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Last Updated : Sep 09, 2019 02:34 PM IST

How Big Data, AI are changing the face of the retail sector

The following article is an initiative of KPMG India and is intended to create awareness among readers

The digital wave that we are witnessing today is keeping retailers on toes. Brands are increasingly focussing on product enhancement, greater visibility, personalisation and resolution to build customer engagement and experience.

With a view to serve a wide range of customers from varied backgrounds, today’s retailers are investing in modern technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), data analysis, Artificial Intelligence (AI), chatbots, and more to provide and give customers what they exactly want, so as to avoid any friction in the purchase journey’s.

Many retailers have already started using these technologies to remain competitive. To share insights and experiences, KPMG in India and CNBC-TV18 organised a panel discussion with experts Harsha Razdan, Partner and Head- Life Sciences and Consumer Markets, KPMG in India; Damodar Mall, CEO-Grocery Retail, Reliance Retail; Jamshed Daboo, Managing Director, Trent Hypermarket; Yash Mishra, Founder & CEO, VoxWeb; and Mukul Bafana, CEO, Arvind Internet.

The insightful discussion saw these experts sharing their viewpoints on the advent and use of modern technology in the retail sector. During the conversation, all experts agreed, that it was important to take note of different customer expectations, especially the millennials.

“Whether you look at offline or online, the consumer needs and desires are by and large evolving or by and large take the same trajectory. What has happened is, with the advent of technology and with the digitisation of the world, the means to fulfil those consumer desires are fast changing. Millennials are born into this new world and because they are born into this new world have experienced a bit of the old world, into this new world, their expectations of retailers, producers leveraging technology to fulfil those needs are much much higher,” said Daboo.

After understanding the customers and their needs, brands are also focussing on hyper-localisation and personalisation. To do so, they also offer heavy discounts to customers, so as to gain brand loyalty in return.

“Stickiness is going to come when there is a trade-off between what I give to you and what you do for me. I strongly believe that. Even to get a person to download an app, you have to give them offers. Nobody is downloading the app until you give them an initial offer to download the app or do something for them. Now that’s not the world you want to live in that you have to give discounts to induce downloads and purchases. The answer truly lies in creating experiences, where the app makes sense i.e. doing something for me and therefore I want to hold on to it. The more you start doing this, the more you have a channel for personalisation and more it creates stickiness,” said Bafana.

As we move forward, this kind of personalisation and brand loyalty can be aided and achieved through data analytics. This is why retailers today are realising that effective and meaningful derivation of data, can empower brands to place their products as per their target audience.

“If you know how to use data smartly and if you know how to use that data, then it really helps. Technology is an enabler across industries even retail. The moment you use technology for product differentiation or to create ease of purchase or ease of identification, then data helps. The retailer has to cherry pick the technology and use it to empower and help with access to product differentiation and ease of purchase,” said Mishra.

With new technologies come a fresh set of challenges for retailers, who keep experimenting with different channels to achieve desired and accurate results.

“The entire change is as much as a challenge as it is an opportunity. It’s exciting because we are simultaneously doing augmented reality pilots, instead of barcode scanning, using imaging for billing at checkout, running these disparate pilots which involve chatbots and therefore learning how Indian consumers start interacting with chatbots. It is challenging because it is an unknown field and there aren’t ready practitioners, who are retailers as well. We are enjoying the process, because I believe from this churn, we are expecting something precious to come out,” said Mall.

Suggesting the way forward to brands, Razdan from KPMG in India, which is celebrating its 25 years of operations in the country, said retailers will have to follow a mix of tech and gut feeling.

“The first thing is we are not the consumer. Don’t overweigh your gut, look at data, look at insights and mix it with your gut to come to an answer. Failure is no harm but don’t overweigh your gut. Look at a good balance of data - qualitative and quantitative.. Look at a frame to look at how you engage with consumers in a meaningful manner. To summarise, I would say there are many brands, everyone wants to put their strategy into reality. The one’s which will succeed are the one’s totally focussed on consumers” said Harsha.

Lastly, we have to understand that technologies that were a mere part of conversation years ago have now become a reality. The onus now lies on the brands on how they will leverage them to remain at the top of their game.

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First Published on Sep 9, 2019 02:26 pm