Digital Communication: The Future of Retail Industry

By Subhasish Saha, Chief Technology Officer, Apeejay-Surrendra Group
The retail industry in India has come forth as one of the most dynamic and fast paced industries with several players entering the market. The total concept and idea of shopping has undergone an attention drawing change in terms of format and consumer buying behavior, ushering in a revolution in shopping in India. E-commerce has taken the Indian retail industry by storm in the recent past, with innovative business models emerging, investor interest in the segment growing, operations being streamlined and a plethora of start-ups making a foray into the field. The movement of e-commerce has been the current trend in the retail industry. Earlier, retail majorly included brick and mortar stores; it and was delivered directly in person where people used to give preference to personal touch and feel rather than the convenience. So, people did not mind going to a store and looking at things while shopping. But the trend has changed with time due to various reasons.

One of the major reasons is accessibility which has changed the whole paradigm of the way people look at retail, while the other is the personification of customer experience. Digital communication, which was earlier a drawback, has significantly developed to make every web store available with the help of various smart gadgets. This particular trend chain has brought in new challenges for technologies in the retail segment. With a shift in the trend, and increasing availability of network and gadgets, the challenge on retail companies is to provide a smooth customer experience both online and brick and mortar stores. For example if a customer wishes to buy a book online, he might want to flip through pages and decide on it. Hence, it is important for web stores to provide a similar kind of experience with a clear understanding of the customer’s need.

Integrating the Modifications

Nowadays every retail sector has their loyalty programs that include mobile based CLPs, promotions, activations etc. both in web stores and physical stores. In virtue of these loyalty programs, customers are given loyalty cards (CLP) to get points and redeem points while shopping. Thus, the CLP earned by a customer needs to be available both in stores and web stores. So, the challenges of integration between physical and web store are something that require attention. Apart from this, the intelligence level of ERPs, the way of managing inventories is also becoming better. The basic operation to run inventories and financial accounting thus needs to have a basic ERP in place which will have good support for integration of master data management and transaction controls and the business intelligence.

In a competitive business world, the biggest challenge for a retailer is price competitiveness which has significantly increased. Customers have a choice to buy things from anywhere they want. Purchase competitiveness depends on how well an inventory is managed in terms of number of days, weeks. Holding pattern of inventory also determines the ultimate efficiency of being competitive and for that you need lot of good business intelligence tools.

Providing Personalized Shopping Experiences

Innovation in technology has become important. To address the challenges of personalization and accessibility in terms of website, Oxford Bookstore, a division of Apeejay Surrendra Group, has come up with innovative practices to recognize individual customers and to provide a personalized online shopping experience. Currently in terms of e-commerce, Oxford Bookstore is focusing on refurbishing their website which will be completely integrated with their brick and mortar stores. Also, they are on the verge of finding a good option in terms of making their website mobile enabled.

The company also makes it a point to religiously get inputs from their loyal regular customers. They exchange emails on a time to time basis to take their feedbacks and review them. Also they do a lot of internal brainstorming across departments to find out what is happening externally to prepare them for the next move.

Advancements Affecting Retail Industry

The solution providers in the retail industry are yet to come up with solutions for providing a customer with the similar experiences both, on a technology platform and in a physical format. It is not possible for every retailer to keep on changing methods as the market demands but it is essential to understand the strengths and priorities. For e.g. if any retailer feels that their strength lies with the brick and mortar stores, then they must focus more on it. Retailers need to continuously invest in newer innovations and technology without ignoring the importance of innovations occurring in the e-commerce industry. 

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