Smart Retail Converting Shop Visitors To Customers

By Dr. Dinesh Chandrasekar, VP, Chief Solutions & Innovation Head, Pactera

Dr. Dinesh Chandrasekar, VP, Chief Solutions & Innovation Head, PacteraIn the past few years the skyrocketing growth of ecommerce has been having a direct impact on the operations of Retail. The shift of the shopping experience, mainly grocery shopping, to digital implies that brick-and-mortar stores will continue to experience mounting pressure.

This is where smart retail steps in. Smart retail is a revolution in retail that has been enabled by a smart device, namely the smartphone. It encompasses smart technologies that provide consumers with a better, faster and smarter shopping experience.

Features of Smart Retail

Smart Retail helps retailers in tracking the customer across the various stages from discovery, interest and study to comparison and ordering, and in improving the overall customer experience. Some of the salient features of Smart Retail include:

• Digitization: Digitization helps retailers in improving their operations by solving challenges such as lack of visibility into inventory in a multi-layered distribution network.

• Internet of Things (IoT): IoT enables retailers to keep track of their inventories, customers, assets and employees thereby improving the supply chain efficiency and in-store experience.

“New Retail pertains to the integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain”

• Immersive Experiences: Smart Retail offers retailers the option of managing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) solutions for experiential marketing and upgrading their in-store and online experiences.

• New Supply Chain: Smart Retail helps in overcoming the challenges in retail supply chain management by monitoring the movement of products across the supply chain with greater accuracy.

Key Components of the Smart Retail Ecosystem

Smart Retail addresses the need of consumers for faster product delivery by integrating the physical and virtual retail worlds. This creates an end-to-end data-linked ecosystem from the product manufacturers to the intermediaries to the final consumers.

Some of the key components of the smart retail ecosystem are as follows.

• Data integration: This includes using the combined data gathered to improve the efficiency of the decision making.

• Social media: Consumers place a high importance on brand recommendations and social media is an ideal platform for product recommendations.

• Predictive analytics: Predictive analytics is helpful in using the pooled data and creating a personalized experience for each consumer along with suggestive selling based on past preferences and purchases.

• Mobile money payment: The use of mobile money has increased exponentially, and stores encourage and facilitate its use with several apps and e-wallets.

• Stores as fulfillment centers: This model allows customers to either pick-up the products in-store or have them delivered home from the store or local warehouse.

Smart Retail in China

Alibaba, China's largest online retailer controlling 80 percent of the Chinese market, has focused on eliminating the boundary between online and offline shopping with the Smart Retail model called ‘New Retail’. New Retail has often been referred as ‘the future of retail’ in China, with grocery stores, supermarkets and malls all upgrading to digital for welcoming the next generation shopping experience.

New Retail pertains to the integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain. Retailers can achieve higher efficiency across their entire product development, operations, marketing and supply chain lifecycle by leveraging New Retail.

Winning with Smart Retail

Some of the Smart Retail solutions that are becoming increasingly popular include smart mirrors, car vending machines, checkout-free stores, store-within-a-store, try before you buy, augmented reality and gaming, etc.

To fully capitalize and make the most of Smart Retail, brands need to take up a systematic approach by incorporating the four steps below. This will enable them to achieve a strong competitive advantage.

1. Identifying new governance principles

Winning brands take into account the end-to-end customer experience by putting customers at the center of their operations. Additionally, they are committed to embedding data and smart technology into their operations.

2. Developing supply chain flexibility and efficiency

Leading brands utilize their comprehensive understanding of consumers to optimize their supply chains. They also make the supply chains flexible enough to adjust to the real-time sales and estimates enabled by AI and other emerging technologies.

3. Personalized marketing and consumer management

The digital ecosystem provides an opportunity to reach and interact with consumers whenever they are online. In addition, collecting data and gaining insights help brands to develop and deliver personalized marketing messages at the appropriate customer touchpoints.

4. Investing in new technology development

New technologies provide the opportunity for brands to boost their operational efficiency and deliver a better customer experience. Brands should assess their digitalization status, set clear digital transformation goals, and work out a clear roadmap and implementation plan.

Not an Overnight Process

Smart Retail is reviving the stagnating offline retail across the world. There are several players who are experimenting with retail transformation initiatives. Smart Retail requires brands to constantly refine and reinvent themselves for new ideas that will define retailing. It is an ongoing transformation journey and does not happen overnight. Winning brands should collaborate with technology partners in creating a seamless customer engagement along with a deliver anywhere, anytime fulfillment for consumers.

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