This year, Centric Cincinnati once again hosted the University of Cincinnati Case Competition on March 4-5.
In the Case Competition, students at the University of Cincinnati break into teams and take part in a two-day contest where members of our Cincinnati team present a unique business problem to solve. After the presentation of the case, teams have 24 hours to come up with their solution and return the next day to present that solution to a panel of Centric Cincinnati employees.
Centric hosts this competition every year (except last year due to the pandemic) to reach local students and share insight into life as a consultant. This year, most participants in the competition were grad students from the university’s Informational Systems program, and some were from the MBA program.
This year, the case we gave to the teams was particularly relevant, as it dealt with online retail during the pandemic. In this year’s case, the company is known for selling footwear, bags, accessories, and designer jewelry online. Since their founding, they have become a major player in the online retail space.
Due to the pandemic and the increase in online shopping, companies like this have faced a large increase in returns, which has impacted operations within their existing Reverse Logistics Network (RLN).
Therefore, we asked the teams to design a more efficient and effective RLN process and define a sophisticated technology solution to support the process.
After we presented the case, teams had half an hour to develop a few questions for the judges – leaders from Centric Cincinnati who would provide more clarification on the case and needs of the company. After the half hour concluded and the teams gave their questions to the judges, everyone gathered back in the classroom to hear the responses to all the questions.
At the conclusion of the question session, we sent the teams to develop their business cases. Over the course of the next 24 hours, the teams worked tirelessly to create a 20-minute presentation that would be presented to the judges the next day, making sure they fully addressed the given problem.
The next morning, each team had an additional one-hour period to send their presentations to their advisor – a Centric Cincinnati team member not on the judges panel – to read over their solution and make any suggestions before their exposition to the judges later that day. Once teams got feedback from their advisors, only a few hours remained to make any necessary edits to their presentation before turning in their final product.
For four hours, each team gave their 20-minute pitch to the judges and then received questions from the panel during a ten-minute Q&A session. The teams presented a variety of great ideas, but only one team could come out on top.
Once all the presentations concluded, the teams gathered in the business school’s lobby for dinner and to network with the Centric employees involved in the competition. Then, it was time to announce the winners.
Centric Cincinnati’s Kelsey Osborne and Eddie Gady advised this year’s winners. They developed a multi-pronged solution that included improvements to both technology and process.
To reduce the number of returns, the team suggested the development of an app that helps customers purchase shoes in the correct size through their phones, reducing the number of returns due to sizing issues.
Additionally, they proposed an app with AI technology that would scan products to determine if they would be acceptable for returns. This would reduce the time spent in the collection and inspection stage of the RLN process and direct defective products to repairs.
Going along with their technology solution, the team also proposed a solution for a better customer experience while making returns.
Instead of a standard process – request a return, wait for a label, take to the post office, wait to get money back, purchase again — a courier from the company would pick up the product and exchange it for a product in the correct size. So while waiting for their return to process, they would already have the product in the proper sizing. Normally, they would have to wait for the company to ship to them after they send in their return, so the new processes improve the customer experience.
The competition winners received a $2500 cash prize from Centric that was split between the team members.
Overall, the 2022 University of Cincinnati Case Competition was a resounding success and a great return to form after missing a year due to the pandemic. Centric Cincinnati is always excited to meet the next generation of business leaders, and we can’t wait to see what amazing ideas next year’s competition brings!