Data Analytics: The Next Big Disruptor In Retail

India’s retail space is expected to touch $1 trillion mark by 2020, making it among the fastest growing markets in the world. This combined with the fact that India will have more internet users than the entire population of all G7 countries put together is a clear indication that technology will play a key role in the emergence of retail in the country.

For a country experiencing such transformation, the effective use of technology and data has become a disruptor for businesses and this very trend is set to be a game changer for the retail industry. While Omni-channel retailing has been a buzzword in recent years, the importance of understanding customers and what they want is now at the forefront more than ever before. By gaining meaningful insights into customer preferences and delivering a truly integrated, seamless shopping experience, there is an opportunity for retail businesses to gain footing once again and re-establish consumer interest. A recent study by FICCI, in association with PwC, states that retailers must use analytics to generate in-depth insights across the value chain of their operations.

Here’s how retailers can leverage advanced technology and data analytics to translate their existing business information into profits:

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1. Empower non-analysts (all employees) with data

Traditionally, data was considered an exclusive domain of the technology experts and IT specialists. They were the ones who did all the number crunching and toiled away for several days before presenting a report to business leaders and decision makers. But what about the currency and relevance of the data? This system of data processing and analysis is now questionable as customers are indecisive and their tastes and preferences are evolving real time.

Instead of relying and waiting on a group of experts to churn out useful information from data, retailers should equip their rank and file employees with the skills and knowledge to do so quickly. Gone are the days where data was stored in silos and required long hours to extract and interpret. With the self-service boom, non-analysts can become data experts by leveraging advanced analytics and making use of easy-to-use, interactive visualisations to gain a better understanding of their customers.

Insights from data can now turn into actionable decisions with a few clicks, as data is decluttered quickly and efficiently. The resulting insights can then be used for retailers to allocate their resources efficiently during peak periods, detect outliers to implement the latest promotions, and even make decisions to achieve the most efficient store layout.

Marico, one of India’s leading consumer products and services companies is a recent example of a success story of empowering non-analysts employees with data, the results were significant, as they benefitted from the reduction in inventory days, resulting in-built turnover ratios lead to a better throughput. Business analytics, digital and automation has helped them to transform core operations, improve consumer insights and innovation processes as well as help us take better decisions. They are now planning to implement a ‘Sales Assortment Mix Analytics’ model in south India “as a pilot”, to help the company predict selling and buying patterns across similar territories.

2. Invest in “smart” retail

We have consistently heard of “smart” cities or nations in recent times, but what about “smart” retail? Shopping malls that are future-ready to meet the savvy consumers are now the answer to becoming a shopper’s paradise once again.

Similarly, the retail industry must improve their use of data and technology to keep up with unpredictable trends. With Internet of Things (IoT) devices set to triple by 2020, connectivity has now become a great expectation by consumers. Beacons, Wi-Fi-based sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, and even display screens can be used to track shopper and product movements as well as collect behaviour insights and data from product sales. In fact, products, merchandising displays, and even foot traffic pathways now have sophisticated sensors that collect and relay information for analysis.

With the volume of data growth, there will also be a greater potential to continuously harness actionable insights and improve the accuracy of shopping inventory, resulting in smarter shopping for today’s increasingly smarter consumers.

3. Deliver a seamless shopping experience

There is no doubt that today’s consumers are more educated and digitally savvy. They scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see something they like, Google search for more information, and read forum reviews before making the decision to purchase.

India’s hyper-connected consumers are rapidly entering an era where they expect retailers to provide consistent and unparalleled service across all touch points. From choosing between various channels to being channel agnostic, the Indian consumer has come a long way and is now fast moving towards the Omni channel way of life, according to PwC’s Annual Retail Survey 2016.

So much so that, Indian consumers of today no longer view price as the ultimate driving factor behind online shopping, but as a factor that is just a part of the larger value story. According to the same PwC survey, with 65% of consumers opting for it, convenience now plays a major role in determining the value of online shopping, compared to 31% of consumers who said that it was the price that lured them.

Shoppers are looking for convenience, flexibility, and speed. As such, Omni-channel is the way forward to elevate the overall customer experience. It is essential now to integrate Omnichannel data to gain a holistic view of consumers and to understand and deliver on what they want. Successful retailers must be able to see and understand commerce-channel data, supply-chain data, and customer data all at once.

Moreover, timing is key – retailers should quickly extract data on a customer’s journey, with agile tools that can effectively visualise data, and push out relevant and personalised promotions for their consumers.

A seamless shopping experience is one that starts online and continues consistently offline, creating an intimate relationship and personalised in-store experience for shoppers; one that will make retail irreplaceable.

Anand Ekambaram
Anand is a strategic thinker and business leader with extensive expertise in managing organisations and business units, with a focus on driving profitable growth. He is a dynamic change driver, who works with teams to deliver solutions that create customer value. He has over 20 years of leadership and management experience across diverse geographies and different industry segments including Education, Technology, Enterprise Software and Publishing.

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