There was a time when consumer behaviour in India was driven by events – and specifically – festivities, like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Makar Sankranti and Christmas used to lure customers into brick and mortar stores and malls. The retail behaviors of the consumers then were based on factors like their budget, their social eco-system, their aspirations and their fashion influences from pop-culture.
Those were simpler times.
Today, Indian retail is in a state of transition. As mobile and internet penetration shoots up to all-time highs — the new generation of shoppers, Indian Gen-Z and millennials, are aware of international trends and expect bespoke shopping experiences at competitive prices. They expect the retailer to know them as well as their local grocer used to. They don’t want to be flooded with thousands of irrelevant products.
Instead, they want shorter wait times, quicker order fulfilment, personalized product recommendations and frictionless checkout experiences. This new generation was brought up in a digital world where they can find multiple options with a click of a button. They are used to Amazon’s seamless shopping experience that combines lightning fast delivery with competitive prices and a massive catalogue.
Does this mean the future of retail in India is online? Should traditional retailers shut shop? This is far from the truth. The future of retail is in leveraging all channels to provide shoppers with incredible and frictionless experiences across channels.
Today, retail is all about Efficiency and Experience.
The narrative about e-commerce taking over physical retail has been proven false by several retailers around the world. Earlier, retail used to be all about the retailer. Today, it is all about the shopper. Big box retailers who stock millions of products from thousands of brands in a huge store and malls with hundreds of dissonant brands are dying simply because they neither offer a great experience nor are they efficient. Instead, intimate experience stores that combine product and related services are thriving. They give the shopper a great reason to visit the store. These experiences make each visit memorable and convert one-time shoppers into loyal customers.
Additionally, many retailers make the mistake of competing with Amazon by copying it. This is destined for failure. A behemoth like Amazon was built over two decades and copying one aspect of their website overnight is simply not enough to compete. Instead, retailers should find their own voice and rise above the crowd with a unique proposition. It is not about having everything for everyone. Instead, retailers should focus on a single vision and stick to it.
Traditional retailers with a wide network of physical stores should work on creating immersive, personalized experiences for shoppers while at the same time, leverage their supply chain network to use these stores as pickup points. Today’s shoppers are looking for brands that have a voice and stand for something. Stores can become the place where shoppers discover what the brand stands for. Brands need to use their existing network to build experiences instead of starting a whole new division for it.
These unified experiences can be achieved only through automation. Automation is the centrepiece to the retail puzzle. Automation not only simplifies work but it also lowers costs, improves scalability, minimizes errors and increases efficiency. Automation democratizes functions, thus reducing dependencies and delays in the pipeline while at the same time ensuring that a constantly improving process is in place. It benefits both the retailer and the customer, allowing a lot more people to access what used to be an exclusive experience which in turn brings a lot more people into the economy.
Intelligent retail automation is now a necessity, not a luxury.
Marketplaces in India should look to offer value-added services instead of competing on price because that is not an effective differentiator anymore. Focus on great experiences and on quality and authenticity. Offer additional services like increased warranty, free installation, etc. and make sure you authorize sellers to assure consumers of authentic products. Consumers are increasingly looking for omnichannel experiences like ordering online and picking up from stores. Marketplaces can tie-up with brands to ensure that this is possible. However, they will not be able to execute these experiences without a unified, real-time view of product data across all channels.
Today, intelligent retail automation is about leveraging the power of data. The amount of data that needs to be processed from even a single shopper with several touchpoints across multiple channels makes automation a necessity, not a luxury. Failure to automate can even lead to retailers missing out on capturing data completely. And in a data-driven economy, this can have dire consequences. There is a constant need to create, use, analyze and distribute data in a timely manner for instant contextual decision making and value creation. This can only be done with automated systems capturing data across different touchpoints and channels.
Retailers today not only need automation to capture data across touchpoints and channels but also need to unify this data to speak in a single voice to the shopper. A shopper should be able to transition seamlessly from online to offline and back online again. This means, the data captured on a website should be available to the sales assistants in-store and the products bought by a customer in-store should be used to improve the recommendations on the website. Data cannot be isolated in silos. It needs to flow both ways and help provide a complete story about each shopper.
With the power of data, intelligent retail automation can completely transform how retail teams function. Automation can completely take care of efficiency, giving retail teams time to think creatively and provide incredible experiences both online and in-store.
When retail truly becomes efficient and experiential, customers can enjoy the thrill and the magic of shopping anywhere, anytime.