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The future of shopping: Retailers must evolve in order to survive

In recent years, the growing popularity of eCommerce, social media and mobility has catalysed a massive power shift away from retailers to consumers, whose expectations have evolved into an “anytime, anywhere” mentality. Retailers who fail to meet these expectations risk creating a digital disconnect with customers. 

According to recent research, retailers whose services don’t meet customer expectations could stand to lose more than £12 billion per year.  With the irreversible digital revolution gathering momentum every day, it is clear that the risks to retailers will only become more pronounced. The Digital Age is fundamentally changing the sector, and by now retailers understand the potential of digital to evolve the shopping experience from a simple exchange of goods and services into a continuous and ongoing relationship.

What many fail to recognise, however, is the role of information in offering an answer to the challenges of the digital age.

Discovering the hidden clues

For instance, every retailer understands that customers are becoming more brand agnostic. What they might miss is the role that their existing customer data can play in recognising consumer preferences and needs, and predicting buying behaviours in order to take proactive steps to attract and retain customers. Brands have access to a wealth of data from stores, online, mobile and social media channels. Hidden in this mountain of ones and zeroes are important clues about customer behaviour, preferences and activity which can be enable brands to interact with an individual, as opposed to a faceless market segment. However, connecting the dots to offer a seamless omni-channel experience is more difficult than most people realise. 

It requires investing in the IT infrastructure to collect and analyse customer information from a variety of different channels in order to create a unique, brand-defining experience. It requires expert data analysis skills to leverage data from online activity to attract footfalls in their brick and mortar stores through strategies such as click and collect.

The importance of digital transformation

Big Data is also a great way to optimise store layout and design, utilising a level of insight that has never before been possible. By analysing footfall and customer spending habits, retailers are able to order the right inventory at the right time, to promote a more efficient model and reduce costs.  

All of this innovation relies on a strong end-to-end technology foundation, without which retailers cannot effectively use data from online and in store activity to inform their decisions on merchandising, supply chain, and marketing. Retailers are aware of the importance of this type of digital transformation, but often it’s the basic groundwork of modernising their older systems that becomes a bottleneck in the flow of information throughout the enterprise. 

At Syntel, our work with retailers has demonstrated that automation is a key aspect of any modernisation strategy, and an important step in developing the flexibility and agility to meet the demands of the digital consumer. By working with a trusted partner in the digital arena, retailers are able to tap into the necessary skills and expertise to modernise their end-to-end technology environment and enable them to focus on their core business. Implementing a smart automation strategy can reduce IT costs by 35 per cent and increase online sales by as much as 50 per cent or more, but the real value for retailers lies in unlocking the hidden value of the data that has been accumulating across their enterprises for years. 

Digitally revamping the business strategy enables business leaders to foster a culture which is accepting of change, realises the value of data, and is driven by innovation. It is no longer enough to just digitise one part of your business model; there must be an integrated digital flow across all business operations – from warehousing and distribution, to sales to marketing, to finance and accounting. In this way, retailers can fully embrace the realities of the Digital Age and begin to truly modernise their businesses for the future. 

Nitin Rakesh, CEO, Syntel

Nitin Rakesh is the CEO at Syntel. Syntel is a U.S.-based multinational provider of integrated technology and business services. Headquartered in Troy, Michigan.