The digitisation wave has swept through the retail sector upending many functions such as supply chain operations across the globe wherein drones are closing the last-mile gap. In-store experiences are getting digitised and automated too — take Seattle’s Amazon Go for example — which totally phased out cashiers. Now, Indian retailers, like Shopper’s Stop, Reliance Retail and Aditya Birla retail are also experimenting with cutting-edge technologies like AI, robotics and cognitive technologies to build a seamless interface for customers.
According to a Harvard Business Review research, retailers who are able to provide an omnichannel shopping experience to their customers are likely to increase their return on investment by over eight times and also increase their sales exponentially. According to a market intelligence research by Tractia, 12 percent of the global AI-generated revenue in 2015 was from retail which has grown to be the third-largest end-market for the technology. Meanwhile, Juniper Research predicted that retailers are going to spend $2.5 billion on connected devices by 2020 and increasingly, we find Indian retailers integrating high-end technologies such as beacons to gather data. Besides internet of things, augmented reality and virtual reality are the next emergent technologies which are seeing a huge potential in the retail industry with the top management trying to embrace digital in their physical environment as well.
So, with technology at the centre of the new business model, retailers are tweaking their business strategies to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels and customer touch points. At the same time, they are leveraging digital and mobile technologies to provide an omni-channel experience to customers.
Indian Retailers Teaming Up With Big Tech Players And Startups
Vue.ai: Vue.ai, a subsidiary of Chennai-based AI startup Mad Street Den provides end-to-end retail automated solutions for visual merchandising, social marketing, catalogue management, customer journey prediction to omni-channel personalisation. From auto tagging to NLP based intelligence, the AI-powered solutions helps e-commerce players to understand the shopping preferences of their customers, maximise product viewings and drum up product recommendations. Vue.ai’s AI powered software is used by leading brands such as Levi’s, Diesel, Tata Cliq and small players like Hopscotch. According to an industry report the software has increased product viewing and also delivered a 110 percent increase in average order value.
Infiniti Retail works towards beefing up data security: According to Ranjit Satyanath, head of Technology Ops at Infiniti Retail, the company had lined up use cases around inventory optimisation and improving customer experience. Speaking to CIO, he shared, “The company is focusing on enhancing the supply chain efficiency and also working towards tackling threats and improving data security.”
Future Group launched in-house accelerator in 2017: Earlier last year, retail giant Future
Group launched Future C&D, its in-house accelerator to promote next generation technologies such as big data analytics, blockchain technology, IoT, robotics and allied technologies. In a bid to catch up in the space of emergent technologies, Kishore Biyani Future Group is also betting big on next gen tools and techniques by fostering and incubating startups. While accelerators have so far been dominated by big tech giants like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, SAP — the Future Group too seems to build technologies tailored to their use cases.
How Blockchain Can Disrupt Retail
Blockchain technology can play a pivotal role in the Indian retail sector. An industry report by Cognizant indicates that by enabling tighter collaboration, blockchain could improve supply chain visibility, which would enhance sales forecasting and inventory control, while helping in improving product provenance and authenticity. A blockchain-enabled supply chain network can effectively streamline the duplicative record-keeping and databases currently maintained by organisations and their suppliers and distribution partners.
One of the key steps for retailers is to identify the right business processes for blockchain technology, develop use cases and even acquire the right talent in areas such as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), or cryptography, information architecture, software engineering, network infrastructure and integration, and user interface or user experience. According to this research, one of the biggest advantages for blockchain adoption is the reduction of operating costs for retailers who struggle to deliver more in the margin-squeezed environment.
Besides improving supply chain and inventory management, blockchain can improve product provenance by allowing customers to track the journey of their products being stocked in supermarket chains.