‘Hope is like a miracle that gives you a new tomorrow’. Hope, to wake up each day, a little further from the standstill, to crawl, walk or tread in search of a better future is what the new normal has been for all. Back in March 2020 it looked like a distant dream to have a vaccine in next 12 – 18 months & today it is a reality, which is aiding life to Return to Normalcy.
The festive period ensured that the country at large saw a surge in the economic activity and things are looking like it is getting back on track. The traction in a few industries have already gone past the Pre-COVID numbers. The optimism is backed by liquidity in the market and a resumption in the consumption level.
As the saying goes, you learn with time – Year 2020 has certainly ensured that a lot many lessons are learnt. Businesses have zeroed into focus on efficiency at all level to ensure that there is a smooth sail in the course ahead.
Most businesses would have to restructure their operating module to ensure that they stay relevant. Retail particularly has been fast changing the workings. What started about a decade and a half ago with the advent of the modern retail would continue to evolve. The cost based model of convenience is now moving towards frictionless buying. Consumer expectations are at an all-time high and the margin of error is at an all-time low. Retailers have to be cautious of their offering and deliverables. Consumer experience is no longer restricted to a good customer service.
The efficiency of business is mapped to cyclical working, moving away from the price offering which may not be a sustainable option. To focus on delivering value proposition by product options, timely delivery at the right price is the way forward. The ultimate goal is to win the customers’ confidence so that the consumption sees an upward trend.
Being disciplined and maintaining an optimized portfolio of offering the products that are core to the business and pertinence is a route to efficiency. Being agile and proactive towards the behavioral changes in the market alongside value creation is important for effectiveness too.
Increased desire for safety would cost the retailer from cleaning to sanitizing, from training to the structural changes on the floor. The cost of operations have gone up, thereby making it imperative for the increased return / SFT and efficiency. Maintaining operational efficiency on manpower or the inventory planning would be the crux for competency.
Embracing digital and operating on an Omnichannel approach is the need of the hour. What is also important is working on the effectiveness of the processes. Staying connected to customer and a constant communication is important to reciprocate and cater to their need and requirements.
Focus on the self-service model would be the key, and we could see most retailers would stray into the DIY operations. However, the ‘people first’ approach would be important to continue establishing the connect with the customers. This could be introduced through technology for a frictionless and convenient buying module ensuring efficiency.
The world is increasingly moving towards the online business, offering to stay connected with a larger audience, and thus the multichannel approach for a convenient shopping is the New Business Charter. The shift to online is gradual, with an offline connect i.e., Click & Collect program.
The latest reports published by National Statistical Office (NSO) on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) already shows that the country has recovered from a -24% to a -7.5% in Q2 of the FY. Also, India’s Forex has increased to an all-time high of $575.3 Bn. These statistics have positively impacted the sentiments and we are sure to see an upswing reflecting on the performance and investments into the markets by individuals and the FII.
Social commerce would be the new e-commerce which has put up a stellar show during the FY with a surge in the first-time online shoppers. Companies have reported up to 200% growth in revenue. Needless to say, that the new normal is happening online. Most brands have revamped their digital strategy introducing digital stores coupled up by the initiatives by the e-commerce players who onboarded Offline retailers at a faster pace to facilitate numbers. Increase in the speed of doing business would continue to be the key in times ahead.
Most retailers are working closely, to tap on the new trends and imbibe them to maximize their throughput and stay relevant.
- Machine Learning: Introducing Machine Learning into the business is important to read and interpret data and make decisions based on the numbers showcased. AI is gradually becoming an intrinsic part of business plan, assisting decision making to project SKU selection, replenishments by colour, price, size or during specific schedule.
- Augmented Shopping: Most business treated augmented reality as differentiator in offering on the floor shopping experience but with the change in time. Virtual Fitting Rooms have become an essential requisite for a frictionless shopping experience in today’s world. The technology is allowing the retailers to allow the customers touch and feel the garments and experience the look of it virtually.
- Data science-based consumer interaction: Gone are the days when a common information was applicable to all, it’s the age of personalization and the customers are seeking attention for themselves. Thus, most businesses are using data interpretation software to communicate with its customers.
- Personalisation: Shopping assistants are no longer restricted to luxury stores and most retailers are now working hard to ensure that the walk-ins are tapped in to maximise the average bill value. The customers are now looking for a showcase of product portfolio which are personalized, matching their profile.
- Contactless & Staff Free Store: Retailers are cutting down on all human interactions for their customers, whereby enabling the product selection, purchase, packaging & payment is all done through a frictionless module. Amazon were the pioneers trying the concept about 4 years ago with their Amazon go stores. Most retailers are taking a plunge; the latest to announce this was Big Basket where they plan to launch cashless, cashier-less stores in Bangalore.
- Voice Commerce: Touted to be the next big segment being tapped on priority even by the e-commerce players is one of the most sought-after trends. This is in lines towards convenience shopping.
- Robotics: The world has seen robotics being used for cleaning, clearing, shelf-audits and stock counting limited to e-commerce stores. This is being fast adapted by the offline retailers too.
- Dark Stores: Largely being adopted by the F&B retailers to cater to the marketplace, dark store is the way to go. This is largely an operation where the supplies are not from prime properties.
Focusing on Social Commerce induced through consumer engagement would hold key for a sustainable working. Most retailers are moving away from the price offering which may not be able to hold for long. Rise of subscription model is another business architecture which would see a constant rise in days to come.
Things are looking better and with the news of vaccine to be available soon, it has infused positivity into the markets and this reflects the sentiments in the quantum jump with most businesses reaching pre-COVID sales numbers.