The retail industry has undergone a huge transformation in the last couple of years. We have all witnessed the evolution of retailing from small mom-n-pop stores to departmental stores to mega stores in malls. With the increasing globalisation of retailing, technology plays a significant role in not just the management of complex retail operations, but also in enhancing the overall customer experience. These technological developments have vividly transformed the retail landscape.
Today, every buyer is a digital customer, with rapidly rising expectations for quality and omni-presence of a unified and smooth shopping experience across their digital and in-store activities. They have become tech-savvy and adept at regulating their shopping experiences. At the same time, in the present era, technologies encompassing new forms of data analytics are driving better operations and nurturing the level of understanding of customer behaviors. And, the continuous progress of core IT infrastructure is providing the ability to support huge amount of data and the need to access, evaluate and process it in real-time. Let’s look at some of the key technology developments and their impact on the retail sector.
Sales force automation: Every industry in the retail domain has its own nuances to capture. Sales force automation enables real-time capturing and tracking of market information that eventually impacts decision making. It automates the business tasks such as sales processing, reporting, inventory update, real-time tracking with the help of technological tools like GPS/GPRS to monitor the retail executives on the ground. With the retail landscape increasing and given the huge number of manpower being deployed by various organisations to manage the customer demand, sales force automation is a boon for the retail sector.
An extension of the SFA tool being extensively leveraged in the retail industry is On-the-Go Report. As the name suggests, these reports enable anytime access with customized dashboards and information. It takes in account of integrated real-time performance view in the form of customized reports and dashboards for faster decision making through access to real-time market analytics and tracking deviations.
Training: Training through mobile apps is an apt example of technology-enabled platform which acts as an educational as well as engagement tool to empower people through virtual medium. Technology has brought in convenience of access to information and made learning fun and exciting – which extends the opportunities for continued learning, knowledge sharing and information processing.
Leverage technological advancements: There are various new developments in the technology domain that is benefitting the retail industry to combat challenges. For example, one of the biggest challenge in the retail sector beyond tracking and reporting, is also authentication and deployment (of POSM primarily). QR codes not just come to the rescue to encounter these challenges, but also provide various other value additions such as enhancing the experience of promotional materials, supplying information to the customers in the form of content, videos or reviews, linking products to discounts and offers or even to gather important customer information. Leveraging technological advancements can take the customer experience to an all-time high.
Look at Virtual Reality - it is going to completely transform the human experience of shopping in the form of ‘experiential retail’. Interactive kiosks, virtual mirrors, using drones for launches/ promotions, mobile payments, RFID etc. – all these create experiences to drive the woo factor.
Predictive Analytics: With all the new methods of capturing information, there is no dearth of data available to gauge customer behavior and buying patterns. However, extracting intelligence (and sense) out of that data is the real task. With predictive analytics/ big data, technology leverage can help brands in making the right decisions and creating impactful touch points at each step of the customer journey.
Most, if not all, innovative methods to create the ‘wow experience’ for customers are highly dependent on technological innovations. With changing times, it is important for retailers to adapt to the newer and smarter ways of working, else redundancy isn’t far. In the current times of minimal brand loyalty, it takes a lot for brands to sway the customers in their favor. It is no longer sufficient to just compete on price – retailers needs to move beyond and create exciting elements in the whole customer lifecycle. Brands therefore need to be ahead of the curve and embrace technology to create a customer-centric delightful experience.
The articel has been authored by Mr. Sunil Munshi, India- CEO, Denave.