The 3 I Mantra for New Age Retail

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The retail industry has been a trendsetter in adopting technology and digitization. As a result, the industry has been revolutionized by the disruptions caused due to the influence of advanced technologies. In fact, the evolution of the retail industry still continues as businesses and consumers collaborate over trade to further influence the need for progressive transformation.

As the power is now in the hands of the consumers, they are driving retail businesses to constantly strive towards not only focusing on the customer, but also conceptualizing and creating experiences that customers can relish and cherish. Be it brick-and-mortar or e-commerce retail companies, every business is looking to capture a large chunk of the customers’ attention and wallet. As a consequence, the competition has intensified leading to a situation where retailers have only one way out – perform or perish. In order to stay in the game, retailers must look at the 3 I mantra: integration, intelligence and innovation.

Integration: Today’s shoppers are not ordinary shoppers, they are a new breed of shoppers who demand convenience and want speed. Moreover, they want to be associated with retail brands that are tech savvy like them and have more than one channel for interacting and shopping. These new breed of shoppers are ‘omni-channel’ shoppers. Thus retailers need to integrate their channels, operations and processes to be able to provide that omni-channel shopping experience that can leave a mark on the customer.

Intelligence: Again drawing inspiration from the customers, retail businesses need to be ready and prepared for their customer who is equipped with information that allows them to make smart and better decisions. In order to better understand the customer, retail companies must capture as much data as possible about their customer and have the data about their product and service offerings along with the knowledge of their operations and processes. Having this comprehensive information, retail owners must derive the intelligence from the data and use it to enhance their business.

Innovation: Every modern day consumer is attracted to new advancements that happen in the market – be it products, services or offerings. The lesson to learn from this is that retail brands must constantly seek to innovate. They must always look out for new ways to create shopping experiences that are unique and innovative. Using innovation – right from production to packaging and marketing of the products, to sales and post sales services, throughout the entire shopping experience will definitely appeal to consumers and will make them crave for more.

Retail businesses seeking to do something new and unique in their space must equip their business with the right retail technology that enables integration, provides intelligence and aids innovation.

Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail – Self-checkout Kiosks

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IoT has emerged as an undisputed hero of the retail sector. From smart shelves to AR-enabled mirrors, IoT has taken retail by storm. It has not only reaped benefits for the retailers, but also has been successful in providing an enthralling shopping experience to the customers.

Smart shelves have already revolutionized the way retailers assort their products without having an adverse impact on their bottom lines. Another exciting offering from IoT is self-checkout kiosks. To put it simply, self-checkout kiosks help customers pay for their purchases without human intervention through digital means. In its most basic form, it can be thought of as an upgrade to the snack vending machine, but in reality, it is much more than that.

Self-checkout kiosks have evolved tremendously in the last decade. Many retailers use them to solve various issues related to billing such as long queues, cash management, RFID tag tracking among others. They have not been restrained to just being giant bulky machines that are capable of handling transactions. Nowadays, retailers can also provide mobile application based payments through QR code embedded on the products, contactless payments or such other means. This application enables customers to check out as and when they want instead of waiting for their turn in a queue. Though not exactly a kiosk, it enables self-checkout quite effectively.

Retailers have also come up with some really user-friendly LED touchscreen panels, which help customers make their purchase in a hassle-free manner while having a memorable shopping experience. These interactive kiosks are capable of handling multiple payment modes and can also keep track of the customers’ previous purchases and preferred promotions using an intelligent algorithm.

However, the problem associated with self-checkout kiosks is products being stolen. This can be taken care of by using smart shelves or by attaching efficient RFID tags, which would impel customers to put their products on the RFID remover once they are done with the payment, thus ensuring the safety of the products. Also, some customers might find them difficult to use, this issue can be resolved by installing LED touchscreen kiosks or by using mobile applications as explained earlier.

IoT is here to stay. It helps retailers to embark upon a journey that is both exciting and beneficial for them. It is the prerogative of the retailers to incorporate such smart technologies in their business operations to enhance their bottom line while providing the customers with a hassle-free and exciting shopping experience. Long live innovation! Long live retail!

The Omni Channel Connect

Your omni channel presence, and not just your product, makes or breaks your brand image today. Market reports estimate online and web-influenced retail sales (US) to reach $1.8 trillion by 2017, showing sustainable growth from the $1.3 trillion mark in 2013.

The Omni channel adoption and conversion will continue to grow as customers embrace emerging technology and its multiple access points. These same customers will expect even faster response time, regardless of how and when they connect with your store. The emergent ‘show rooming’ trend also shows us that consumers still wish to “go out shopping” and value quality brand experience within the retail store. The only difference is that the retail store needs to shed its physical limitations and further contact, communicate, engage and convert customers across multiple channels, as per their convenience. This strategy hits the mark in terms of keeping customers happy, increasing acquisition volumes and reaching closer to the projected business growth. For example, large brick and mortar retailers like Macy’s and Best Buy are adopting omni-channel technology to stay connected and relevant to their growing customer base. Macy’s encourages shoppers to scan products via the retailer’s mobile app while shopping in the stores. Its annual digital plan focuses heavily on mobile and seeks to “close the gap between store, desktop and mobile.” After Best Buy lost $1.2 billion during 2012, the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer looked like it was headed towards oblivion. Its turnaround happened post the decision to invest in omni-channel innovations that reached customers wherever they are—in a store, online or via their phones—and use technology to turn costly physical stores into an advantage.

