Retail is a dynamic industry with its own set of multifaceted and diverse business processes and requirements. Retailers today are challenged with addressing multiple disruptive technologies and the demanding “Digital customer” who like to order products and services using more than one touch points at their convenience of location and device. In such a rapidly changing environment, retail CIO/CXOs are expected to drop their ‘Run the business’ strategy hat and wear the ‘Change the business’ one. Today the strong focus is on innovation. There are new store formats being launched along with multiple selling channels such as. online, kiosks, mail catalogues and call center etc. here is a need for Retail organizations to become truly omni-channel by providing seamless shopping experience to the customer no matter what channel, format they use for their shopping.
Keeping innovation in mind we think following key emerging trends in retail will continue to dominate retail industry and technology in general.
- Omni channel customer experience
Disruptive technologies (social, mobile, cloud, and analytics) are changing the face of retail today. Being multi-channel retail i.e. adding up new selling channels was the first step in the journey with the focus now being shifted towards becoming Omni-channel.
For a retailer, this calls for bringing in synergy & orchestration across entire business and operational domains and not just technology alone. Omni-channel also means empowering a sales channel to enable more cross channel activities e.g. Click and collect service i.e. buy online and collect in-store, accept customer returns and refunds for products bought online, store kiosk for browsing and payment for products etc.
The mantra is to employ data, make use of inter-connected technology, and add human service element to reach the digital customer.
- Mobility commerce
Use of technology in-store (e.g. web kiosks), and customers own smart phones devices is one of the latest trends. Retailers are using store Wi-Fi, mobile apps, and beacons technology. Also, social media is used to target customers with personalised offers, which can be done using next generation customer analytics. Improvement is underway to payment processes by making them more agile and beat the queues options with mobile PoS, mobile wallet, mobile money to money transfers etc.
- Big data and Customer
Handling the customer data (transactional stores POS data) and web analytics data is already known to retailers until now but data is exponentially grown to become ‘BIG’ with advent of social media. Retailers face major challenge to understand and use this data as majority of it is unstructured. Big data initiatives are used to improve merchandising, supply chain, marketing and promotions, e-commerce, store operations decisions and also to track customer shopping and behavioural analytics. Big data projects include targeting potential customers with offers and also using predictive analytics to predict/suggest products & services.
- Customer delivery proposition
Meet ever increasing customer expectations when it comes to product and service delivery, reduce waiting times @ home by providing real time delivery options/selection of time slots, notification by email, SMS. Provide personalised touch and not just delivery (courier, postal) e.g. Field service management software’s are being used for advance workforce scheduling and route optimisation, introduction of delivery options for various channels i.e. click and collect, premium same day service. Retailers today are busy piloting 1 hour delivery for online shoppers.
- Inventory management & Order fulfilment
Out of stock situations won’t be a case in the future! Endless aisle – improve breadth of assortment by fulfilling order from any inventory location (even store stock!) to stop loss of sale. Integration of 3rd parties into e-commerce channel e.g. Amazon and eBay assortments to use their logistics and supply chain for guaranteed deliveries by using wider distribution network of wholesalers.
- Handling Customer Payments
Accept multi tender, multi-currency, Redeem coupons and customer loyalty cards online. Accept more than one currency in a single transaction. Link verified customers to transactions for efficiency and security. Make payments process more agile and seamless is the key to slicker and quicker online commerce.
- Upgrade e-commerce platforms:
Fulfil future aspirations e.g. payment acceptance – Single click checkout for speedier transactions, integration of PayPal, WorldPay etc. as alternative payment types, introduce more flexibility by improving customer experience, usability etc. Integrate social media with direct business is a new trend. Customer can pin their interests on Pinterest and end up buying immediately.
- Digitalise Data management
Use of tools and software to manage the master data e.g. Product Info management tools, data modelling, product lifecycle management. ‘Single view of customer and product’ data across retail business to bring multi-format order orchestration is the key to multi-channel. Linking customer orders in stores to identify customer on social media is effective to target personalised marketing and promotions.
- Flexible and Agile Supply chain
Improve supply chain business process by making them sleeker and lean, Cross docking, direct delivery to stores, real time delivery, Integration of 3rd party logistics capability, cross functional integration e.g. customer ordering & delivery to stores for pick up. Logistics and all channel order orchestration (online, customer orders, call centre) will be used to provide real time view of orders, inventory, and supplier deliveries by use of cutting edge supply chain optimisation and inventory systems.
10. Stores Improvement
Visual merchandising – store specific assortments, planograms, use of kiosks for browsing product catalogue and payments, use of mobile enterprise systems to access and manage in store customer orders, improved stock management and replenishment, customer order fulfilment desks (click and collect same/next day), tracking of expiry dates (food format) is all part of ‘Store in a box’ concept. Vendor managed Inventory, self-check outs, cross selling e.g. coffee shop selling books and vice versa, advance CRM solution to capture customer co-ordinates, preferences to target personalised marketing & service offerings is the need of the hour.
Gautam Kulkarni, Practice Lead – CPG, Retail, Supply chain & Logistics at Nihilent Technologies