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. 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:
Empower non-analysts (all employees) with data.
Traditionally, data was considered an exclusive domain of the technology experts and IT specialists. 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 waiting for 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. 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.
The resulting insights can then be useful 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 the success achieved by empowering non-analysts employees with data; the results were significant as they benefitted from the reduction in inventory days with in-built turnover ratios leading to a better throughput. Business analytics, digital and automation has helped them to transform core operations, improve consumer insights and innovation processes as well take better decisions.
Invest in smart retail
Shopping malls that are future-ready to meet the savvy consumer are the new shopper’s paradises. 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 of 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.
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. 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 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 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 omni-channel 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.
The writer is director, Tableau India, a business intelligence and analytics firm