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The advantages of Omni channel are many but the most prominent of the same are as follows:

Brand Connect – Technology has intertwined with our lives and formed the core of how we relate to things and people, including brands. Most of us are always online and “connected” through smart mobile devices. According to Forrester Research, mobile payments will amount to nearly $90 billion in the coming years. This is largely due to the fact that an impactful omni presence will help brands capture the most coveted real estate in retail – the customer’s mind. According to global reports, mobile phone penetration will rise up to 69.4% of the global population, in 2017. As smartphones and tablets continue to become cheaper and 3G and 4G networks more approachable with enhanced security, mobile wallets and captivating additions like wearable technology and new age applications etc. the hyper speed upward trajectory of m-commerce shall remain on track.

Social Network – The above point lends itself to the social network invasion. When brands create an engaging niche for themselves in the popular social networks, they gain much more than possible customer conversions. This platform has become a dialogue center between companies or brands and the enormous and growing number of people on the network. Companies are exposed to real-time problems, perceptions and potential of their products, programs and services. This is invaluable first-hand data that not only bolsters their databanks but also helps retailers with insights unblemished by process churns. The right steps undertaken thus to create a better brand experience shall result in favorable reviews and improved brand equity. Positive word-of-mouth will also lead to desired revenue generation and customer loyalty.

Target Marketing – Omni channel marketing allows highly targeted approach towards introducing brand products, services and company USPs, inducing interest to understand and then buy or recognize the same. Business Intelligence and integrated CRM technology provides retailers the information regarding customers and prospects preferences, needs and desires. Analytical computing takes into consideration various factors like socio-economic and demographical components to fine-tune the learnings. Now that you have the ‘what’, Omni channel paves the next step with the ‘how’ at this juncture. How do we personalize our offerings through the marketing channels most frequented to encourage or incite positive buying behavior? This customized experience is becoming the norm in both B2B and B2C enterprises where the marketing strategies are created to implant a familiar and relationship based communication with customers, prospect and suspects.

The crystal ball shows Omni-channel technology to carry on putting enterprises on the map and level the global playing field of retail.

Demand And Supply – The Balance Act Of Retail

Historically, the retail market has often run scarlet with a string of skewed trajectories, to favor either demand or supply. And as with any unsteady, volatile relationship, it has remarkably rebounded from one side to the other, with major economic implications. The most weathered and prominent page from the book of market misadventures would be the period of the Great Depression in U.S.A between 1929 and 1930.  An overconfident market outlook without airtight economic policies lead to a swift and sudden stock market crash. The abundance of manufactured goods and materials with little or no demand led to investment prudence born from panic.

This led to the makings of the very first economic bubble the country had ever experienced. The market crash exposed its anemic financial composition and ensured that the public’s investments were washed-out by the federal banks.

The universal and most basic theories of demand is what determined World War II playing a crucial role in U.S.A’s recovery. The ongoing war and its increasing scale induced a large amount of government expenditure being routed in manufacturing of military weapons and technology. It also helped mobilize manpower, creating more jobs and rekindling the economy. Before the American entry in the war, its market once again stabilized with defense spending and military deployment, satisfying global demand and thus obliterating the last traces of the Depression. The U.S. went on to experience the greatest industrial and economic boom till date, growing by 37% in 1950s.

The above example represents the purpose and tumultuous two-sided effects of the proverbial coin. In this case, the coin would be the retail market and its consumers, the two sides are demand and supply. It teaches us the perils of flying blind without understanding the consumer motivation to satisfy his need and desire. On the other hand, it reminds us that strategically developing supply channels can swiftly turn the tide in your favor, leaving competition panting leagues behind you.

The deep penetrative expansion of the global market, producing varied product / service options from different geographies, has rendered today’s retail business to be more customer-centric. For retailers, the necessity to adopt and apply technology has magnified multi-fold. It arms them with the right Business Intelligence (BI) to easily capture and read complex customer data. This information is further broken down and analyzed to asses various customer behavioral, conditional and economical patterns and potential.

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It helps them determine accurately the DEMAND:

  • What are his customers buying?
  • When and how much are they buying?
  • Why are they buying and for whom?
  • What are they buying from competition and why?
  • When will they come back to the store and for what?
  • What are their product preferences and how receptive they are to product modification?
  • What is the present and future wallet size of the customer?
  • What are the new customer demographics that can be targeted?
  • What promotions strategies and channels work for my business?

 

Basis the answers derived from the questions above, the retailer can optimize resources and his SUPPLY chain:

  • How many product lines will he need to manufacture/source in the upcoming season/cycle?
  • Which are the best vendors for particular materials or project?
  • What should be his pricing strategy and how best should he plan the mark-downs?
  • How much is the old stock and how soon can it be processed or sold?
  • How much is the dead stock and how best to utilize it?
  • Which are the fast moving locations and how many distributors will suffice?
  • When, how, where to restock at store, warehouse level?

Retailers can themselves or through expert buying teams amalgamate the science of determining economy growth, government policies, sanctions and market growth, risks and recovery methods with the art of understanding customer’s motivation, aspirations, likes, dislikes, future needs and market trends.

Proven to be the catalyst of this process – ETP V5 Retail Software Solutions successfully establish the balance between the demand and supply of a retail business. These can be implemented comprehensively or modularly, in premise or on the cloud, on virtually all platforms. This makes it easier to integrate the right Business Intelligence tools that optimize present and future market conditions, with respect to customers and competition both. ETP V5 Retail Solutions help retailers get it right in retail with stable, scalable innovations that drive operational excellence and increase profitable growth.