Technology is revolutionizing the way shoppers select their merchandise in a store. Be it smart fitting rooms which give suggestions based on customer’s preferences or be it iPads in store that allow customers to find a particular product or shop for the sizes, color or designs which are not available in the store, retailers are capitalizing on cutting-edge technology to offer never-before solutions to shoppers.
Retail technology has transcended from an aspiration to an expectation and has wedged itself securely between consumer and experience to create an everyday interface. A plethora of experiences have migrated online and with them, consumers.
While it has definitely made life easier for consumers, retailers in India have spent the better part of the last decade on their heels, reacting to profound changes throughout the sectors of the industry. In such a rapidly evolving digital landscape, it’s not enough for retailers to be looking at how technology innovation is disrupting their businesses but they also need to be gazing into the future to understand and begin planning for the next wave of game-changing technology.
With this thought in mind, Indiaretailing Bureau asked some retail technology bosses and tech solution providers to pick three technology trends that are set to disrupt retail in the next one year (2017). Here’s what they foresee for retail technology in India:
1Anurag Saxena, Country Manager – ICLP India
Mobile Momentum: Mobile payments, coupled with loyalty programme apps, provide the opportunity to deliver value added benefits to customers through a differentiated and valued customer experience. It’s not hard to see why rewards and mobile commerce are so closely linked. More and more retail brands are building loyalty and reward capabilities into their mobile apps and digital platforms.
Geo-targeting will identify customers/members in the vicinity of outlets and target specific offers to drive walk-ins. RFID, beacons will enable differentiated customer experience at the outlet during the shopping experience. The immediacy and ease of use of mobile payments, alongside the enhanced role of the mobile device in day to day life means consumers are far more likely to redeem points and respond to offers at the point of sale, leading to increased return visits and greater brand loyalty overall.
Share of Screen: The customer experience in the future will be about ‘share of screen’ as well as share of wallet. For retailers, the challenge is to ensure that they are top of mind of their customers and that they stay there. This will only be the case if those customers are rewarded and recognised for their interactions with a brand. Consumers are shopping across multiple platforms and devices and brands need to continue to invest in implementing multichannel loyalty strategies that deliver personalized and consistent experiences across them all. Single customer view across online/offline and hence Omni channel experience
Value of Data: Improving customer segmentation through more timely data analytics may be a costly undertaking in the short-term, but will pay dividends in the mid to long-term. Customers are increasingly aware of the worth of their data and companies in all sectors will have to work out the motivators and rewards consumers want for parting with it. Retailers that crunch customer data at an individual level stand to gain considerably as cross-selling products and valuable additions will boost revenues. Consumers will come to value those retail businesses that have a proven track-record with security and will be more willing to share their data in exchange for more personalized services.
2Ranjit Satyanath, CIO, Infiniti Retail
Point Of Sale: No discussion on retail technology can exclude the PoS. But it is hardly new technology, isn’t it? The humble PoS is undergoing a metamorphosis – its very paradigm is changing. First of all the form factor is changing from a clunky space consuming machine to sleek handheld devices. The application itself is now acquiring new super powers.
Today retailers use the PoS in more ways than just ringing up a sale e.g helping customers with features of products, inventory lookup, allowing customers to buy from another store in the chain, tracking shipments, accepting returns of online purchases, facilitating in-store pickup for online purchases etc. Some PoS systems come bundled with CRM functionality, loyalty management and customer analytics. Stores are seen as one of the key advantages that physical retailers hold against their online cousins. A customer who has walked in should not be walking out empty handed. PoS in today’s time is a Point of Service. So it makes sense to take a hard look at the pre-eminent application at the store and consider if it merits an upgrade to keep up with the times.
Read: The 5 technologies that retailers are still waiting for
Chatbots: While it may be some time before Siri can make you coffee, chat bots are already getting traction in a variety of industries. BoTs could well be the next wave of how people choose to interact with machines and transact. Imagine you wanted to buy a Sound Bar. You would either Google it or go to retailer websites for research. What if you could do the same through Whatsapp or your favourite messaging application? More people today choose to live in messenger apps than on social sites. Therefore it stands to reason that business will eventually happen there.
Chatbots are at their core, services that take input and based on machine learning send back a response. These services (BoTs) could reside in your shopping app, website or call centre IVR. BOTs are still work in progress and results are not great (SIRI will agree, right?) but they are quickly getting much better than they were a year ago. Already some of the new generation CRM applications allow users to interact with them using Chatbot services paving the way for more consistent quality and a cost-efficient way of communicating with customers.
