How Technology will make Retail Stores more Meaningful in the E-commerce Age?

Despite hyperbolic growth of e-commerce, 2019 or even the subsequent decade will not witness the death of the physical store

Not many industries in India and the world may have benefitted from digital disruption as much as the retail industry. The fast-growing e-commerce market in the country will touch USD 84 billion in 2021 from USD 24 billion in 2017 on account of a healthy growth in organised retail sector, according to a recent report by Deloitte India and Retail Association of India.  Not only in urban India, but even people in tier 2 and 3 towns as well as smaller villages, are hooked onto shopping on their mobile phones, enjoying the convenience of doorstep delivery, exciting discounts, and tremendous flexibility in modes of payment, and terms of exchange and returns etc.

However, the current trend does not exclude traditional retail stores. In fact, current consensus is that despite hyperbolic growth of e-commerce,2019 or even the subsequent decade will not witness the death of the physical store. Instead, these stores will grow at the same time, being an extension of several e-commerce value propositions, such as order online and pickup/return at store, bookings and services, store location etc. Here’s how the symbiotic relationship between e-commerce and retail stores will flourish in the near future, all thanks to technology.

  1. Book Online, Enjoy at Store: The rising aspirations of middle class means that several recreational and utility services are now going mainstream. Consumers can book services such as beauty treatment, massage, or hair treatment online before they visit the outlet. While consumers save time and hassle, retailers with their own physical stores can plan their resources in advance and deliver a wonderful experience. They can also build a valuable customer database that helps them to drive customised offers and provides consumers new reasons to be back. This helps consumers to have an experiential self-care store trip.
  2. Leverage Marketplace Platforms for Business Growth:Several large online platforms empower smaller retailers, who do not have thcapability to invest in a digital infrastructure, go online and explore a larger customer base. This is done by providing low-code, plug-and-play APIs, which is used in combination of a well-organised store. The marketplace also helps these stores promote their online presence on social and traditional media, push notifications on smartphone, and in several other innovative ways. The result is a win-win situation for both the parties.
  3. Expand the Loyalty Programs: Loyalty programs are no more limited to online purchases. Instead, retail stores in India are betting big on such programs to make a loyal customer base. To make these programs more flexible and effective, these stores can partner with a specialised agency that helps consumers redeem their rewards to indulge in more valuable shopping. In other words, one purchase leads to the other. 
  4. Influencer Marketing is a Rage Today: No brand wants to miss out the influencer marketing wagon to expand its presence. Several Indian retailers are already leveraging the power of an endorsement from the right Instagram celebrity or youtuber to drive online conversions. However, as compared to fil, fashion and several other industries, retailers are still under-utilising the power that influencers have with their fans face-to-face. Going forward, we can expect the trend to pick up play an important role for the retail industry.
  5. Leverage Digital Tools to Enhance the Store Experience: Technologies such as digital kiosks, virtual reality, 3D simulation, and artificial intelligence is helping in-store visitors with easy product discovery and experience. They can see how the product works, where is it located, what is the price and available variations etc. Moreover, consumers enjoy  unique ways deployed by the marketers and may pay a visit just to experience it. The conversations and engagement from these activities has a direct correlation with future store footfall and revenue.
  6. The list is not exhaustive and there will be many more ways technology helps the growth of retail industry. The rise of new India from tier 2 and 3 towns will unlock several exciting opportunities. To make the most of this, retailers need to find a sweet spot between online and in-store deployments. Those who do this in creative and bold ways will have a head start in the race.

The article has been penned down by NishantChoudhary , AVP - Sales and Marketing, Staunch.



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