COVID-19 impact: Creating a new normal for retail

Published: July 29, 2020 5:20 AM

This pandemic has fast-forwarded digital transformation. Now is the time for retail players to invest in the right technologies

Order orchestration and management tools ensure timely online fulfilment directly through dark stores to liquidate locked inventory.Order orchestration and management tools ensure timely online fulfilment directly through dark stores to liquidate locked inventory.

By Puneet Mansukhani

Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact Indian retailers at an unprecedented scale. The crucial question is to find the new normal. Since the lockdown, retailers across all spectrums are facing a multitude of challenges. Even food and grocery retailers have critical challenges. Leveraging digital technologies are imperative to fill the void and complement evolving consumer needs via their preferred channels (where), contactless experience (how) and 360-degree convenience (when).

Omnichannel and customer experience matters: New retail has to be the convergence of physical and digital commerce. Retailers need to be present where consumers are, instead of depending on store footfall. New models like click n collect or deliver at home with a pre-fed monthly shopping list is the new norm. Other popular international models remain Scan & Go, integrated with digital payment to maintain social distancing. In addition, personalised customer experience and social listening are crucial to retain brand loyalty. Outside India, we can see a surge in sales on the online platforms for many middle east retailers, which is also one of the best shopping destinations globally. A market which predominantly operates from the malls is fast-changing and accepting the new normal.

Cloud and integrated e-commerce: With low infrastructure cost and ease of use, cloud services have opened new channels for mid-tier retailers to introduce integrated e-commerce services along with complete customer experience and personalised services. Order orchestration and management tools ensure timely online fulfilment directly through dark stores to liquidate locked inventory.

ERP with enhanced robotic process automation & analytics: Automation enabled ERPs are the catalysts of digital transformation. Retailers should harness them to redefine the future of work and reshape each of its function from Finance, Supply Chain to the point of sales and regulate support services. Retailers need to prepare teams with new skill sets and explore investments necessary to deploy bots. Accordingly, the demand for decision-ready and real-time data will also increase. Clean, meaningful and authentic data can improve the quality of decision making.

AI holds the key: New emerging technologies like AI, ML, AR and VR will be crucial in shaping new retail models. Virtual trial rooms, touchless in-store shopping, and personalised digital communication are the new areas to explore. Interactive live streaming will deliver the required experiences for high fashion and automobile commerce. Similarly, content-led commerce will be a new way; influencers and stores associates will create content and use AR to deliver commerce.

New era of partnership: Retailers and technology providers need to work as partners. Technology is helping retailers in maturing their shared service models allowing them to broaden their customer and geographic reach and provide greater value and insight to internal customers.

All retailers across the globe are trying to know their customers better, thereby coming out with specific personalised marketing campaigns and promotions. Targeted campaigns on social platforms and apps are now trending, spends on media ads are slowly being curtailed, and the marketing rule books are being re-written.
This pandemic has fast-forwarded the shift to digital transformation. Now is the time for retail players to get control of the current crisis and invest in the right technologies.

The author is Partner, Technology Consulting, EY India

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