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Here are four building blocks for a future-ready retail with technology

changes the world in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago. At the turn of the century, if someone had told you to dictate your shopping list onto a phone to have it delivered within half an hour, or to book a taxi at the push of a button, you would have dismissed that as futuristic! But all of this has now become a way of life – our “new normal”.

Over the past decade or so that The industry has seen several changes and has grown exponentially due to the convergence of online and offline channels, growing consumer awareness, and increasing disposable income. In recent years, the digitization and formalization of the economy as well as the easy availability of venture and venture capital have catapulted the growth of the industry in India.

According to a report by Bain & Company, 2021 is India The sector is one of the fastest growing in the world and is projected to reach $ 1.3 trillion by FY26. The share of e-commerce is expected to increase from 6% of the total market in FY21 to almost 11% in FY26. However, the highly resilient traditional trade, which was extremely resilient during the pandemic, will remain relevant for a long time to come. Despite strong economic headwinds, the market share of traditional retail rose slightly from 87.1% to 88.8%.

When the pandemic broke out, many small retailers and mom and pop stores adapted to digital platforms to keep supply chains and operations going. After having tasted successful with technology, they want to take an omni-channel approach to their end customers. Traditional retailers and kiranas are the backbone of Indian retail, accounting for around 80% of total sales Trade and 11% of GDP. A Deloitte FICCI report reflects this fact and highlights how digitization is empowering them and opening up new growth opportunities for the FMCG sector.

COVID-19, a black swan event, has sparked a fundamental disruption across all industries, especially retail, that has transformed the way consumers shop. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding; Hence, retailers need to constantly innovate and reinvent themselves to stay relevant. As the pandemic accelerates the transition to digital commerce in India, the digital evolution that would probably have lasted half a dozen years took place within weeks of the lockdown caused by the pandemic. Having an online or omni-channel presence is no longer a choice. Now players need to invest in to improve the customer experience. The digital acceleration has opened up new opportunities for the industry.

But the question of millions remains: Where is the retail sector in India headed in view of the changing consumer and purchasing behavior of customers? Some of the levers are:

Hybrid behavior: Customers now decide “when to shop”, “where to shop” and “how to shop” – be it online, offline or a mixture of both. You’re looking for a seamless omni-channel experience. As a result, Phygital has become an integral part of the customer shopping experience, and this integration between offline and online retail is likely to continue to grow. Retailers need to develop an integration strategy to improve customer value proposition and experience.

Immediate satisfaction: Customers want to order everything at the push of a button and have it delivered within 15 to 30 minutes. They also want a complete solution for all product and service needs. The age of instant gratification means that people are unwilling to wait hours or days for their products to be delivered. It is therefore imperative to build efficient supply chains and delivery solutions. Capabilities for faster deliveries with more than 99% OTIF (on time in full) delivery, AI / ML-based demand forecasting, IoT for real-time monitoring and the like are the future of retail.

‘Retail-tainment’: Customers today look for and value superior and unique experiences through elements such as gamification. Simply ordering or buying a product is no longer exciting and retailers need to effectively engage and involve customers in their shopping journey across all touchpoints. Virtual changing rooms and experience sales; 3D modeling and augmented reality to help customers try / visualize their products online; Chatbots and voice assistants for a personalized brand experience; Big data analytics for ultra-personalized and hyperlocalized target marketing and customer loyalty are the key to future-proof retailing.

One-stop-shop: Customers want a complete range of services under one roof, such as payment options, credit / finance, insurance, logistics and delivery options and more. As a result, ecosystem actors have emerged who facilitate or complete the entire value chain of services. Financing options can include buying goods through EMIs and BNPL (buy now, pay later) programs, for example. This is a win for everyone involved – the buyer, the seller and the financing partner. Retailers need to invest in partnerships to become full ecosystem players.

Value Awareness: In India, budget conscious customers are constantly looking for exciting offers and discounts, so smart pricing and targeted promotions are critical to attracting and engaging with customers. As the pressure on margins in retailing increases due to intense competition, it is imperative to reduce service costs and ensure profitability while accommodating changing customer needs. Retailers need to use automation technology to reduce operating costs.

The technologies that originally defined digital transformation – artificial intelligence, process automation, and deep analytics powered by machine learning – are still evolving as new technologies emerge to expand and complement their capabilities. Supply chain and delivery management have changed dramatically in the last 20 months, leveraging gig workers and technology, all of which are growing rapidly.

will undoubtedly remain a crucial factor in delivering a superior customer experience. In the meantime, the levers for building a sustainable retail business could be to focus on creating an agile and sustainable supply chain that offers a comprehensive customer experience along with the convenience of Phygital shopping while also being a single point of contact for all customer needs.

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The author is MD and CEO – METRO Cash & Carry India and Chairman – Retail & Internal Trade Committee, FICCI