Before we dabble more into the nitty gritty of retail digitization, a peek into its immense potential in revolutionizing a retail store will tell us exactly why it is the future of the retail industry. When Amazon decided to have a physical store of its own, it combined computer vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion technology to enable customers walk in, pick-up items, and leave without checking out, delegating the payment task to the Amazon Go app. Likewise, when JD.com opened its own high-tech supermarket. 7Fresh in 2018, it tried to go one up on its rival Alibaba, by introducing smart shopping carts, possibly for the first time in the world. These carts follow customers around the store, help them keep their hands-free and help them focus on personal tasks. These two examples, in many ways, sum up the definition of retail digitization – a move from product-centric retail model to a customer-centric model wherein customer experience and convenience gets precedence before anything or above everything else.
In a broader sense, retail digitization is all about making customer journey convenient by understanding them better through data-based insights. It’s all about generating data about individual customers from multiple touch points, and leveraging the insights to make customer journey easy. The data to be collected can be as meticulous and enormous as it would involve monitoring every shopper move, every label read, every product picked, every product replaced etc. so that granular analysis of customer behavior can be carried out and a more personalized in store experience can be offered with precision and ease.
What Customers Want from Retail Stores
In today’s fast paced world, customer expectation is changing before they can be understood. To keep pace with their changing requirements, retail stores need to meet their expectations just as they would like it to be met. This would not only help them bring customers back to their stores, but also help them stand up to the competition posed by online business .
So, let’s have a peek into what today’s customer actually wants from retail stores:
- Know product availability before visiting a store
- Feel products before a store visit
- Collect and Pay without standing in que
- All time product availability with same-day delivery
- Pro-active recommendation to help them choose
- Ability to shop in the store anytime and anywhere
- Improved post purchase experience
- Lower prices with store membership
How Retail Digitization Will Help You Meet This and More
Retail digitization has blurred the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds and in the process made it possible for retail stores to deliver what customers are actually seeking. It has opened doors to offer synergistic products and services which retailers can leverage to enhance customer engagement and improve the overall shopping experience.
- Dedicated instore apps to know what is available and what is not along with recommended purchases. These apps even double up as navigation maps and throws light on the deals available for the day.
- Digital kiosks help customers make informed choice even before they start exploring all the products on offer. It comprises virtual shelves with endless aisles to give them a one stop idea on what to find and where
- Mobile enabled virtual trail rooms with virtual mirrors to get a feel of how products would feel and look much before they arrive at the store for a live check.
- Multi-nodal purchase options like digital wallets, mobile point-of-sale and self-checkout. Consumers can checkout and pay for the items at the end of their visit, removing the need to carry their products around.
- Blockchain based loyalty programs to offer automatic discounted prices to customers, and accommodate additional offers like auto subscription and replenishment, bundling of products or services etc.
- Enable pro-active recommendation to customers by analyzing social media profiles and send push notifications on customer devices to create awareness
How Retail Digitization Can Be of Help to Retailers
Retailers can leverage digitization to improve backend operations and create an eco-system that supports process improvement for overall revenue margin enhancement. Some of these include:
- Improve store assessment planning and enable real-time forecasting with data driven algorithm
- Create digital supply networks with automated monitoring for timely and seamless supply of products.
- Improve employee management processes such as attendance, checkout etc. with smart and automated systems
- Streamline vendor management by automating invoice validation, performance validation, contract compliance, etc.
The fact that physical stores can never get obsolete and fade out is evidenced by the increasing number of ecommerce players opting for having a physical spaces. Therefore, present day retailers must view heightened customer expectations as an opportunity to accelerate sales. And the best way to achieve this by undergoing a digital transformation.