By Sunil Nair, VP-Technology, Max Hypermarket
In today’s day and age technology needs to give clear insights on what customer needs, make it easy for them to shop, provide all the information they need and finally make shopping a joyful experience for consumers. There is still a gap in having end to end omni-channel capabilities with localization features. Retailers have to currently spend huge amount of efforts in integrating back-end technologies spread over multiple platforms to achieve omni-channel capability. In order to succeed, today’s retailers have to offer a seamless shopping experience across all channels – and should not lose track of their customers. Some major trends that help the retail industry function better are:
Omni Channel: In the age of web and mobile technology, today’s customers are highly tech savvy and they look for seamless shopping experience across multiple channels. This trend is putting all retailers on the job to overcome operational and technological challenges to provide customers an omni-channel experience. Retailers will continue to realize that they need to connect with users on multiple channels and touch points simultaneously. Customers are looking for online access to in-store products, features, inventory information with various flexible options such as in-store pick up, home delivery, cash on delivery etc.
Mobile POS: Mobile point of sale (mPoS) solutions are now “must-have” technologies. Customers can use in-store self-help technologies, such as price checkers, self-checkout payment lanes, and information kiosks, among others when they shop.
Social Media: Social media will heavily influence product decisions. Social media will play a much bigger role in retail decision making. Going forward social media will also be used to develop new product category’s and marketing campaigns.
Big Data: Data gathering and Analytics will play a key role in evolving business models. Usage of data and analytics to better understand consumers in the form of branding, product management, leveraging loyalty card information to tracking customer buying behavior and making better pricing decisions will be the key factors. Collecting and leveraging customer information to provide personalized recommendations will be the norm going forward.
RFID: Today retailers have started deploying data-capturing technologies like radio frequency identification (RFID) to get a snapshot of inventory at any given moment.
Working to Improve Sales and Margins
The major challenge faced by retailers, especially in hypermarkets space, is to improve the sales and margins in highly competitive environment. Controlling operational costs is also one of the biggest challenges that any retailer faces. Since Hypermarkets typically run on extremely low profit margins, the need for a lean and efficient operation is critical. Retailers must also work towards optimization of supply chain, better demand forecasting, rapidly changing customer preferences, reduce lead times and inventory holding, multi-system Integration.
We are addressing this challenge by leveraging cutting edge technology solutions which are helping in optimizing the inventory positions, increasing stock turns, reducing stock-outs and shrinkages and improving overall supply chain operational efficiencies in the dynamic retail business. We have implemented Oracle retail ERP solution which provides holistic view of entire retail operations in near real time basis and helps business to take informed decisions.
Innovating to Gain Value
In a transformative business environment where customers seek greater value, it is crucial that retailers invest in innovative technologies. Technological innovation continues to drive success in retail on many fronts such as providing service across multiple channels; integrating technologies in-store to engage customers among others.
We regularly reach out to our internal and external customers/stakeholders to understand their pain points and come up with technological solutions to overcome the same. For example: Recently we have developed a web and mobile based Quote Management Solution to connect our commodity buyers with their respective suppliers using tablets and mobiles. This supply side innovation is going to help business in collating and finalizing the best prices in a transparent and paperless manner by simulating a buying auction environment leading to greater transparency and huge saving in manual effort of buyers and suppliers with the help of technology.
We are also exploring the possibilities of adopting new processes and technologies to help serve the customer better like Queue busting, Click and Collect.
We have recently implemented Retail ERP (Oracle Retail) to provide robust, agile and scalable technology solutions to key business functions such as Buying and Merchandising, Supply chain, Store Operations, Marketing and Finance. This was the first end to end Oracle Retail ERP implementation for any Hypermarket chain in India.
The challenges were unique specially looking at the complexities of different business processes for different categories. This project was one of the fastest in terms of deployment from Design to Go-live, with significant customizations. This implementation has provided a solid platform with centralized architecture to business for the future growth and expansions.
In the rapid technological development environment, customers, rather than retailers, are defining the rule of the game. Retailers need to provide multi channel services, competitive shopping experience and high level of satisfaction that customers are looking for. And hence it is imperative for retail players to understand the gaps in service and sales delivery and bridge the same with the help of technology solutions to remain competitive and profitable.