Augmented Reality: Pokemon Go has done for augmented reality what Google Glasses could never achieve. Almost overnight AR has gone from fantasy to real. AR is one of the most exciting technologies and the possibilities are virtually limitless.
There are other technologies out there that are gaining traction. Mobile payment is an exciting area. So are IoT, machine learning, and image-based searches. Customers today are spoilt for choice.
Those who tried to differentiate on price are licking their wounds. Product differentiation is difficult to achieve. Retailers, therefore have to differentiate on experience. Friction-less shopping and great store experience are means to this end and technology the not so secret sauce for enabling the former. It is easy to get bogged down with a bunch of technology implementations. Identifying technologies that synergise with one’s business priorities, agile implementation and raising the bar for the competition is what will really define success.
3Sunil Jose, Managing Director, Teradata India Pvt. Ltd.
Big Data & Analytics: Data analytics is the most talked about domain in every sector across the world. Use of analytics has come out as one of the most powerful tools especially for retailers and is being used for a variety of purposes. A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit finds that 78 per cent of the respondents surveyed have seen a positive economic return from investments in data analysis however, only 46 per cent are confident that their firm’s analytical abilities are keeping up with data volumes. Many retailers in India too are adopting analytics but the pace of adoption is quite slow as of now. If applied with vehemence and constructively, 2017 can be a game changer for this sector.
IoT: Intelligent devices—from shipping containers to shopping carts—are already a part of our daily lives and expected to continue to grow at an accelerated pace. The proliferation of connected devices coupled with improved, less-expensive technology platforms and adoption of common standards will only increase the rapid growth of IoT-enabled capabilities across industries. And IOT is going to be the most important of all to disrupt the sector in the following year.
Omnichannel Platform: With retailers focusing on delivering multi-channel experience, Omnichannel analytics is seeing an uptake in the industry. These platforms give retailers the basic information about shoppers. It helps them measure shoppers’ behavior, provide relevant and local retail information, and create an organizational structure than supports an Omnichannel strategy. Leading retailers are rapidly making a shift to this.
4Kiran Komatla, Associate VP-IT, Burger King India Pvt. Ltd
Wearable devices: In 2017, consumers will inevitably begin to integrate wearable connective technology more into their daily lives. Beyond creating a new touch-point for executing transactions and accepting payment, wearable devices will also provide a new channel for targeted promotions, behavioral and location tracking, and customer service. The level of intimacy and personalization will be even greater than that provided by mobile devices, requiring retailers to show even more sensitivity to consumer privacy and comfort.
Connected Stores: Retailers have to transform physical store into “Connected Stores” using seamless fulfillment solutions by providing inventory detail across a retailer’s network of distribution centers, suppliers and stores, making product available to sell through any channel. It also provides a single view of inventory and customer transactions across the retail enterprise, enabling every channel to work together to create a seamless customer experience at backend and at stores by use of digital touch points that attract shoppers and engage them at stores. For this, all-channel retail experience have to be created by integrating all channels of business with customer-facing engagement devices that span conventional point-of-sales (POS), payment gateways to web-based in-store kiosks, tablets, smartphones, PDA’s digital signage and mobile devices.
Social CRM: Social CRMs help retailers to expand their social media presence by interacting with customers in a single dashboard, and in the process gain larger insights on what campaigns work and what tactics to employ to gain a larger customer base. These make the information easy to understand and process which can give retailers a better basis on which to design social media strategies. Many retailers are seeing the benefits of upgrading from traditional CRMs to social CRMs to engage consumers and improve their experience. Social CRMs can determine how effective a social media influence can affect the consumer lifecycle and helps retailers turn inactive consumers into active ones once more.
5Venkat Nott, CEO, Vinculum Group
Product Information Management (PIM): A subset of larger concept called Master Data Management, which helps create reliable views to address critical MDM business requirements, PIM gives the organization an ability to integrate, cleanse, govern, enrich and manage the quality and lifecycle of master data of an organization. These solutions are focused on Product domain.
