The Transformational Force In Retail & A Mould For Consumer Behaviour

With experience spanning over 25 years, Vijay Varshney develops & leads teams for executing digital transformation projects across sectors at Smollan. He is also involved in strategy and performance for the technology product development at the organization's Global Development Center.

The impact of digitisation on retail and consumer behaviour is a widely studied topic, especially recently. After all, the interplay between the three has shaped, and will continue to govern the future of retail.

From ecommerce domination to social selling, there’s virtually no retail segment untouched by the influence of digitisation. Such a trajectory is complemented by a tech-savvy generation with increasing spending power. Digitisation has served as a platform for lowering barriers to entry in the retail industry and making it accessible to all, while adding a layer of convenience for shoppers. One can even say that it’s not just the technology or the industry that's undergoing rampant transformation; it's also consumers and their behaviour experiencing this flux.

Digitisation presents multiple touch points to make a sale, 73 Percent of buyers approve of such a strategy

1.Customer-Centric Retail
Gone are the days when it was a seller’s market. Product and pricing are no longer the competitive differentiators, and customer experiences(CX) supersede them all. Digitisation has resulted in a power transfer where the consumer takes it all!

Modern day consumers know they're the focal point of all retail-related activities and command such treatment. Unsurprisingly, about 76 Percent of consumers expect companies to have an innate understanding of their needs and expectations and cater to them. Such demands vary from industry to industry. However, it's the consumer who has the ultimate say on what’s non-negotiable and what’s some thing they can compromise on.

2.Integrated Store Experiences
Digitisation presents multiple touch points to make a sale, and 73% of buyers approve of such a strategy. However, despite this diversity, consumers view businesses as a unit and rightly so.

Why should the online experiences be any different from the shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar store when both fall under the same brand umbrella?

Consumers crave consistency across different channels. Fortunately, digitisation has boosted Omni channel retail, which is soon to be an industry-wide norm.

3.Rise of Q-Commerce
Quick commerce (Q-commerce) is an attractive opportunity for retailers to start a new venture or break into a new market segment. This on-demand delivery model satisfies the consumer’s need for instant gratification and is supported by a digital native infrastructure.

Several businesses are looking for ways to deliver local and hyper-local offerings in 10 minutes or less to cater to modern-day customers. The combination of speediness and convenience is definitely laying the foundation for a new dawn in retail.

Also, some instant delivery platforms offer attractive discounts, which is helping them win over price sensitive customers who crave the same from their local brick and mortar store. From pharma products to groceries to F&B, every thing is available at the click of a button.

4.Personalised Shopping
Personalised shopping is not a new disruptor. However, it has been a persistent consumer-led demand that hinges on the success of retail technologies.

Digitisation has been a catalyst for businesses to establish one-to-one relationships with customers. The power of personalisation is so potent that 83 Percent of buyers are willing to share their data a rare and valuable asset in lieu of personalised shopping experiences.

To summarise, digitisation of retail is here to stay. Even if it weren’t, consumer behaviour would bring it to prominence. Be it AI or IoT, technology has been continuously innovating ways for this penetration. Today, technology has transformed the way retailers operate and engage with customers from leveraging data for price optimisation and demand prediction to improving customer experience. AR/VR too, has enabled virtual product experience, while digital assistants like robots and chatbots are constantly evolving to offer real-time solutions to customers. Retailers now have the power to offer personalised and engaging experiences to customers more than ever before, resulting in increased brand loyalty and improved business performance. With tech automating the purchase journey, there is more room for humans to focus on enhancing the brand experience at the point of sale, making a long-lasting connection with the brand.

However, the path to digitisation may not be the same for all businesses. After all, every business is unique, with distinct operational models along with varying digital maturities. Most importantly, the consumers of every business too, are different, and so are their buying preferences/journeys.

For brands diving into the digital wave, it is important to dig deep to understand the nuances and diversity of the segment to be able to derive the most suitable strategy that involves tech + people. With the right framework, tools and human skills, brands can offer an unprecedented experience to their consumers.