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Recurring need to be relevant among the consumer has given birth to a deluge of technology and today all these technologies are finding diverse application in every retail outlet or brand outlet.

 

Technological empowerment is an inevitable aspect of the advancement of human race. This combined with man’s power to deduce innovative approaches, has given way to advanced technologies and sophisticated systems. Every brand today uses the power of technology to reinvent the way in which they do business and this helps them compete with the market in a better way. They are savvy and ready to introduce smarter CRM system, RFIDs, sensors, customer identification sensors, and much more. So, from the moment a customer steps into a brand store or a mall, they are welcomed by significant technologies. These are modern and benefits the retailer in varied ways.

EVOLUTION OF STORE TECHNOLOGIES
“E-Commerce has paved the way for transformation of the offline stores. It was thought that the advent of e-commerce would be a death blow to the brick and mortar stores. But it was not so. While e-commerce business was greatly conceptualised to benefit the customers, but it was lacking the feel. Especially, it was lacking on the grounds of ‘touch and feel’ before buying factor. This was more prominent especially in the fashion, footwear, health and beauty, optical, jewellery, and watch segments. This automatically paved the way for omnichannel initiatives that today is taking the lead. There has been several cases where online brands have transformed themselves to an omnichannel format to give the customers something extra in terms of offering and experience,” mentioned M R Subramonian, Managing Director, Adtech Systems Limited.

He further added, “POS & Printers have also received massive upgradations over the years. Since the retail space has become very dear, POS solutions and its foot print has shrunk and we are seeing a shift to Tablet based POS solutions – both static and mobile POS. Brands are ready to lap up the changes wholeheartedly provided the ROI happens within a space of one year. Moreover, customers are also open to adapting and accepting newer technologies. They are keen on trying out something new each time they step out to shop.”

In terms of support Adtech systems have launched many solutions that increases the store efficiency including that of the sales associate. For example, they have launched the Smart Lock concepts, which replaces the traditional mechanical locks with digitally coded Infrared locking system. This means instead of managing so many mechanical keys in a store we can do that with just two keys for each store or for each large section. This certainly improves the response time to attending to any customer needs. Similarly, introduction of digital assistants by way of providing LED screens or Interactive Kiosks have also enhanced customer experience.

BRAND CONNECT
Given the opportunities technology brings to the front, brands have also become very conscious about the usage of technology. Today empowered by technology, they are trying to create experience centres and brand spots within the store, where a customer can explore various new facets of the brand. Japanese retailer Uniqlo, for instance had recently launched its first ‘neuroscience’ fashion campaign in Australia. This campaign was based on the concept of suggesting clothes to the customer on the basis of his or her mood.

UMood, a wearable technology, was actually placed on the forehead of the customers. Then series of images and videos were shown to them. The brainwave reading collected basis the customer’s psychological reactions was processed through an algorithm that then suggested a t-shirt from the retailer’s range to match the consumer’s state of mind. The different states of mind were categorised as ‘adventurous’, ‘calm’ or ‘stressed.’

“From stocking the right inventory to making the perfect product a customer needs, available to them just at the right time is a task that every retailer needs to undertake in order to get closer to their customer. From the time a customer steps into the store to the time they exit there are multiple things at play for the customer at the store. Technology plays a key role in this process and today it is just not about understanding the customer behaviour, but it is majorly about knowing what your customer wants,” explains Vishal Kapil, CTO, Marks & Spencer India, Marks and Spencer Reliance India Ltd.

He further adds, “Striking a balance between technology and manpower all along the stock management process helps cut latency. Globally retailers have become extra cautious about this, especially after technology has grown in leaps and bounds. Technology plays the role of an enabler in the process of sales for a brand. Sales is an outcome, so the seamless the process and the well-acquainted it is technologically, the better will be the sales figure. This is also because with AI and other such paradigms built into the system brands will be able to reach out to the customers rightly, just the way they prefer and thus, bring them back to the store ever to often.”

In an effort to woo customers, Marks & Spencer has mounted virtual rail in its Amsterdam store. Along with videos about recent fashion playing on big screens, customers can browse life-sized imagery of the prettiest dresses and trousers on a 3 x 46 inch touchscreen. Alongside browsing the collection the customer can also choose some clothes they like and make a model wear those outfits just to see how the garment looks in real-life. This differentiates the technology from its counterparts. After checking the look, customers can check the price and make a final selection of the garment to place an order for free delivery in the store via iPads or on their own phone using the store’s Wi-Fi.

INCLINED TO TECHNOLOGY
“Using appropriate technology, it is possible to view store dashboard anytime from anywhere. This is possible using footfall count sensors linked to POS terminals and using cloud to view the dashboard. Payment modes have also become very secure today. I don’t think customers using Smart Phone App based payments are sceptical about technology and modern payment options. Also, credit cards now come with a chip and linked with security codes. So, it is highly secured and tactical. However, implementing modern technology in stores requires its own share of training or education both in the retail front as well as the customer front. This is done to a great extent by using posters or animated video clips,” M R Subramonian commented when talking about the retail acceptance towards technology.

