The last few years have seen major transformations in the Indian retail industry. With deeper internet penetration, a growing focus on innovation, and evolving consumer behavior and needs, retailers are actively investing in technology and focusing on integrating their end-to-end supply chains to offer premium and connected consumer experiences.
With this background, 6DX, the world’s most comprehensive Retail POS from Intellect Commerce and AWS, the foremost pioneer in cloud services, in association with ET Retail organized a physical panel discussion on ‘Personalising experiences, retaining the new age shopper and maximizing profits in the transforming retail industry’ with the top retail CIOs and CTOs to discuss how and why retailers should invest in automation, personalization, and MACH architecture to drive growth.
Trends impacting digital business and operations strategies of retailers
Commenting on the trends the retail industry is witnessing from a digital strategy perspective, Ram DeshmIndonesiah, AWS said that there has been a major shift post-pandemic in retail. He added that an increasing number of customers today are relying on e-commerce. Thus, brands should have a very robust e-commerce presence to serve their customers across pin codes.
DeshmIndonesiah also highlighted that while there is a significant rise in online shopping, most retailers are struggling to manage inventories and return logistics, especially in an online setting.
Sharing the trends and challenges from an operation point of view to enhance visibility across inventory and supply chain, Priya Arora, head-operations, Modern Bazaar said that the retailer realized during the pandemic that data is the new currency and the need to invest in it. Arora shared that the brand today faces the challenge of integrating and managing its inventory across stores and online. “We need to invest in technology, IOT, and more because we want to give our customers a tailored experience.”
Answering a question on how brands can balance their backend and frontend experiences, Rupendra Nigam, VP, information technology, Spykar Lifestyles advised retailers to make a collaboration between three important pillars - business, IT, and technology partner.
He further explained that retailers need to keep their systems up to date and maintain them well so that the customer does not suffer. To ensure seamless inventory and warehouse management, brands should collaborate with partners and ensure that their IT team understands the business.
Sharing a key learning Nigam said that for teams handling warehouses and inventories, companies should encourage the use of mobile devices and applications to add to the ease of use.
He shared that at one of Spykar Lifestyles’ warehouses, the brand was doing around 40,000 in and out transactions per day. However, after converting to mobile-app-based transactions, the retailer is now achieving 80,000 in and out transactions each day in the same working hours. He added that this has also allowed the company enough time to validate data and keep its inventory up to date in real-time.
Sharing his thoughts, K Radhakrishnan, co-founder, and CEO, Tata StarQuik said, “We should not put all technology in a pot and stir it. We should fragment technology according to its applications. The businesses remain as they were earlier.”
Cloud, modernization, and regulations
Commenting on the increasing focus of organizations moving towards becoming a composable enterprise, DeshmIndonesiah from AWS said that the retail sector today is one of the most competitive segments and every retailer is concerned about price points.
Helping to keep a check on costs, the cloud can provide an infrastructure that can help brands in scaling at any point in time. “When we talk about the composable infrastructure, one differentiator is the data that you are storing and what can you make of it. This is where a composable infrastructure, which can reduce the cost, should be available all the time and that is where hyperscalers like AWS can help organizations.”
Arora from Modern Bazaar said technology needs to be updated constantly. Retailers need to keep a check on customer experience and analyze what a new-age customer and a brand-conscious customer are looking for.
“I would like to have a triple win kind of arrangement - where it’s a win for the customer, for the brand that I am serving, and profitability for us,” Arora added.
When asked if should retailers go for modernization or cloud, Ramanan Venkata, director, Intellect Commerce said, “Inventory as a problem has always existed. Today it has just compounded.”
He noted that technology alone is not a solution. Brands need to know how to use technology to achieve the desired results.
Sharing his views on prioritization and where regulation will come into the picture, Nigam said that for running a business and increasing its profitability, infrastructure should be any brand’s top priority.
Commenting on data security he said that retailers need to work in accordance with the rules as per the requirements and industry regulations.
Concluding the discussion with highlights from the business and technology perspective for the retail industry, Tata StarQuik’s Radhakrishnan said, “You first need to understand your business before layering technology on it. Technology is only as good as your thinking. We need good thinkers to understand how to use technology.”
“The quintessential problem we have in our business is are we thinking smart enough,” he opined.
Citing an example from Tata Starquick, Radhakrishnan said that the brand is a 100 per cent paperless company. Presently, it only generates the consumer’s bill on paper which from January 1 onwards will be sent digitally. “We have 14 apps running in the back. We’ve made microservices,” he shared.
Highlighting another example he said that at Tata Starquick, the company offers an incentive of Rs 125 per month to all its 1,300 pickers if they bring their own smartphone. This ensures smooth and end-to-end product delivery being done by pickers.
“You need to point the gun at yourself. Because if technology is not working, you are the problem,” commented Radhakrishnan closing the discussion.
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