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Taming technological challenges in fashion retail

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Technology, in all its latest avatars – artificial intelligence, big data, internet of things and augmented/virtual reality – is presenting new challenges to fashion retail as much as it is redefining the fundamentals of the industry.
In an industry where Omnichannel – the concept of brick and mortar stores complementing e-Retail and vice-versa – has been a buzzword for a while, there still is a dearth of a powerful and viable strategy to use this idea to deliver better return on investment for e-commerce and brick and mortar retailers alike. There is the challenge that around $10 billion have been invested in e-commerce in the last 4 years but omnichannel hasn’t really come of age, pointed out CEO – Loyalty & Analytics at Future Group, Vinay Bhatia,  while moderating a panel on building a truly synergistic and powerful Omnichannel strategy at India Fashion Forum 2017.
Head – New Digital Businesses, Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail, Shivanandan Pare, said, “Omnichannel would mean catering to the customer’s ability to be able to buy anywhere and everywhere and taking a single view of the customer and inventory.”
He highlighted the fact that a lot of customers came from Tier III and Tier IV cities, where their numbers might not be huge enough to warrant opening a physical store but other alternative channels such as online (thanks to higher internet penetration because of affordable schemes such as Reliance Jio’s free plans) could help them capture those markets.
Incidentally, according to a Kantar IMRB study cited by MD – Media, Digital & Chief Strategy Officer at Kantar IMRB, Hemant Mehta, almost 60% of menswear buyers are from towns with a population below 10 lakhs with average spends and frequency comparable to Metros and Tier II cities. But this burgeoning potential market creates challenges for the supply chain.
To successfully serve Omnichannel demand, optimal inventory management was key, according to MD of Florence Shoes, Aqeel Ahmed, which is launching the French brand GUY Laroche in India. Returns and reverse logistics (handling products returned or exchanged) create problems in the supply chain for most eCommerce merchants.
The answer to tackling these issues is to be able to amalgamate all channels — offline or online — seamlessly, according to Pare, who added that the internet and technology can iron out inefficiencies.

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