“Gone are the days when we use to find humans dominating the store front. Today retailers are using a stream of technology to woo customers. However, the basic thing that they keep in mind when selecting technology is personalisation. Ages back, shopping at the kirana store was all about feeling comfortable. The personal experience that the shopkeeper would give you was unique and exuded a warm appeal, just for this touch, you would want to go repeatedly to this store. Personal touch is a very important factor in retail. With technology, bigger brand stores and malls are replicating this ‘personal’ touch”, mentions D. Baskar Moorthy, VP Sales, Posiflex India.

When asked about the cost of technology reform and its expected return, he further added, “The idea of technology is subjective and its acceptance depends on the amount each brand is ready to spend in order to integrate technology. A food court for instance will implement kiosk ordering irrespective of the cost, just to drive footfalls and manage it well even during peak hours or the festive season. However, the acceptance always trickles down from high-end brands to the national or local brands.”

In modern retail a Point of Sale machine is a very important, visible technology product in any brick and mortar store. The Point of Sale Terminal adds a lot of value to a Retail store and it promises seamless consumer experience that in turn creates a lot of brand elevation to the retailer. Billing being the final touch point of a consumer within the Retail Store, PoS Terminals play a very important role in ensuring that the consumer walks out of the store happy. A good POS driven retail store will always make customers come back to the store.

Posiflex as a Point of Sale Technology leader is at the forefront of innovation. Whether it is for Modern Retail, Cash and Carry business or for the Mom and Pop stores also called as Kirana stores in India, Posiflex thoroughly understands the requirements and challenges of each of these sub verticals and has created products catering to specifically to them. Posiflex’s range of Point of Sale Terminals along with the wide array of Peripherals including the Barcode Scanners, Receipt Printers, Cash Drawers, Pole Displays ensures that the Retailers can now rely upon one Technology Partner to give them a complete solution and Service and Support within India.

SUPPORT BACKBONE

Making checkouts fast and seamless definitely heightens the ease of shopping and globally brands have committed to fine-tune this factor with layers of technology usage. In 2018 for instance, Nike opened a flagship store in New York City called the ‘Nike House of Innovation 000’. As the name suggests this store is high on digital technology and alongside customisation studios and instant checkout points, a stand-out feature of this six-floor studio is its ‘Speed Shop’. Thanks to this feature, a customers can reserve the shoes they like online and then come and try the same in-store. More significantly, customers can enter the store through a dedicated entrance to find a dedicated locker in their name, which then they can unlock using their smartphone to try out the shoes they had selected earlier.

Mobile check-out is also available. This means the customers do not have to stand in a queue or even speak to a salesperson in order to complete their order. “Reducing billing time helps increase sales significantly. This is a concern that retailers are continuously addressing and our POS solutions are targeted to solve this frequent problem. Self-checkouts, mobile checkouts, interactive billing desk and the likes are now becoming the call of the day for modern retail. Today the biggest evolution of POS is that checkout has become wireless. Unlike years back when billing desk was a particular destination in a store, today billing is more cloud space dominated. Technology is transforming the mode of payment and from the smallest of retailer to the high-end ones everybody is opening up varied payment possibilities to their consumer just to promote convenience. You can scan QR codes to pay your bill too. More than anything else, this is heightening the trust factor and is bringing consumers closer to the retailer,” explained D. Baskar Moorthy.

Style Baazar a mass value-segment brand that started as a 2 store entity in 2013, today has more than 80 stores spread all across in 7 cities of the Eastern and North Eastern region of the country. The brand has consciously targeted this segment and only Tier 2 and 3 cities from the start, because the promoters of the brand knew that these are the most neglected areas in the country and every fashion change or new trend reaches these areas only after it has spread its wings all across the country. Style Baazar has recorded Rs.700 crore turnover in the recent financial year. Growing exponentially to give the masses a peck into fashion, Style Baazar has redefined the idea of departmental stores. From garments to cosmetics to luggage the biggest challenge for the brand was to come up with an extraordinary price point. While most brands bringing technology and innovation closer to the customers are upmarket high-end brands, Style Baazar tries to bring in the conveniences of technology backed shopping privileges to the low pocket-size consumers.

“We reduce our multiples and offer value for money products to our consumers. From the start we have paid special attention to customer sentiments and what the value-segment will consider as a valued purchase. Even though we have aspirational brands in store, we do give more importance to mid-level brands as our customers are the ones earning Rs.5,000 to Rs.10,000 every month. Our store sizes vary across markets and our layouts are spread across floors and the biggest store we have is of 21,000 sq. ft. located in Kanchrapara. For us apart from CRM technology that measures customer behaviour and loyalty, we also pay extra attention to ambience and every other factor related to retail,” mentions Shreyans Surana, Director at Style Baazar.

Most customers for Style Baazar are repeat customers and they frequent the stores whenever they wish to buy a new garment. The festive season has always been good for sales for Style Baazar. However, the brand is always offering deals and promotions in store just to make every purchase a rewarding experience for the customers.

“Today more than employing technology in store we are very concerned to use technology to streamline our backend and accounting. For us expansion is a constant and today with more than 3,500 employees we have to touch each node with more proficiency and that’s where technology plays a big role. Added to this, at present we are using AI to reduce our energy usage in order to make it more cost-effective for us,” added Shreyans Surana.

Technology, in short is accelerating the retail sector to progress and the whole fraternity is waiting to unveil newer quick-fixes to offer the customers new solutions as a part of their retail experience.