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CONVERGENCE SERIES: Episode-2: Resilient & Ready: AI and automation technologies prepare retail for the post-COVID world


The pandemic has forced retail to change gears and look at the customer in a new way. As with the pandemic, major brands started their digital journey that had been on hold for a long period of time. It also changed brands to see customers with different spectrum by making them use AI and different technologies to give them an in-store experience. The post-COVID era is full of digitization and automation which enables a different customer experience.Eventually, brands and retailers stepped into the multiverse with their customers diversifying through innumerable touchpoints. Automation technologies, now more than ever, make a lot of sense for the industry, as they clearly join the dots and make every customer-facing point a seamless experience. Customer engagement, retention, and experience are on top of everyone’s mind. But the approaches are different, oriented with technology.

On Episode 2 of the Convergence series, we talked about how the retail sector is getting prepared for the new automation and AI technology world after things get back to normal. To get the insights, we had an expert from the sector, Mr. Ranjan Sharma, CIO, Bestseller India talk to Satyen Makhija, Partner, KPMG



Pre-COVID vs Post-COVID 

Major companies changed their startergetics in the COVID era, as when the whole world was under lockdown, the mindset of customers have drastically changed that eventually resulted in the retailers to use different methods to attract customers.  Ranjan Sharma said that for his organization there are few changes which have been made, as they already had empowered digital startagetices. He said that COVID could have expedited a few of them in terms of prioritization. The pandemic has pushed us to start the journey with different processes such as supply chain,  and the digital process has become much more important and a lot of investors have started going there and the process has changed for a lot of people.

Change in Customer Behaviour

With brick and mortar stores closing down, the retail sector has emerged with different techniques to give an in-store experience to the customers by enabling automation in their organizations. Rajan Sharma stated this, “ The customer has changed in many ways especially in the fashion space. People love to go to malls and stores, touch and try out clothes and then buy them. It became imperative for them to buy things digitally and it became easier for them to shop by sitting at home and also return items easily. He also added that the adoption of digital commerce became prevalent in Tier-II and III cities and started penetrating in all age groups, not just millennials. Customer behaviour changed, adoption of behaviour changed and mode of making payments also changed, and also opened more opportunities for more retailers and brands as they now had a large audience available which they could service.

Change is the new game 

With major companies starting their digital route, the investment on the new technologies become an issue and to decide which is a need of the hour, keeping in mind which will give a better ROI. Ranjan Sharma said that people started becoming more receptive, people started to become more open to change. They stated that they needed things to try and experiment to see whether they would work or not. The questions around ROI existed, but the whole perspective of looking at ROI has changed; they were not just looking at monetary ROI but looking at the different aspects of it.

Technology Transformation 

Ranjan Sharma spoke about the transformation of his organization, and said you need to have brains in-house and should know what you’re jumping into and know people who are subject matter experts that will drive a change in the organization, but that doesn’t mean you need to do everything in-house. Sharma added that the right set of people was required to drive transformation. You could also partner with different organizations, to find different solutions for different problems. It’s about partnership, not just a vendor-customer relation. One has to create such an environment to create such initiatives in the longer run.