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Digital Transformation for Retail Industry

September 9, 2022

Retail as an industry has gone through a phenomenal transformation in the past decade. From visiting retail stores and buying products to sitting at home and  purchasing products online, from paying by cash for purchases to online transactions , from going to malls and shopping from various brands to listing products from multi-vendor market places, digital commerce has come a long way and clearly revolutionized the retail industry. To the extent that there’s no future for retail industry without digital transformation in retail, and retail will be powered by data and cutting edge technologies to pave its way forward.

Some of the most prevalent adoption of digital transformation in retail are:

Omni-channel commerce with Mobile Commerce

Statistics show that 80% of the customers shop from mobile apps, and customer engagement is maximum from mobile applications. The customer portfolio has shifted and is getting shifted  to those who are tech-savvy with more of an impulsive buying behavior, and the access to the online stores when customers are on the go, waiting somewhere or when they remember the need to buy something takes up a large percentage of purchases. Online stores, especially online marketplaces also provides a large variety of products to compare and buy from, with aggressive pricing offers and much simpler product recommendations. Omni-channel commerce has the advantage of hooking the psyche of a customer, reminding them again and again that they need to a buy a specific product until it translated into a conversion. At the heart of Mobile Commerce and Omni-channel commerce, is a deep philosophy for customer engagement which is personalized and targeted,  that its difficult to ignore and can literally follow you everywhere!

Tools that can help with Omni-channel commerce

  • E-Commerce mobile apps built in AndroidiOSReactNative or Flutter
  • Headless Commerce implementations where the backend and frontend is de-coupled. A modern headless, API-first, microservices-based, cloud-native platform is the future of Headless Commerce
  • Omni-Channel marketing tools like MarketoAct-onActiveCampaigns etc.
  • SaaS platforms that offers Omni-channel E-commerce like BigCommerceFyndMoengage etc.

Personalized shopping experiences and intelligent product recommendations

Personalized shopping experiences is a must do strategy for online selling. Ensuring that the customer is segmented, targeted and pursued is the KEY. Starting from personalized search recommendations, showing personalized related products  or products ‘you may like’ to showing targeted promotions makes the E-commerce experience extremely customized unlike before. Gone are those days when you can push the same products and the same promotions to everyone. The websites that have learnt to crack this game has outperformed their competition and successfully created a mark for themselves in their respective industry.

Tools that can help you with personalization and tailor made experience

  • Google’s Analytics Tools – Google Analytics, TagManager,
  • Hotjar  and Crazy Egg gives you heat map analytics, scroll maps and click analytics
  • All Factor & Metrilo  give you real time tracking, advanced analytics and buying behavior and loads of other insights
  • Clerk.io for AI driven personalized product search results and recommendations with easy integration to E-commerce sites
  • NetCore, an AI-Powered Marketing Platform for Ecommerce Personalization
  • Woopra, gives you trend reports, journey reports, cohort reports, retention reports and behavioral segmentation
  • And many many more products that have come up in this space…

Multi-channel & Social Media Marketing

This is the digital era where a customer touch points are many and its important to do a 360 degree marketing or outreach program for your brand. When brands combine channels such as whatsapp, email, SMS,  facebook, instagram into one cohesive marketing campaign they can reach the right customer with the right message, on the channel they respond to  best. Customer life cycle management by adding them to nurturing campaigns and having constant touch points with your customer is the key focus here. The three buzzwords that you just cannot forget here are customer engagement, customer retention and user journey mapping.

Tools that can help you with Multi-channel or Omni-Channel Marketing are

Logistics aggregation and delivery partners

Logistics aggregation and role of  delivery partners playsa key role in the Ecommerce fulfillment process to ensure  faster delivery process and easy product returns. Most countries have come up with quite a few logistic partners who have taken up this role, whereby smaller companies can work with a logistic partner or aggregator, and the bigger companies like Amazon have their own delivery division. They have APIs available for integration or rate calculation, and for delivery tracking & a great last mile connectivity.

