Retail Redefined – What Lies Ahead

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Written by Sunil Munshi | June 30, 2017 | BW Disrupt

Often touted as one of the most progressive and dynamic of all industry sectors, retail segment has always lived up to this pre-set hype. Every year the crests and troughs caused by industry trends in the retail realm ensure an impact on the country’s economy. After all, accounting for over 10 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and around 8 per cent of the employment, at no cost retail sector can be passed off as a minor segment of the industrial amalgam. In fact, India takes pride in being the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space, this itself is an enough proof point of the impact it holds.

Every year we see a plethora of new trends with few of them making a mark while the rest getting dissipated somewhere in the space-time matrix. The freed-up space is then taken up by new set of trends and that’s how retail remains a sector which is far from obsolescence, how much so ever fast-paced the transformation happens.

Let us look at couple of trends which can be looked upon as the major catalysts in formulating the new avatar of modern retail:

Omnichannel Presence – Taking ubiquity to another level

The line between digital and physical has almost become blurred by now. It is an era where more the touchpoints, merrier the scene for retailers. The ‘anywhere-anytime’ and ‘on-demand’ kind of expectations have pushed even the largest single channel players to explore the other territory/ touchpoints.  The multi-pronged approach of omni channel retail is expected to see an augmented integration of online and brick mortar stores to ensure a ‘beyond seamless’ kind of consumer experience. A holistic adoption of omnichannel route will unlock a huge market potential for retailers and therefore we may see strengthened leverage of sales enablement practices by retailers to perfect the omnichannel strategy.

AI and Analytics – Redefining the rules of the game

Retail landscape unlike a B2B model, churns out tons of data every day. Deriving actionable insights from that data is more like an asset for retailers. Be it widening the customer landscape or defining the sales probability or even increasing the same with the help of targeted actions – AI with Analytics is a conjugation which is a hard case for retailers to ignore anymore. Dealing with all the challenges like lack of familiarity or skill gap within the workforce, retailers will be seen working towards leveraging this concoction of data, analytics and AI to create opportunities in regions where even none existed earlier.

IoT – Revolutionising the industry 

Retail, in the end, is a ballgame of excellent consumer experience and therefore, all the elements such as optimising store operations, uncovering newer avenues for revenue etc. becomes the ideal components of industrial wave length with IoT being a facilitator of sorts. IoT adoption is increasing amongst the consumers themselves then how can retailers go about overlooking the adoption of same in retail practices. This upward graph of IoT intake by retailers is expected to see an exponential spike.

VR and AR rejigging the basics

Retailers across the world are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality based sales strategies and that’s just not aimed at easing the customer pain points but for also creating a differentiated and world-class experience for the them. While AR is enhancing the real environment, VR is provisioning a complete immersive experience. Even a test drive is now possible with VR right from the living room couch. The trend is going to see further boom – be it FMCG, Lifestyle, Real estate or even Automotive sector.

‘Internal’ customer management – A need more than a choice

An often-ignored aspect of the retail sector is the sales reps as they keep on bearing the wrath of ignorance while everybody is busy in focusing upon the end consumer. With retailers realising this gap, today we can see multiple brands placing the well-being and training-led holistic development plans as a priority in their sales strategy. This trend of ensuring that the ‘internal customer’ is in a happy selling space, is going to see a further increase with more and more brands joining this wagon of converting their employees into brand ambassadors or brandvocates.

WHAT WE MAY EXPECT

All these trends boil down to couple of prime points, namely:

  • Upping the end-consumer experience
  • Ensuring a glitch-free and robust supply chain management
  • Effective and impactful prospect outreach for marketplace expansion
  • Quick addressal of in-store glitches

All the industry trends are mere channels for achieving these prime indexes. Be it IoT predicting the inventory exhaustion or Analytics prescribing the right time, right place and right people for your next campaign or even AI capturing the buyer reaction in real-time – it can be said that the future of retail has arrived.

Retail, in the basic sense, is a communion of interest between two sects of humans – one is the end consumer and another is your sales force. All these technology applications are just relationship enablers, critical ones though, between these two. Hence, to regard technology as the essence of retail may be a half-baked prognosis which will never present a true picture of retail.

In a nutshell – with the level of technology progress and percolation, rapidly evolving consumer behaviour and increasingly equipped workforce – what lies ahead is indeed a bright future for retail. All these trends will better equip retailers for turning a prospect into a buyer and a buyer into a loyalist, while easing-out the process complexities involved.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house.

To view original article, please visit Retail Redefined – What Lies Ahead at BW Disrupt.

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