Image Credit: futureretail

Digitizing the Retail Experience

As Consumers become more demanding, and expect the digital world to pervade in to all touch-points of their life, brick and mortar retail stores are no exception. There is rapid proliferation of technology in retail, as stores want to bridge the gap between digital and physical. This is done by building Omni-channel strategies, delightful and engaging customer experience to position themselves with differentiated and seamless customer experience or offering. The growth of online commerce has put a lid on the potential of physical stores, and in order to ramp up their attractiveness, retail stores are experimenting with digital solutions. However, innovations in retail is speeding up in majority of leading brick and mortar retail chains, as in the virtual retail space. Technology in retail is disrupting how traditional retail chains function; from sourcing, inventory and transactions to marketing and brand positioning.

As per Gartner survey in 2016, 30% of the retailers are planning to up their retail spending by more than 5%, and a higher proportion of it is driven towards consumer awareness, personalisation, and promotions. There is a rapid growth of new innovations which makes the consumer experience more seamless and delightful. A lot of start-ups are emerging to grab the opportunity and bridge the gap between digital and physical world. The solutions can be segmented based on the Target users offering (employees, customers, both), Location offering (delivered in-store, online or cross-channel), and Time of purchase (Pre-purchase, Purchase and Post-purchase). About USD 4 Bn was invested in retail tech starting from 2010, with USD 850 Mn invested in 2015. Payments, Analytics and Engagement have seen the maximum funding in this space. Leading retail chains like Walmart, Target, Tesco and Nordstorm are creating retail innovation labs and venture investment arms, to harness breakthrough technologies, in order to compete with virtual e-commerce players like Amazon, e-bay and Alibaba. Walmart has gone at higher levels in creating a social genome project to create targeting marketing and customer engagement using semantic analysis

Let us look at my categorized snapshot on key technologies leveraged by Retail Chains in the below table:

RetailTech Development Cycle

Most of the retail tech offerings have been proven and established in the ecosystem, which have been adopted by all the leading retailers. Hence for a retailer to differentiate themselves and offer a seamless experience for customers, they have to tread the uncharted territory with caution and invest in emerging technologies to reap greater returns. Today’s retailers cannot stay away from tech innovations, and in order to survive, they have to differentiate themselves, position their brand, micro-target and engage the customers. It is to be noted that the consumer never stays in the same place and the world evolves constantly.

True to the statement by Lewis Caroll -“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”.

Retailers get left behind and disappear if they do not run; Retain the place if they run; Succeed if they run faster.

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