Retail 2.0-Developing An Ideal And Unified Retail Experience For Consumers
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Walmart’s acquisition of a 77% stake in Indian e-commerce powerhouse Flipkart for a mammoth sum of USD 16 billion has brought the spotlight back on changing retail dynamics. As it bids to fight off competition from Amazon, the global e-retail giant has added to the suspense by spending more than $14 billion to acquire America’s offline food retail chain Whole Foods, apart from continuously increasing its expenses on strengthening its Amazon Go physical outlets. The retail world, essentially, is in a state of flux.
While no brand can denounce the astronomical growth online sales have registered in the last 5 years, sales from physical stores still outscore tit, substantially, eMarketer’s latest report showed that almost 90% of global sales were being carried out through brick-and-mortar stores, In fact, in the USA, the origin point of the e-commerce juggernaut, it is estimated that even in 2020, more than 80% of retail sales will still take place within physical stores.
What is the way forward then?
The answer is simple: its unification of the channels rather than choice. Retailers today need to develop a seamless, cohesive retail experience for customers that incorporates both offline and online elements in a way that they complement, rather than contradict each other. However, it is easier said than done, as was seen with the Omnichannel experiment. The buzzword in retail for a considerable time, brands, in their hope to generate an online presence along with the offline identity, failed to build a model that allowed for smooth transfer. However, in the absence of a blueprint and digital tools that could realize the vision, the experiment failed. As a result, retailers often found themselves focusing only on strengthening one channel, just to recuperate the losses suffered on the other.
The Future Technology
However, it is not the case anymore. The advent of futuristic technologies such as AI, data analytics, Machine-learning, chatbots, IoT, etc. has enabled modern retailers to transform the retail experience for modern consumers. And India presents the perfect canvas for carrying out the experiment, with a $670 billion retail market that is still mostly unorganized, and eager to make the digital transition. Thus, technologies that allow them to augment their physical in-store experience without taking away time or efforts to establish a completely independent online persona will serve their purpose immensely.
From Augmented reality equipped brand outlets that allow the user to experience a product through their smartphones and then pick them up from the store, to QR code based payment solutions that help a customer skip long payment queues, new-age technologies can guarantee an unparalleled, 3600 experience for the consumer. Such technology will also help retailers to optimize in-store economics, return ratios, help design better product offerings and develop micro-targeted advertising campaigns that have better conversion probability.
The Industry Today
Industry-specific signs, such as estimates by Designer store chain Shoppers Stop that report 12% growth in same-store sales for FY 2019, also predict good times ahead for Indian retail. Additionally, macro-cues, such as India emerging as the country with the world’s youngest workforce by 2020, and an increasing share of disposable income, offers retailers a huge demography of potential consumers that are well-equipped with smartphones and well-versed in the art of digital shopping. It is now a question of acting quickly-Retailers need to start exploring the various digital options on offer today, and urgently prepare a strong, unified brand experience that offers consumers the best of both the online and the offline retail world.