Significance of IT in Retail in today's technology-oriented market space

To make retailing stand true to customer expectations, technology is pioneering the operational efficiencies. There is an overwhelming need for increasing business efficiency, modifying existent processes, swifter decision-making.
Information Technology in Retail
Everything matters to the customer today unlike the mass appeal approach of the 80’s and 90’s. Digitised customers demand more and so there is a constant need for channels to engage them in superior shopping experience. Now, it does not end at shopping. What if the customer is unhappy with the purchase? The returns arrangement is equally vital and simplified for the customer.
To make retailing stand true to customer expectations, technology is pioneering the operational efficiencies. There is an overwhelming need for increasing business efficiency, modifying existent processes, swifter decision-making based on business intelligence, real-time inventory replenishment, and above all collaboration and communication across the value chain. This is not a bucket list. Technology is pervasive in everyday functioning of the retail industry.
 
Omni-channel: Current Retail wave
Omni-channel sounds too complex and traditional retailers find it too hot to handle. Given the recent trends, customers are pushing to jettison boundaries between physical and online channels. The New Multi-screen World Study Research conducted by Google reveals that 67 per cent of consumers start shopping on one device and continue on another. This is a clear sign of Omni-channel being not in the future but being right here.
According to global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s Global Retail Development Index (GRDI) 2015 that surveyed 30 countries, India's retail market is expected to grow to $1.3 trillion by 2020 and GDP is expected to grow at 8 per cent over the next three years, making India the world's fastest-growing major developing market. This is a mammoth opportunity for retailers to grow which can be fuelled with the innovative adoption of Omni-channel.
 
Enabling Omni-channel: Orchestrate Transformation
This is challenging for any retailer since every business is unique. Retailers either have their processes, systems and infrastructure in place or lack digital presence. But, they are working in silos. Omni-channel has to be ubiquitous technology. How retailers can enable Omnichannel that is befitting?
 
1. Similar assortment across channels
All shopping channels should work from the same data of products, prices, and promotions. It wouldn’t work if they have a separate data for in-store, e-commerce and mobile. For example, a customer searches for a product on mobile and adds it to the shopping cart, and then visits the same store website again using a laptop, the products on the shopping cart are still there. This is synchronised shopping cart experience.
 
2. Accurate inventory levels
Conventional retail models have inventory in a single location. The inventory data used in-store and online is separate and thus not in-sync with each other. The accuracy of inventory is questionable. Retailers need to know what they have, how long you have had it and when to re-order. However, Omni-channel enables retailers to leverage real time data about inventory and reserve a product from a remote location or even during off business hours. So, the sale is not lost.
 
3. Purchase anywhere deliver/pickup anywhere for the customer
Providing comfort to customers while buying is the way to go ahead. Give them the platform to purchase it via any channel; online or in-store and get it delivered or make provision for any other location pickup. For all this to function smoothly, real-time data on inventory is most crucial along with order management.
 
4. Seamless customer experience across all channels
Retailers’ offerings that are separated and isolated in few channels limits visibility across the various channels obstruct customer shopping experience. With Omni-channel, retailers are in a position to provide accurate information in real-time, irrespective of the channel the customer is using or location of access.
 
5. Reduction in logistics for order fulfillment
In an Omni-channel environment, retailers can avail of different methods such as shipping customer online purchase from store locations to reduce the overall shipping costs. Retailers can also direct customer online orders to unsold store inventory to reduce inventory costs and discounts on unsold merchandise.
 
6. Business Intelligence & Analytics
Today, capturing real-time customer data across all channels is possible. What retailers require to understand is how to utilise this analysed data and gain insights into customer shopping behaviour to offer personalised shopping experience. Decision-making is more precise than by instincts.
 
Leverage Technology: Actualise Omni-channel
In the entire retail ecosystem, the customer behaves in the Omni-channel way. The retailers, be it large stores, brick and mortar stores or eCommerce are functioning as multichannel. The urgency is for a technology solution that makes Omni-channel, a reality. It is also about getting the best out of every solution, resource, inventory and channel the retailer has.
With the right mix of retail management solution, retailers can combat the need for a large and seamless inventory, dramatic increases in online orders, speedy shipping, swift order fulfillment and free shipping and returns. Preparing for tomorrow hints at developing the ability to mass-customise. This will in turn lead to gaining and retaining customers.
 
Authored by: Veena Gowda, Deputy Manager, Marketing, Aspire Systems
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