goes back to the GetMyGooods app. When it comes to the health and safety of employees and shoppers, we don’t want retailers to spend time, energy and money working to enact the safest practices — they should be able to have them instantaneously.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Successful retailers are understanding the importance of being able to do retail anywhere, at any point in time. A few examples of this look like:

  • Eliminating the distinction between purely ecommerce and purely brick and mortar retail. Successful retailers of the future will combine the benefits of both.
  • Adopting more mobile retail capabilities, as it provides the ability to interact with consumers from anywhere in any situation. For example, shoppers can preorder items from their kitchen or their car. Last year’s Black Friday online sales reached $7.4 billion, the second largest online shopping day ever behind 2018’s Cyber Monday, which demonstrates consumer’s demand on this channel.
  • Retailers will become much more mature regarding understanding the technology that’s required for their vertical, and for each type of sale. For example, it doesn’t make sense for grocers to have clienteling solutions that tell shoppers what’s so great about butter or milk. Grocers need solutions that focus on replenishment, convenience, speed and ease of delivery. For apparel retailers, they require technology that supports the social and experiential event that is shopping.
  • More retailers will utilize dark stores — or stores that are used solely as distribution centers. Brick and mortar retailers already have an advantage over Amazon as they have an existing distribution network — with “warehouses” close to consumers — their stores. Dark stores will allow retailers to oversee BOPIS, delivery and last mile processes with more efficiency. Whether completely dark, or utilizing stores as a showroom, physical retailers can meet instant gratification demand of consumers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Grocery stores are the source of 10 percent of U.S. food waste, throwing away 43 billion pounds of food every year. What’s worse is that according to The Food Trust, 50 percent of produce is thrown out while still edible, a shocking statistic considering that 23.5 million Americans lack access to fresh produce.

My dream movement would be a program or company that provides a way for retailers to donate produce that’s nearing its expiration date — instead of throwing it away in the dumpster. There’s obviously a huge disconnect here, and food that is still edible — but don’t necessarily meet a company’s standard — should be available for those who need it most.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn under Michael Jaszczyk.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!