Tracking the Disruptions in the Retail Industry

Retail tech

With thousands of new technologies that promise disruption, retailers must strive to design innovative strategies using these new concepts

Retail is one of the consumer-focused sectors that experiences constant disruption. Among the disruption, what remains consistent is the empowerment of consumers who now expect to ‘have it all.’

In 2018, the retail industry in the US experienced strong sales. The industry also had its ups and downs with a record-breaking holiday season, to some high-profile bankruptcies, mixed retail earnings to global trade and economic tensions. Experts believe that 2019 will be the year of transition for retailers, when they will make bold moves to create the base for future successes.

In the last two decades, retailers shifted their investment strategies to stay competitive. From launching new digital sales models, transforming their fulfilment processes to acquiring other businesses, they have moved to significant investments in all areas of business. The costs of increasing market share is always growing, as retailers try to figure out how to win battles on multiple fronts.

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Strategies for retailers to put the focus on in the remaining 2019 include:

Emerging technologies: IT strategies are no more limited to architecture, ERP systems, and modernization. The vast number of investment options, vendors, and technologies are making it challenging to navigate the next big thing. Ultimately, retailers have to figure out how to scale the new tech solutions and embed them their business. Experts suggest that to leverage the real power of the upcoming next-generation technologies; there is a need for significant changes to be made. Retailers should be able to mine the data they collect, and transform operations to deliver on the brand promise, and also adapt to the future of work.

Digital start-ups and funding: Digital start-ups are now addressing issues faced by the retail industry with innovative offerings, authentic engagement, personalization, differentiated fulfillment, and more. As there is a considerable amount of capital flowing to retail tech start-ups, it is allowing them to compete with the industry giants. Experts suggest counterbalancing the early gains made by start-ups, traditional retailers have to push ahead and blur the lines between corporate strategy and business development. For acquiring the ‘next big idea,’ retailers must seek guidance from specialists.

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Leadership lessons from China: Retailers should consider looking at global industry trends to build capabilities that can nurture consumer experiences. Experts have observed that in China, the retail market and its consumers have skipped a whole generation of technology. The ‘Next-gen technologies’ in the US are yesterday’s technologies in China, and retailers take a leaf out of the china market to identify the  possibilities in emergent areas of retail- such as last-mile delivery, online-to-offline, supply chain as a service, the implications of advanced infrastructure and even social commerce.

Privacy by design: Consumer data is a must-have for retailers. For years, the retail industry has struggled with the usage of data. With the amount of data available with retailers and the stringency of the current privacy regulations across the world, experts warn that retailers must have their privacy compliance maps in place. They suggest that compliance must be used as a catalyst for reinventing personalization and have honest conversations with consumers. When it comes to personal details, integrity matters in creating loyal customers.

Supply chain as a differentiator: The supply chain is becoming a way to offer consumers a differentiated service. Making the supply chain faster, cheaper, and more predictable is a tricky triad to manage simultaneously. As retailers prepare for challenging times ahead, supply chain improvements will become a significant growth driver. Experts suggest that rather than just investing in automation and smart packaging that everyone is doing, retailers should think of accumulating long-term advantages with broader supply chain strategies.
There are many developments happening in retail tech and strategies. Retailers must take the right decision on the technologies to invest as that will define their future.

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Meeta Ramnani is the Senior Editor with OnDot Media. She writes about technologies including AI, IoT, Cloud, Big Data, Blockchain across various industries with a focus on Digital Transformation. An avid bike rider, Meeta, is a postgraduate from Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) Bangalore, where her specialization was Business Journalism. She carries four years of experience in mainstream print media where she worked as a correspondent with The Times Group and Sakal Media Group in Pune.