New age technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things may appear like mumbo-jumbo to the average customer but these technologies have the power to shape conversations with customers in instances where there may be a limit to the normal human-interface
The Indian retail industry which contributes almost 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is undergoing tectonic changes and is gearing up to attract customers through technology.
Retailers today have to address multiple disruptive technologies and the demanding digital customer who likes to order products and services using more than one touchpoint.
In such a rapidly changing environment, retail marketers are focusing on innovation by launching new store formats along with multiple selling channels such as online, kiosks, mail catalogues and call centres.
Two imperatives of retail business are personalisation and being smart. Personalisation involves understanding customers and then serving them with what they want and where they want.
These technologies help and make it easy for businesses to offer customised solutions and services according to individual preferences.
New age technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, the Internet of Things may appear like mumbo-jumbo to the average customer but these technologies have the power to shape conversations with customers in instances where there may be a limit to the normal human-interface.
For instance, an AI inspired chatbot need not limit itself to the application of delivering digital payments or daftly tackling irate customers. It use spans far, from how a burger chain interacts with its customers - maybe curiously asking for additional toppings of Cheese - to an apparel company conversing about colours, the shape in a product range etc.
According to a Reuters report, Microsoft is working on a technology that will eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, posing a potential challenge to Amazon’s automated grocery shop efforts.
The Redmond-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had discussions with Walmart about a potential collaboration.
Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), drones and advanced analytics, coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) are helping make retail businesses smarter than one can possibly imagine.
Together, they are helping create magic on different touchpoints, gather insights rather than data, and connect with consumers to create something that is meaningful not just for them but also for businesses.
For instance, Croma, the retail store chain driven by the Tatas, has come up with a 'gadgets of desire' store format. The store allows customers to browse and shop through the entire Croma catalogue via multiple interactive screens strategically placed across the store.
“Today, consumers expect to be recognised by retailers when they visit and be given specific offers, deals and services. It is not about retailing anymore, but about me-tailing. This is pushing retailers to give concepts that are much more technologically advanced and are focussed towards individuals,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, Chief Executive Officer, Retailers Association of India at a recent Retail-Technology Conclave held in Mumbai.
“What is smart is a question that has been going through the minds of most retailers as it is also something that many consumers are embracing,” he added.
Addressing retailers at the Re-Tech Conclave Nasscom President Debjani Ghosh, said, “Going forward, we need to see how to transform the brick and mortar store with the application of data science, and how you integrate offline and online, that’s going to be the future. How do retail businesses survive the waves of disruption? Like Jeff Bezos said, 'keep the consumer in the centre of everything you do and you’ll be fine'.”
Even though majority of sales happen in brick and mortar stores, not a lot of them go uninfluenced by technology at one or the other touchpoints. Indian consumers have adopted digital mode and this means that retail being so close to the customer also needs to adopt it.
According to Octane Research Report, 57 percent of retail marketers want to invest in automation through chatbots, 50 percent want to invest in big data tools and analysis, 21 percent in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and 7 percent in the internet of things.Other retail sector stories during the week: