The Future of Retail Software is Here: Choudhury
Today, the success of retailers is not only hinged onto a seamless shopping experience, but also, how well they keep a track of their customers. Customers today have more power and choices than ever before, and expect the best user experience both online and offline. With these developments at the background, the retail industry today seems to be at the cusp of both industrial and customer revolution.
Factoring in these series of events, coupled with the swiftly changing environment, the CIOs and CXOs need to walk hand in hand with the technological and operational evolution. Treading on these line-of-thoughts, the CIOs and CXOs today need to focus on changing the business rather than simply running the business, with strong focus on innovation.
"With fragmented analytics, data to action analytics may take several days, causing business loss to the retailers"
Revolutionizing the retail segment, there are some retail players who have already embarked on their journey of evolution. Getting future ready, these retailers are launching newer store formats combined with multiple selling channels viz. Kiosks, Online, and Call Centers etc. These retailers not only have multiple selling channels, but they are also offering seamless shopping experience through every channel, transforming retail organizations into a truly Omni-channel business.
Making an allowance for such evolution, there are certain technological trends that will continue evolving and leading the segment.
Omni Channel customer experience: With each additional channel, managing seamless customer experience across different touch-points becomes more and more difficult.
The disparate systems that operate in their own silos will no longer be preferred and with advancements in handheld devices and network infrastructure, unified systems on the cloud will evolve that will eliminate the need of multiple system integrations. Some of the forward-looking requirements are-
• Single identity across channels
• Unified order management
• Single inventory visibility across stores, warehouses
• Unified promotions, communication strategies and channels
• Unified analytics and insights
O2O (online to offline and vice versa) is an integral part of the Omnichannel strategy. Amazon Go in the US and Myntra’s brand store in India are classic examples of engaging with the customers across channels seamlessly.
Big data for consumers: In the Omni-channel retail world, fragmented analytics will not suffice.
With fragmented analytics, data to action analytics may take several days, causing business loss to the retailers.
In order to reduce time taken to arrive at actions, industry is moving towards predictive and prescriptive analytics with actionable insights from traditional diagnostic analytics For e.g., if the performance of a store is going down and it is less likely to hit the monthly target, the analytics tool should be able to make the store staff aware and suggest several corrective actions to achieve the target.
Serving every order through inventory management: Technology innovations, such as Endless aisle, and in-store Kiosks that allow customers to order products, which are no longer in store, keeps retailers from lose of sale, besides improving the breadth of their inventory. With such technology, out-of-stock situations will become history.
Enabling multifaceted customer payments: Some retailers have now started accepting multi tender, multi-currency, coupons and customer loyalty cards online. They also link verified customers to transactions for efficiency and security. These endeavors by retailers are making payment process more agile and seamless.
Emergence of Artificial Intelligence: AI has a dual role to play in the retail segment, while at one end it gives a deeper understanding of individual customers, on the other end it is also facilitating deeper reasoning of the overall business performance.
To give a better perspective of things, AI at the customer level, aids in offering personalized experience, taking customer engagement to newer heights. This consequently adds to the number of sales and loyalty for retailers. Likewise, at a business performance level, AI technology is enabling retailers to identify the exact reason, hindering better performance, which further aids in better decision-making. With such continuous evolutions, the retail industry is certain to take over leading industries in India, in terms of GDP.
Online vs Brick & Mortar: One of the most common question these days: “who will win the retail battle-ecommerce or the B&M stores?” has divided the entire world with solid arguments on both sides, but we may not have a clear answer or prediction at this point. The future may not have a single winner, but gap between the online and offline is reducing to provide the best of both worlds.
Bringing the two worlds closer: VR and AR on the brands’ web-front and mobile apps give customers an alternative to the offline store’s ‘touch and feel’ experience’. Ability to see store availability of the products on websites, makes the inventory management more efficient- this concept of ‘reverse showrooming’ has seen a rapid growth in recent times especially in large appliances, jewelry, electronics and furniture industry.
In totality, the way forward for the retailer is very clear- Technology. In a generation of the omnipresent consumer, being omnichannel is no more an option, but an imperative need. By focusing on a single channel, retailers stand to lose customers, and without being able to track their own customers they may not be able to provide the personalised shopping experience that today’s consumers demand. This lack of insight may also lead to delayed business decisions. By implementing these technological break throughs in their business, retailers stand to fulfil customer expectations and provide a rich and seamless buying experience irrespective of channels. Retailers also gain from valuable insights that allow them to make informed decisions which result in incremental returns.