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Preference for Today's Consumers: Online Shopping or Physical Store What consumers are looking for nowadays is a better Omni-channel experience from companies

By Ramakant Khandelwal

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The Retail Industry today is witnessing a slew of innovations enabling transformation which puts the consumer at the forefront of all business decisions. The combination of mobile and web convergence and brick & mortar stores has thrust the demand cycle of the industry into overdrive. The customer is clearly the one who makes the decisions and is pretty much in the driver's seat. And to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of the millennials, retailers are becoming more and more dependent on technology to analyse consumer behaviour and purchase decisions to devise solutions.

Related : Can Your Start-up Do Without an Online Shop?

Smartphones - The Key Driver

The advent of smartphones and high-speed internet has become an extension of our personalities and these advancements have enabled customers to access any information real-time. Online shopping has emerged as a preferred option among millennials. Research says busy schedules, time crunch, convenience, competitive discounts play a key role in the movement towards online adoption. Undoubtedly, digitalization has made our lives convenient. However, though most customers prefer to be exposed to more information, brick and mortar stores too can compete in this environment with their experiential journey that counters the online offers deluge.

The modern retail companies have acknowledged this mind shift and are leveraging the best of both worlds, online and physical stores, creating an incredibly unique journey for consumers. They have started reinventing their brick and mortar store models by using advanced technologies such as smart mirrors, IOT, RFID tags, Virtual reality (VR), and beacons.

One such amazing example is Amazon Go which is driving the experience of shopping to an altogether new level where customers can make a purchase in a physical store yet do not need to go through store staff or queues. Payments are collected online via geotagging, attached to the customer's online store account and payment portal. The world has stopped queuing up at the cash counter for itemised shopping. The 'Just Walk out Technology' automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. Once shopping is complete, you can leave the store and the billing system automatically deducts your bank account.

Related : #4 Simple Techniques to Attract More Customers to Your Online Store

Leveraging on Automation

Automation equipped with AI has catered to a smooth workforce management. Human intervention is, of course, important. And this has offered solutions that assist people to do their jobs faster and better. Retailers can now work more efficiently with less scope of erroneous decisions.

Another exciting invention that retailers should look upon is Product finding map system. In the case of big retails stores, it is daunting to find out the exact product. Research says that around 10-30% consumers walk out of the stores just because they didn't find the product. And map here is a perfect solution. It helps the retail stores guide customers to reach to their desired products. Target (a renowned retail brand) has already deployed this into their retail store app; once the shopper enters the store, they have access to a range of products they can find via the app.

The e-commerce market has brought innovation and ease to the Gen Y. But, a large populace like that of India still goes for touch-and-feel of the product approach. Hence, the implementation by retail giants towards opening brick-and-mortars powered by advanced technology is the way forward to continue to drive sales and customer retention.

Related : #3 Tools Online Businesses Must Use in 2018 to be Truly Productive

Digital Transformation Inevitable for Businesses

Retailers recognise the urgency of digital transformation as a profitable business scenario. And in order to succeed in the competition, they need to be ready to bring innovation to the market. And they must be adept at utilising game-changing tools such as IOT and AI. Big data, for instance, is a great enabler for current predilections of consumers and can foresee the likes and dislikes of consumers in the future.

Realising that online and offline are not separate entities but one and the same, is an essential strategy to grow in a competitive realm. What today's consumer is looking for is a better Omni-channel experience from companies. Providing this to consumers supports retailers set their targets both in digital channels and offline stores. The customer of today is open to browsing both types of stores to find the right mix of products which suit their pocket size.

Ramakant Khandelwal

Chief Marketing Officer at PAYBACK India

Ramakant Khandelwal, Chief Marketing Officer at PAYBACK India, is a veteran in Loyalty and Payments  space. In his role, he is responsible for enhancing PAYBACK brand value and simultaneously improving customer experience and engagement. He has 18 years of experience in sales and marketing roles across industries and believes in creating incremental value for customers at every touch point through smart innovation.

Ramakant holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from IIT Roorkee and an MBA degree from MDI, Gurgaon.During his leisure time, he loves to travel. He enjoys reading non-fiction and watching documentaries.

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