Seldom do we witness a year full of multiple industry disruptions and rarer are the chances to see retail sector doing a boomerang each time whenever the industry analysts got jittery about the market’s state. 2016 was one such year where we saw exponential growth, entry of new players vying with each other to woo the consumers, technology-led market penetration and all what which could easily qualify as the growth drivers for the sector.
This coupled with demonetisation shocker, virtual wars between e-commerce giants and much more. Overall, it was an exciting year for the retail industry as well as the consumer tribe, and a win-win situation for both.
Each year, the industry review make us feel that we have reached the tipping point and then the market evolves, rather, the marketers evolve and we get to see another retail revolution in the making. Same way, while many feels that the market has seen it all, been through all – still, there always are trends boiling in the pot, waiting to redefine the sector dynamics. With technology leading the world into an era where everything ‘futuristic’ is doing a virtual handshake with its existing version, interesting times are ahead for retail sector with innovation paving the path for sectoral growth.
Let us look at couple of major trends and technology advents to watch out for in 2017, which have the potential to revamp the entire industry.
Cash rich to Cashless Economy
While the late evening announcement by the honourable prime minister of our country declaring the majorly circulated currencies as null, left the entire nation stunned, it was the retailer segment which got one of the biggest blows as the decision casted a spell of uncertainty over their revenues overnight. With its own set of pros and cons, the entire move certainly transformed our paper-money dependent nation into a digitally-enabled nation in merely few days, with even local vendors leveraging e-wallets for their setups.
While the businesses have, all been impacted to an extent, the dependence and time-delay associated with cash transactions, are gradually being replaced with swift functioning owing to the cashless transactions. This government initiative will be like a strict trainer pushing all retailers to strategize their sales plan in an all-together new format and utilize sales enablement techniques to ensure their safe survival in these testing times.
E-commerce will finally come of age
E-commerce has been trying to shed the image of a nascent player since many years now. In the wake of recent demonetization, it can be regarded as the saviour and e-payment trendsetter in the realm of retail sector. The rise of ‘cashless deliveries’ was a concept introduced by the e-commerce players and now, be it by enforcement or choice, retailers as well as, the consumers are following the suite.
Another trend which will give a ‘face-lift’ to the e-commerce market is ‘Personalization’. Owing to the age of customization which we are in, retail strategies will see a remarkable shift with the emergence of the concept of ‘Dynamic Shopping Experience’ which adapts to buyer’s behaviour and reactions in real-time.
Customers interacting with Cyborgs
With the fast-paced development in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence, retailers will not remain left out for long when it comes to leveraging the huge bank of customer behaviour analytics and insights which have given birth to artificial intelligence. Unlike the present times, customer interaction with hard-to-identify humanoid IVRs will scale up to intelligent sensors and robots interacting with consumers the moment they enter in the stores. It’s not a far-fetched thought when a humanoid will help a buyer in choosing between two models of a product or two colours of an apparel.
Rise of intelligent selling
Ensuring the perfect product in an online or offline setup has always been a dream for all the merchants. With sensors capturing every inch of buyer reaction from the moment they walk in the store, to the digital tools analysing the buying history of the customer, it will no more be a difficult job for systems to predict the probable purchase choice. Such dynamic shopping experience provision from retailer’s end wherein technology will be driving consumer experience, will definitely see a rise in the upcoming year.
Dawn of an era of aggregation
With every individual segment formulating the retail space, stepping up their game in order to survive the competition by delivering a holistic experience instead of being a stand-alone expert. For provide a superior customer experience, retailers will have to ensure a mechanism wherein everything ranging from procurement, packaging, delivery to grievance redressal happens in a seamless and quickest possible manner. After all, we have reached a stage wherein we can expect a 1-hour delivery if we talk about groceries or small-scale consumer durables. In order to deliver such an experience, the best segment players will have to team-up and year 2017 will see many such aggregations.
App developers stepping into retailers’ shoes
While smartphones are already great shopping companions enabling the buyers in the purchase cycle, it has great potential for retailers as well. App developers are already working on various models in conjunction with analytics to make it possible for the smart device to give curated information about the nearby stores, deals etc. to the buyer, basis their buying behaviour, interest and probable need mapping. While the technology is already in place and is getting evolved with big data making it full-proof, retailers are still opening-up to this trend. Year 2017 seems to be the year when this trend will catch momentum and when the aforesaid happens, it will truly be a remarkable leap on the path of retail innovation.
There is lot in store for retail as an industry and year 2017 can prove to be major turning point for the entire sector, with technology ushering the market segment in this new year. All what retailers need to do is to upskill their domain expertise with technical know-how and remain relevant in this dynamic era.
This article has been authored by Sunil Munshi, CEO-India,Denave.