There has been a lot of discussions about ‘Omni-channel business’ in India in the recent past and before we could understand the relevance of it to Indian business environments, there comes another technology update - the Internet-of-Things (IoT), which is catching up fast in the world of business.
While Omni Channel refers to a business which virtually opens up all possible “doors” for customers to enter into a shop to do transactions simultaneously, Internet-of-Things makes devices across Point Of Sale wired through internet for dynamic data handling and transfer and anytime access for better business management.
Both these technologies have become a fad in the West. It is surprising that India, which is among the fastest growing retail markets in the World, is still to catch up with a suitable technology to sophisticate her Point Of Sale (POS) counters. It is only during the past few years that POS technology has invaded into tier I and II cities, thanks to overwhelming presence of super and hyper market stores. Still millions of Kirana stores and other small and medium businesses across India are following traditional means to do business.
According to a recent study, more than 80 per cent of Indian retailers are still relying on traditional billing system with majority of them using hand-written bills or outdated cash registers forcing customers to fret out standing on long queues to complete transactions. The poor inventory management, haphazard business strategy and improper sales and staff handling add to the woes of these old-gen retailers as they become no match to technologically advanced peers in their respective localities. And of course, they lose customers and struggle to hold on to stiff competition.
However, only a few of the big ticket retail houses in India are using omni-channel business model providing hassle-free and uninterrupted customer access to all parts of their stores. These businesses, not only operate brick-and-mortar type of stores, but also offer round-the-clock access to customers via online and mobile modes and Mobile POS to support both in-store and out-store customers with efficient logistics support.
Internet of Things (IoT) goes Viral
Internet-of-Things (IoT) can connect billions of devices simultaneously and the impact is enormous. But how does this technological advancement matter to retailers? To put it simply, devices, everything from POS systems to in-store sensors, can be connected through real time integrated network. The technology helps users to understand what they’re up to and what is going on around them. The solutions and products in the IoTs can vary tremendously, however, the bottom line is that it can pull real time data from the devices of businesses which can be studied and analyzed to give invaluable insights about consumer behavior and activity. This can further improve efficiencies and help retailers to plan and execute business transactions.
Technology has made consumers look for convenience in shopping, real-time product access and personalized services and communications. This has compelled retailers to embrace latest technologies, and IoT is the most logical step in the coming years for Indian retailers. Technology is no longer a hindrance for retail. A dependable IoT opens the gates for them to do detailed analysis on what’s really happening and what customers want, at store level. The biggest challenge, however, is the collecting and processing big data for decision making.
From beacons, POS to in-store wireless tracking and sensing devices, if wired and integrated properly, can provide superior shopping experience. But, these dynamic and precise ways of business transactions are not possible without the help of back office system and an ideal stage for store-level communication. To make use of the data from consumers, it needs to be collected and synchronized. To do this, a big data platform is required to process the data, and then use it to make actionable insights. An efficient big data should have the capability to target and organize consumers to save resources and time through automated processes.
Beyond just counting the number of customers and sales figures, retailers need marketing activities and information, average transaction over a period of time, checkout length, average time spent by customers, conversion rate, sales per staff, repeat visits, etc. These data help enterprises to understand the behaviors of customers and drive business accordingly. However, there is a very large gap between the analysis and utilization of data to allow effective sales management.
Though big data analysis, which can provide data of previous days, weeks, months and years, retailers should start using big information on a daily basis. This will help them to offer better shopping experience to customers and also can precisely predict what will happen in business and take tangible action.