Visibility drives sales in retail: Wayne Harper
Visibility drives sales in retail: Wayne Harper

Zebra Technologies is offering extensive technology based retail solutions to the Indian retailers while realizing the long term potential of the market with multiple retailers adopting omni-channel route. On the sidelines of Retail Leadership Summit 2016, Wayne Harper, Senior Technical Director, Asia Pacific, Zebra Technologies spoke to 

How do you see the shift in the Indian retail market in terms of technology adoption?
In India there are two things emerging with retailers, first is massive adoption of technology and the second is that e-tailers are doing significantly better similar to offline retailers.
Indian retailers are adopting technology very quickly as they see that return, the IT behind asset visibility is a major improvement. In the last three to four years we are observing that the market is catching up, in some situations its going forward with the adoption of m-commerce and things like Make in India. On the onset of Flipkart, which has revolutionized the online retail in India, I am seeing that the offline and online retailers are going the omni-channel way. With technology, adoption is growing in the market. Earlier it was more of traditional way of selling, but today it’s a race for online presence and earning footfall traffic in online and offline spaces. The good thing is the Indian companies are representing home ground instead of coming from outside India.

If you talk to Reliance, Future Group, Shoppers Stop, Flipkart, they will say that visibility is what helps them. They process the online order on time and keep visibility throughout the process until the product is received by the end consumer.

On what fronts are you working with Indian retailers?
Zebra is very strong in the inventory management. We are working with offline retailers to reduce the buying time of the end customers. We are working towards one- store one-experience in the offline space and that’s basically meant to create same impact online too. We are working with lot of omni-channel retailers to turn their customers to the retail stores after purchasing online, so when consumer purchase online, he/she can collect the goods from offline stores too. 

Our idea is to help retailers and these retailers to help their customers is actually connecting the associates, giving the associates lot more information and actually knowing when consumer does shopping and again comes back to the store knowing what stocks are available.
We are working with all categories of retailers. Grocery retailers are our major contributors along with apparel, hard goods and soft goods. The retailer’s products that can be tracked and bar coded are typically one of our customers. Among the leading one we are working with Reliance Retail, which is revolutionizing the market with the brick and mortar perspective.

You are talking of showrooming, is that shift happening in the Indian market?
Yes, we are seeing that shift is happening. Over the last two years showrooming means people use to walk to the physical stores, browse the products and then buying online, but now we are seeing that the consumer is advancing particularly in the upper end of the Indian market. More multi-national stores are trying to encourage showrooming as they have invested lot of time and lot of money into their real estate and they want people to come and shop while having online buying experience.

Are you customizing the solutions for the Indian retailers?
It is not necessary. Apart from grocery, Indian retailers are very much like the rest of the world retailers. We are trying to work more with the fulfillment and e-tailing, logistic operators to help them fulfill the orders rather than customizing the solutions.

How do you see that retailers are becoming more competent with the logistics and supply chain solutions and in-store experience solutions provided by you?
In-store experience is still emerging. Retailers are becoming competent with the supply chain, back office, receiving inventory control solutions and they are becoming more and more adventurous with in-store ability and that will come with the on ground technology win economies.
The moment India and other places in Asia pacific were seeing growth, the cost of operations were still high, but however cost started exceeding and growth technology came into play. Still in the Indian market lot of focus is on deploying manpower, but however cost goes up with the manpower technology playing important role and that’s where our role starts. Instead of putting more staff, it’s better to invest in technology and the high end retailers have started realizing that.
In India technology is already there, but at the moment it’s more costly. If I look at comparison between Singapore, Australia and India, at the moment manpower is four times higher deployed in Indian stores. We are trying to help retailers instead of employing four staff. We believe in having one person who has more power and tools.

How are you up-scaling yourself to provide innovative solutions?
We are very much in the same way of technology advancement. We have started offering location based solutions and data analytics. We are working with Microsoft, IBM and Accenture for the edge information to know how long somebody is there in the store, knowing his/her previous buying pattern and consumer experience. For this, we have started using technologies like NFC, low energy blue tooth and RFID. We really want to change the offline shopping experience.
We have the information of what retailers across the world are starting to do and we are getting the same query in India. Here retailers ask about how they can make supply chain more efficient. But they don’t need to hold stocks longer so how can they get it to the consumers much quicker? So, to offer the solutions, we are bringing in latest technology, assisted operations, augmented reality, most directed picking, guiding somebody through warehouse through store for shelf price auditing and automated shelf replenishment. High end retailers have to do investment in Internet of Things (IOT).
We are working with Microsoft around data and big (edge) data. Retailers in India don’t think of relevancy of data before using it.

While same store sales are dwindling, how can technology play a pivotal role in increasing it?
We are helping the retailers to increase the same store sales by linking the supply chain and supply chain visibility. We ensure retailers that the stock is available, where it is and how it can radiate the time of buying. With technology to ensure that all the omni-present retailers update their consumers about what’s available in the store next door, so the consumer can collect the particular good from the store. The costumers buying online and then turning up to the store is actually up scaling.

How are you working with retailers to ensure better visibility of their supply chain?
We consult and advise the retailers on how to place the technology. We go for the operation, work with the retailers to ensure that they have full visibility of their supply chain, we even talk to smaller stores. For example, some stores in some regions like Mumbai may not sell certain shoes in certain style, but Bangalore store may do, in these cases we move 50 percent stock of that shoe from Mumbai to Bangalore proactively by using data analytics.
The real challenge comes with the top mom-n-pop stores in tier II and III towns and that’s where we are coming up with specific devices with specific technology. In the middle of this year we are launching the product for loyalty operates.

How do you look at the untapped unorganized retail market in India?
I think that is the biggest market for India. We feel it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the technology moving to them. We think that choice has to be around price point and different supplies. We can bring the technology at a lower price point with the optimum returns.

We are making technology more affordable through our channel partners. We have many partners across all regions and we are actually educating them.

While online sale of the leading offline retailers is still negligent, how are your solutions helping them increase it?
Online retailers have increased their sale as they have capitalized on their supply chain. People in India still unfortunately don’t trust online, compared to Australia where major offline retailers 10 percent of the business comes through online. Therefore we are working with retailers and their supply chain to ensure consumers that their goods are delivered on time. We are offering visibility to the consumers in the process start from the order is being placed and once the order is being picked it goes through a process. In the process we are going through our technology to offer the consumers complete visibility from time of placing the order to time of delivery. This helps in growing sales. The fear is after placing the order online, does the order really go in and am I really going to receive the goods?

What are your future plans?
For Zebra India, last year we achieved our aims and expectations from the Indian market place with the growth across retailer products portfolio. We have long term plans of tapping metro, tier I, II and III retailers across all categories. India is a fourth largest contributor to our growth after China, Australia and New Zealand.

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