Logistic aggregators are specific to geographies, with FedEx and UPS being the most popular international ones, Aramax in the MiddleEast and Delhivery, ShipRocket, ShipDelight to name a few in India.

IOT in Retail Automation

The greatest use of IOT in Retail is in inventory management, warehouse management and in shipment tracking. IOT can help  business owners to maintain inventory records with the use of IoT enabled sensors, have predictive engines for supply and demand planning and optimize inventory management to the next level. Real time inventory management gathers and sends relevant and updated data of the SKUs to ERP systems, enabling end to end automation of all the internal business processes.

IOT Tools that can help grow your retail business

  • Better tracking and logistics planning
  • Automation of inventory management, planning and ordering
  • Enable better connect between suppliers and customers
  • Automated shopping processes and checkouts
  • IOT integrated eCommerce purchases like POS, Kiosks etc.

There are many IOT platforms that can be used for the above, and some of the notable ones are Zebra, Intuz 

Multi-Region Reach

An online store can have  a multi-region reach, surpassing geographical boundaries and broadening customer reach. This can be achieved by architecting the platform with multi-currency and multi-region support, with a centralized or decentralized inventory control and shipment.  An ideal solution for such an implementation would be to use a distributed service stack based architecture, with payment methods, shipment methods , taxation etc configurable for each supported country, and keeping in mind compliance aspects to be taken care of for that particular geography.

Conversational bots for E-Commerce

Conversational bots have been used widely in Mobile Apps especially to do voice based product search, order placement or chat bots to search for products in a store, track orders, get more details on a product etc. There are lot of AI conversational bot engines that can easily integrate with eCommerce platforms, with a plug and use model where the processing takes place at their end, greatly reducing integration times and overall support costs. On the other hand, for the customer it gives faster turn around time, and easy access to information round the block. Some of the bots that are popular in this regard are FreshchatRevechat, Googles DialogFlow and  MobileMonkey.

Here are a few features that you can keep in mind when looking for a chatbot.

  • Customer targeting features.
  • A/B testing options
  • Pre-built templates
  • Integration capabilities
  • Analytics and reporting  features

AR and VR in E-commerce

Use of augmented reality, and virtual reality to enhance customer shopping experience and engage them better is one of the trends in E-commerce adoption. Many eCommerce firms especially in the home, landscaping and automotive sector are creating virtual showrooms and allowing customers to explore products from the comfort of their homes without having to visit a retail store. Fashion retailers have adopted real-time simulators where customers can try on  clothes and jewellery before purchasing. Recreating the In-Store Experience is still something that brands are working for, and is still evolving in terms of adoption. In future we may see AR E-commerce Ads, Product demos and many other adoptions of these as well.

Here’s some interesting stats on adoption of digital transformation in the Retail industry and its maturity from a study done by Mckinsey

Most retailers have initiated a tech transformation but are still in the middle of that journey on both dimensions.

Digital Transformation in Retail is all about integrating forward and backwards. Forward integration will allow to create a futuristic roadmap of what eCommerce companies will need to stay competitive, customer focused and bring in a high level of customer engagement. This will in turn impact their brand positioning, overall sale, geographical reach,  revenue growth and brand value in the long run. Backward integration on the other hand would bring in automation, lean processes, faster turn around times, visibility and insights into cost optimization, overall cost and profitability advantages and most of all, agility for the organization. Both of these are important to go hand in hand while planning your digital transformation strategy, for long term growth and brand building. There are businesses who believe that digital transformation is also a cultural shift within an organization that changes the way they work, the way they engage with the customer and the way they take their product to the market, and I strongly believe that this is the case. Its not just a technology adoption, its a cultural adoption that makes you future ready! And sooner or later every E-commerce business irrespective of the industry will need to join this bandwagon in order to sustain their brand.

As Charles Darwin said

“Its not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent ones. It is the one that is the MOST adaptable to change”.

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