Mumbai: Airtel Business, the B2B unit of Bharti Airtel Limited (“Airtel”), today released the second edition of its Insights Report under the aegis of its Customer Advisory Board (CAB). The Airtel Business CAB comprises business leaders from India’s top corporations. The diverse group meets regularly to deliberate and offer counsel on customer issues and emerging technology trends to help Airtel Business align its innovation roadmap to the strategic requirements of its customers.
Titled ‘The Future Of Retail In India Is Both In The Store And Online’, the new report brings out insights on emerging trends in modern Retail in the post-pandemic world, which is at the intersection of changing customer behaviour and technology.
The report outlines that winning brands of the future will be the ones that embrace digital technologies ahead of the curve to deliver an omnichannel experience to their customers. And that ‘Phygital’ is the new normal in Retail with customer experience increasingly driven by immersive technologies built on Cloud and IoT in the 5G era.
Technology is driving new avenues of growth in Retail, and Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst & CEO, Greyhound Research, affirms, “The pandemic has ushered in a wave of transformation in the retail sector. Over the past 18 months, technology has been used to deliver contactless experiences, and retailers are now looking for newer ways to stitch offline and online channels. The era of omnichannel and phygital has truly arrived. As retailers adopt a technology-first mindset, the sector is well poised to become the sunrise sector of India, all over again.”
Sanchit’s beliefs are shared by Suparna Mitra (CEO, Watches and Wearables Division, Titan Company), and also an Airtel Business Customer Advisory Board member who believes, “Video shopping is very important at Tanishq as consumers want to see people wearing the ornaments real-time before they purchase and thus the demo is crucial.” However, Titan hasn’t stopped there and is leveraging technology to enable stores for an authentic omnichannel experience. Interestingly, while in March 2020, less than 20% of their exclusive stores were omnichannel enabled, as of date, it stands at 100%.
Arvind Mediratta, MD & CEO, METRO Cash and Carry, underscored Suparna Mitra’s beliefs and stated, “The future will be omnichannel – the best of both physical and digital worlds. However, even with the advantages of online shopping, physical stores will continue to have a future because customers demand the ability to touch and feel products as the shopping experience is a celebration to be cherished with rich interaction.”
The report draws four key themes that will help re-shape the retail segment:
Delivering Value and Experience: While value has always been a factor in consumer behaviour, the perception of value has changed with time. Therefore, the need of the hour for retailers is to deliver immersive and personalised experiences for price-savvy customers on the hunt for value. Also, retailers must account for the changing demographics and aspirations of a young India that spends considerable time hunting for deals yet expecting the best customer service each time.
Borderless Commerce: Retailers must build Digital avatars to tap future growth opportunities and serve customers with an omnichannel experience without the challenge of location. Immersive shopping experiences using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will help make the sale just like a physical store with last-mile experience-driven cloud-based applications on edge data centres. This concept is connected closely with Social Commerce that is being leveraged for Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) efforts.
Rise of Automation: As retailers invest in information and operational technology, they can now capture more customer data. The next step in this evolution is to utilise this data for much smarter (read automated) decisions to serve customers. For this, the retailers will need deep data science capabilities and enable video chatbots and real-time delivery by drones. 5G ready IoT will further accelerate this journey. As per Greyhound Research’s Retail Priorities 2021 survey, till March 2021, over 50% of large Indian retailers have either already started piloting IoT or planning for it in the next 12-24 months.
Mass personalisation: To make borderless commerce work, retailers must ensure personalised experiences and not just personalised communication. Retailers must develop deep capabilities to measure interactions and the entire customer journey irrespective of the touchpoint it originates from.
The report adds 5G will speed up the digital transformation of the retail sector from the supply chain to the in-store experience. This will be achieved by delivering crucial technology building blocks to enable frictionless, end-to-end consumer experiences in the form of enhanced broadband networks and ultra-reliable, low-latency communications. Retailers are working to differentiate themselves with more personalised and convenient experiences and services, and thus there is the need for faster, more reliable, and device-inclusive connectivity.
Commenting on the release of the report, Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, CEO- Enterprise Business, Airtel Business, said: “Digital technologies are shifting the new normal faster than ever. The trend is even more pronounced in the post-Covid world. Brands that embrace digital faster will be the winners. At Airtel Business, we are committed to supporting the digital transformation of our customers. We are thankful to our Customer Advisory Board for making this journey a collaborative one.”