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Disruption In Retail Through Digital Transformation The retail industry is most impacted by consumer demand as today's consumers want immediate, easy, 24/7 shopping experiences

By Meghna Saraogi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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In a world with social and physical barriers, even more defined due to COVID-19, technology is now gaining centrestage as a solution to bridge this gap and bring people together. The Digital India programme was started with a vision to "transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy'. The programme completed five years in 2020.

The current pandemic has greatly influenced behavior change. We have seen a 24 per cent increase in Internet consumption, indicating an overall penetration of 41 per cent in 2019. India Internet consumption is expected to reach 639 million by the end of 2020. This has catalysed the consumer to be more connected with the devices, payments, shopping, e-medicines, etc. All these factors are contributing towards digital transformation wherein digital technologies are being used to create game-changing business innovations that disrupt and reimagine existing industries or create whole new ones, and it is this transformation that we see happening in the retail world.

The retail industry is most impacted by consumer demand as today's consumers want immediate, easy, 24/7 shopping experiences. The global retail industry has also undergone many changes and transformations, and most of these changes have been facilitated by technology. This allowed brands to carry out a better consumer experience, gather valuable feedback from users and even anticipate and customize trends well in advance.

One of these technological changes has been the advent of augmented reality (AR), a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world. The fashion retail industry is, in many respects, suited to augmented reality. Until now, buying clothes, trying on jewelry, watches, rings, bracelets meant visiting our favorite store to try on clothes, or one had to order online, but wait for days for the package to arrive before trying it on.

Augmented reality is being harnessed across the globe to enable try-ons because it works in real time. The technology is so powerful that it has the ability to automatically recognize and snap the face as soon as the interaction is initiated. Advanced technologies need no manual adjustment and transports users to the closest digital possibility of an in-store experience, thereby giving these brands a stronger market positioning, increased sales and higher customer engagement.

Augmented reality comes with all the strengths to give physical stores a high level of liveliness and speed as people have in an e-store, such as checking hundreds of products, keeping them in the wish list and then making the final list to buy the ones selected. In addition to that, the technology goes a step further than a physical retail store and enables consumers to virtually try on accessories, jewelry, watches, makeup, clothing, etc. It allows consumers to superimpose a product in an actual physical setting, providing them with a precise understanding of its look and feel. This instills confidence in the users about their purchase and significantly helps to reduce return rates.

Having said this, many still believe that the technology of augmented reality is just limited to fun and entertainment. However, that's not the case. Today's augmented reality technology has come a long way since it was introduced in the market. Businesses in the retail industry recognize the value that it brings and are even looking at the practical requirement of an AR app development.

The rise of global connectivity means consumers are no longer bound by location. On comparing both augmented reality and virtual reality, research has shown that 20 per cent of companies have plans to adopt AR in the next year, compared with 13 per cent who are looking at VR. That number goes to 10 per cent for both in the next three years and 37 per cent for AR and 25 per cent for VR with regards to long-term adoption.

There are still shoppers who favor physical stores to online ones, as is apparent from just 11.2 per cent e-commerce sales out of the total retail sales in the last quarter of 2018. Currently, retailers are taking one step forward in modernizing with augmented reality to bridge this divide between online and offline shopping.

As the digital India programme is reaching out to more people in tier II and tier III cities, digital technologies are being increasingly used by us in our everyday lives. The rapid consumerism of technology has impacted the Indian retail industry and the current landscape is marked with developments that are as shocking as real. This technological evolution of e-commerce, digital and mobile wallets, mobility, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, Internet-of-things, emergence of social media in past few years, real-time analytics, automated personalization has completely changed the way retail business is being conducted. With the current times, the retail outlets are now going digital by introducing virtual trial rooms, augmented reality, and the use of artificial intelligence, etc. The idea is not just to optimize the in-store experience but also to offer a combination of aids that can help you to quickly take the right purchase decision.

Meghna Saraogi

Co-Founder & CEO, mirrAR by StyleDotMe

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