At the crux of connected retail experiences lies the need to simplify the buyers’ journey from end to end. Irrespective of the shopping platform, it focuses on providing customers with consistent, convenient and unified shopping experiences. It empowers customers to choose their transaction locations and make cross-channel transitions seamless, resulting in greater customer delight. Vijay Verma, executive vice president at HCL America Inc., shares that for businesses, a connected ecosystem delivers numerous business benefits such as enhanced inventory management, rapid speed to market and greater operational efficiency for a higher return on investment (ROI).
In less than 15 years, the retail world has gone from brick-and-mortar to digital to omnichannel, with no signs of stopping. Technology has ensured that people no longer shop the way they used to, making omnichannel shopping experiences a continuously evolving term. In the fast-evolving retail space, what used to be considered an omnichannel retail experience a few years ago, now feels slow when compared to emerging possibilities. Advances in technology, a rise of mobility and personal devices, and the rise of social media channels has fundamentally altered customer expectations.Â
The aftermath of global lockdowns and quarantines in the recent past has accelerated change with new retail experiences powered by the metaverse and augmented reality. Today, retail supports omnichannel shopping experiences across multiple customer touchpoints and has truly blurred the boundaries between offline and online channels. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, 73 percentOpens a new window of customers rely on multiple channels to shop. New-age shoppers have several options to make purchases and often use a combination of channels to shop.Â
In this context, retailers who focus on a single channel can risk losing up to 30 percentOpens a new window of their sales. Similarly, creating a customer journey that is linear and fixed is also a misstep. Enterprises must create highly connected retail shopping experiences focused on customer experience and behavior to flourish in this competitive business environment.
Envisioning a Connected Retail Ecosystem: What Do We See?
The RCPG ecosystem has changed drastically in the last five years. Customers have become more tech-savvy, resulting in significant shifts in their shopping habits and preferences. On the ground level, as more buyers shop in a digitally networked environment, retailers have resorted to intelligent technologies to create a connected ecosystem of brick-and-mortar stores, online websites and applications.
A connected RCPG system is focused purely on the buying needs and behaviors of customers. Connected retail enhances customer-centricity by providing flexibility in the three primary aspects of the shopping experience:Â
- Purchase: Businesses offer multiple shopping channels such as online websites, offline stores and social media platforms to streamline the purchasing processes.
- Payment: Customers select their preferred payment method, such as paying in-store, app-based payments or cash on delivery.
- Shipping: Customers can also choose their mode of delivery whether that is curbside pick-ups, in-store purchases with home delivery or anything else.
A connected retail environment offers greater business continuity and long-term sustainability by ensuring consistent purchasing opportunities for customers despite sudden disruptions in global markets.Â
The Role of Next-generation Innovations
According to marketing guru Seth Godin, â€œPeople do not buy products and services. They buy relationships, stories and magic.â€ In today’s world, technology lies at the heart of most magical customer experiences. The connected RCPG ecosystem is entirely supported by next-generation technologies that integrate its systems and processes, automate operations and provide customers with personalized shopping experiences. For instance:
IoT devices: From inventory management to theft prevention with geo-fencing and energy management to smart shelves for constant product availability, IoTs can potentially eliminate the limitations related to customer touchpoints across multiple channels. Not surprisingly, the market size of IoT in the retail space is expected to reach $177.90 billion by 2030Opens a new window globally.
AI/ML: AI and machine learning (ML) tools can help companies aggregate consumer data to provide personalized recommendations, improve product recommendations, and optimize their pricing strategies. In fact, 75 percentOpens a new window of large companies have improved consumer satisfaction by 10 percent by deploying ML in their digital environment.
Radio frequency identification device (RFID): RFID tags enable businesses to track inventories in real-time across all channels. They ensure that product availability is aligned with customer demand. Such tags can also deliver customized recommendations to customer cell phones to support personalized services. As per a recent study, the global RFID market is expected to reach $31.5 billion by 2031Opens a new window .
Metaverse (AR/VR): With the metaverse, customers no longer need to physically try out a product as it can represent merchandise in real-time 3D visualizations to create an immersive shopping experience. VR-driven features such as virtual dressing rooms and virtual avatars can potentially shake up retail. For instance, luxury brand Gucci has already recreated its famous store â€“ the â€˜Gucci Garden’ as a museum dedicated to iconic fashionwear on the Roblox Metaverse platform and attracted 19 millionOpens a new window visitors.
Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots can provide services across multiple channels, deliver efficient customer support and upsell products online, 24/7. The chatbot market size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.3 percentOpens a new window from 2023 to 2030 globally and this includes the RCPG segment.
Cloud computing: Â Cloud data platforms provide retailers with a single source of dataOpens a new window , compiled from multiple sources, to deliver customized offerings and strategize targeted marketing campaigns. This boosts data-backed decision-making, optimizes operations, enhances the customer experience and delivers value.
The Future of the Retail and CPG Industry
From personalized and immersive experiences on connected platforms to seamless shopping experiences anywhere, anytimeâ€”the connected retail ecosystem is set to become more personalized, fluid and exciting.Â
Retailers must break out of traditional modes of business and integrate their online and offline channels by collaborating with the right transformation partners, i.e., providers who have the necessary expertise and experience in the latest technologies and a deep commitment to operational efficiency and customer experience. By doing so, enterprises will not only gain access to new tech innovations, but also decades of retail and CPG industry experience that can supercharge progress for their operations and accelerate their growth trajectory.
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