Technology has deeply influenced the Indian retail sector by creating newer platforms for engaging customers. Digital platforms and tools have made it easier for a buyer to purchase anything and everything just with the click of a button. The rise of online channels have challenged traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to start adopting strategies keeping in mind the needs of the new-age customers.
Digital transformation provides opportunities for traditional retailers to improve customer experience, reduce costs, and enhance operation efficiency. According to a the results of the recent Riverbed Retail Digital Transformation Survey 2018, retailers believe the next three years will be critical to evolve and stay competitive, with the adoption of cloud-based solutions highlighted as critical to transforming the digital retail experience.
While traditional retail stores have started to deploy digital tools like apps, virtual assistants, mobile point-of-sales systems, their adoption has been very slow. This can hinder the retail sector focusing solely on offline channels, says the research.
"Retail stores tend to operate as their own islands of IT infrastructure. This model is costly and inefficient to maintain, cripples inventory management, puts data at risk and is a barrier to the rapid rollout the new apps and services today’s customer experience demands. While there is recognition amongst retailers that these technologies are critical, most also acknowledge they’re lagging behind in adoption. For example, while respondents cited retail applications supporting in-store staff as of the utmost importance, 46% claim their companies do not currently have applications in place. Further, 58% of retailer decision makers do not have mobile point-of-sale technology in place for staff to do customer transactions, making the purchase process a severe pain point," tells Bjorn Engelhardt, Senior Vice President, Riverbed Asia Pacific.
Omni-channel strategy for next-gen infrastructure
It has become necessary for traditional brick-and-mortars to evolve and adopt an omni-channel strategy that incorporates online channels while maximizing their physical store presence. But implementing an omni-channel strategy is challenging for traditional retail stores as most small players lack the needed infrastructure.
"Riverbed works with some of the largest retail brands and it’s our view that a successful omni-channel strategy demands a next-gen infrastructure that enables retailers to rapidly deploy digital services, boost same store profits and improve the customer shopping experience. This includes next-generation approaches to networking, like software-defined WAN, and tools that improve application performance and provide visibility into customer and employee digital experiences while also proactively resolving issues and improving service quickly," says Engelhardt.
Emerging tech for superior customer experience
New age technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, IoT and big data analytics has given platforms to derive significant amount of insights to enhance user experience. As consumers habituate themselves to purchasing through online mediums, offline stores would struggle to compete in the ever-expanding ecommerce market. These tools empower IT to deliver competitive advantage to the business as well as deliver a seamless experience for customers and rapidly deploy new services – all while reducing capital and operational costs.
"Emerging technologies like AI, data & analytics, and IoT will play a pivotal role in accelerating the evolution of retail, driving deeper engagement with customers, enhancing customer experience and further optimizing operations. However, on their own, none deliver a silver bullet for competitive advantage. Having a next-gen infrastructure that underpins this emerging tech and ensures it performs at its peak is paramount to them getting real traction now and in the future," according to Engelhardt.