For a retail/e-commerce enterprise, data comes from across various domain (product, supplier, customer), sources (retail stores, sellers/suppliers, social media, catalogs, departments, online web stores, legacy data pools) and formats ( pics, excel based, pdfs, flat files etc.). This poses a challenge for them to keep a uniformity across internal systems, channels and product catalogs. These problems get further complicated when suppliers or sellers (from a online marketplace perspective) upload their catalogs, pricing & product information rendering the brand helpless in cleansing, managing and controlling this data. With customers expecting convenience while going through the catalogs, this further exacerbates the situation that arise need to provide filtered search results arranged according to customer preferences across hundreds if not thousands of similar products and variants. Thus, PIM solutions help create a single source of channel agnostic, high quality data that helps customers shop better.
B2B and B2C Warehousing: A report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2015 stated that the ecommerce market in India will be worth $220 Bn by 2025. This growth is said to be driven by factors such as young demographic profile, increasing internet penetration and relative better economic performance. Also, according to eMarketer, online retail is estimated to have topped $1.316 Tn in 2014, i.e. 5.9 per cent of the overall retail sales of $22.4 Tn last year.
In a recently released World Bank report of Logistics Performance Index (LPI), India ranked at the 35th position among 160 countries/ranks. This reflects the ease of doing business and a better movement of the goods inside the country as well as a large scope for reliable logistics service providers in many emerging countries. The sector has seen over $500 Mn invested in 2015 by Indian investors alone, with an aim to create third party logistics (3PL) focused on e-commerce fulfillment.
Omnichannel transformation: Today’s shoppers are always connected and want to browse online, research offline, if they please, chat with a sales associate in the store to add to their knowledge, touch and feel the merchandise in the store, pay from an e-wallet, get the purchase delivered home, or get picked up from a nearby store/location, reserved at a location of their choice and enjoy same or near same day delivery. In effect, customers expect convenience in shopping and flexibility in order delivery like never before. In this scenario, OmniChannel is no more an option for Retailers/eTailers. ”Omnipresence” is an immediate imperative.
The technology to enable this Online to offline(O2O) or visa versa transformation already exists; click to collect, reserve and collect, ship from Store (Research online Buy Offline) etc. have long been on the top demands of the shoppers and wishlist of retailers.
The existing IT infrastructure of many companies, however, lacks the flexibility, functionality and completeness of vision. Building blocks for such transformation are integration to multiple online marketplaces, fulfilment companies, enterprise ERPs; achieving single view of inventory across channels and warehouses, powerful order management and returns functionality, consistent product information across catalogs, HQ systems, channels and most importantly a single system to bind this all together as a cohesive unit.
In the very near future, we will not only see more and more brands implementing this to achieve a seamless shopping experience for customers but also leverage new revenue opportunities; increase reach and create customer loyalty.
6Pooraan Jaiswal, CTO, Globus Stores Pvt Ltd.
Omnichannel Retail: Over the last few years, everyone is talking about omni-channel since past few years, but no one is able to close the loop till date, but many retailers are closed to completing it, which in a way will be beneficial for both (retailers and consumers). Customers will enjoy shopping at their own comfort from any device and any part of the world at any time, which also includes smooth returns.
Payment Gateways: We have seen many wallet companies getting banking license, which makes them true financial partner for customers. This makes easy payments reconciliation and finance management for both customers and retails. Now no one has to wait for 7-15 days to get the realization in their account.
Internet Of Things: Internet of things are yet to take off completely, but in coming few years good implementation of IOT will increase customer satisfaction, increase in sales due to personalization of offerings including price, item and other related suggestions.
7Kunal Mehta, General Manager, IT – Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited
Magic Mirror: It was something every Fashion Retailer has secretly lusted after. The very idea of doing away with the trial room and customers swishing away in front of a faux mirror which was actually a screen and trying on virtual apparel for look and fit is beyond cool.
The real life demos did not have the coolness factor of the advertised videos. It also seemed pretty arduous to photograph and vector map every product in stock. This in times when it was a challenge to tally physical stock with system stock. Retailers quickly got real and stopped dreaming about it.
Predictive analytic and customer-centric personalization: Recognising the customer when she entered the store has long been a “holy grail” for retailers. The charm of offering offering customised / personalised services especially to a high value customer is something store associates are keen to look at. In 2017, extending personalized services to them using in-store WIFI, beacons, or even RFID cards can be seen as becoming reality.
IOT: The Internet of Things (IoT) is regarded as a major driver of the third Industrial Revolution. IoT will be a disruptive force in retail operations and companies devising an IoT strategy should put one question at the forefront: Do you want to be a disrupter or the disrupted?