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Modernising Indian Retail: The digital way 

ETRetail.com , Dec 05, 2018

Retail is one of the most dynamic, robust and thriving sectors in the Indian economy. It accounts for more than 10% of the country’s GDP, 8% of employment and is poised to be the growth engine of the economy, with India occupying the first rank in the Global Retail Development Rankings (2017). According to a recent report by Boston Consulting Group, India is expected to become the world’s third largest consumer economy reaching US $400 billion in consumption by 2025.

Technology, like in all sectors today, is powering the next stage of growth in retail as well, with digital being the medium of this progression. Whether it is redefining retail spaces by integrating physical and digital experiences, massive growth of e-commerce platforms or modern retail moving beyond the usual hubs, to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, digital is increasingly playing a major role in shaping the future of retail in India.

Moreover, as digitisation powers accessibility, consumers today are more aware of the various ways in which technology can empower them. This has led to a rise in the expectations and demands they have with brands they interact with. Today’s consumer needs more personalised and customised experiences which are curated by brands, tailored to delight them at every touch point. Resultantly, brands need to develop strategies aimed at not only customer acquisition but also long-term retention.

For a segment all set to break the shackles of traditional means, the retail sector needs to adhere and adapt to the customer’s growing and evolved requirements to scale the next summit in its quest for growth. Adopting an omni-channel approach that factors in the different mediums that consumers use for transactions like mobile, online stores, telephone sales, physical stores etc. is the need of the hour to provide a seamless, more integrated experience to the consumers. For example, the Forrester Business Impact of Investing in Experience – A Spotlight on Retail Study highlights that experience driven retailers are 1.6x more likely to have seen increased customer advocacy. And as an effect, retailers in the APAC region are moving swiftly to prioritize improving experiences that drive acquisition, loyalty, and growth. According to the study, Eighty-one percent of retailers are prioritizing an improved customer and prospect experience over the next 12 months.

The retail heavyweights are already realising the appetite for wholesome experiences and the need for integrated solutions to interact with their customers. Walmart’s Mera Kirana project is an interesting case in point. Walmart introduced spaces in its Best Price stores that resembled kirana stores, but with a few technological modifications to showcase what these stores could be doing better. It also offered training modules to kirana store owners that focused on best practices, tech adjustments and cost savings.Additionally, as a part of its Flipkart deal, it is likely that they will integrate more of these stores into Flipkart’s supply chain network and get them to start using Flipkart's PhonePe digital payments network.

We are also seeing leading solution providers upping the ante and driving a range of technological advancements that will strengthen a retail player’s data foundation and enable it to provide personalized shoppable experiences for consumers. Not only solution providers, but also first digital movers such as ecommerce companies are scouting to further built to their technological backbone. For example, Flipkart recently acquired an Israel-based analytics company Upstream Commerce in a bid to deliver real-time pricing and product analytics to their sellers for the sellers to make informed decisions and cater to their prospective consumers more efficiently.

According to a recent FICCI-Deloitte report, titled 'Consumer LEADS' focused on the retail sector, technology is expected to transform consumer markets through major disruptions, augmenting overall growth in retail, consumer packaged goods and e-commerce segments. This would contribute to consumers communicating with brands and emergence of a new consumer-to-business market model, where brands will develop new products after taking cues from consumer demands.

Therefore, in the modern, technology driven world, it’s not only an added advantage but also inevitable to be a retailer focused on creating exceptional, fulfilling experiences for one’s customers. A key enabler for this can be emerging fields such as data analytics, contributing to increasing efficiency of businesses significantly and hence, provide more opportunities for the retail sector. It is imperative for brands to become experience makers and resultantly digital investments should be a key priority to streamline and augment the entire customer journey and putting customer at the heart of it all.