Airtel Business Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a crucial step towards reinforcing our customer-centric business approach by leveraging the collective insight of select industry leaders. Recently this board at a webinar has highlighted that it is time to relook at customer journeys, all across industries, in retail. Moreover, it was mentioned during the webinar that the opportunity to disrupt the retail market is extraordinary for start-ups. Those with a passion for products have dug deep and created delightful product experiences to fill online retail shelves.
According to Airtel Business Customer Advisory Board reports, 50 per cent of global retailers are currently using cloud in some shape or form in their existing set-up. In the Indian context, 80 per cent and more of retailers in the country have confirmed their intent to spend on cloud in 2021-22. Further, as part of the report, titled The Future of Retail in India Is Both in the Store and Online and as an extension through the webinar, selected members of the Airtel Business Customer Advisory Board highlighted that customers want to have seamless transactions, in language they understand; hence retailers should aim to be vernacular and offer convenient post-sales services, shopping rewards that lead to customer loyalty with personalised shopping spaces.
Technology, being a key differentiator, was highlighted effortlessly in a conversation with the CIO of a large Indian retailer with over Rs. 5,000 crore in revenue and a network of 3,000+ stores across the country. In his words, “In addition to investments in e-commerce (direct and partner), omnichannel for bricks-and-mortar and digital in-store technology, we have plans to make fresh investments in channel partner management portals to better equip partners with data, insights, campaigns and other information to help drive sales. We are also currently aiming to invest in centralised technology to build and scale an asset-light, 100 per cent franchisee led format that we plan to launch for Tier-4 and Tier-5 towns. In addition to using data to localise merchandise, we plan to use other tools for hyperlocal marketing.”
The key pillars of change
According to the discussion put forward, the broader pillars guiding the ‘future of retail’ are as follows:
Borderless Commerce: Consumers will be seeking out cross-border shopping experiences from reputable brands. So, retailers will have to choose the right technology partner to power great consumer experience. The perfect solutions for companies will be to retain complete control over the brand experience, channels, marketing and data.
Mass Personalisation: This will not just be about tailoring products or services but about winning the trust of consumers. Consumers are more likely to buy from innovative companies. Retailers will have to be collaborative, adaptive, cosmetic and transparent in their approaches to win this strategy.
Delivery Value And Experience: Retailers will have to focus relentlessly on understanding and addressing customers’ true needs. The key to retention will be offering consumers great value addition along with a seamless experience. Retailers will have to increase agility by adapting constantly and quickly.
Rise Of Automation: Automation will transform retail, supply chain and will provide organisations with a trusted workforce. Real-time data and analytics will be the key levers. Top-line benefits and personalisation will be made easily available making the landscape more competitive.
Discussing the change
With the onset of the pandemic, digitisation has been the key driver of change within the retail segment. Accompanied by e-commerce beyond Amazon and Flipkart, the retail landscape is changing at a very fast pace. Added to this, the way the customers shop is also changing greatly and the market is constantly evolving and the competition is intensifying and entering new arenas – personalisation, front-end shopping experience, influencer marketing, leveraging data through CDP, strategising to tap customer emotions over needs, among others.
Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, CEO-Enterprise Business, Airtel Business at the webinar, highlighted that the retail sector is seeing an evolving post-pandemic consumer behaviour. He said that the market is still on the predicted path of a US $ 1.3 trillion economy by 2030. According to him the offline retail market has shrunk by 5 per cent, and the online market has grown by 25 per cent — a V-shape recovery is on the cards. Further he mentioned that consumers now expect personalised experiences catering to individual needs, pushing retailers to foray into the ‘Phygital’ world, where the physical and digital worlds are completely interconnected. A lot of data is being collected, stored and analysed from both online and offline channels, to assist retail with the market.
Further talking and discussing technology, the panel mentioned that before retailers decide and zero upon the key technologies they must invest in, all must have a clear view of the context and relevance of this new customer journey for their company. It’s worth noting that not all are experiencing similar changes in customer journeys, which can be very segment and city-specific. Hence, there is a dire need to map and contextualise these customer journeys before retailers can decipher the definitive impact across other organisation functions. Without this activity, any and every investment made will result in a fresh loop of mistakes from the past and create newer silos within the technology landscape.
The future of retail in real sense is many things clubbed together and the idea is not as clearly demarcated as online or offline. But it is a culmination of both and many things around it. However, at the core of the entire narration is the customer and it is all about building tighter customer journeys.