Retail sector to focus on technology for growth

Retail Technology Conclave 2011 organised by Retailer’s
Association of India (RAI), in its seventh year, focused on the topic of ‘Leveraging Technology for Growth’.


Harnessing speakers from top retail and technology
companies in India and abroad, the event covered topics like how IT has made a
difference to one’s enterprise, how social media can help in leveraging retail
opportunities, treating the customer as king by being constantly connected and
attuned to his needs, and mobility solutions for enterprises.


Given the fact that technology is one of the biggest
growth drivers for retailers, the two-day event began with opening remarks by
Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, RAI, followed by Arun Gupta, chairman RAI Technology
Committee & CCA & Group CTO, Shoppers’ Stop providing the opening
address on Technology for Emerging Retail & Emerging Technology for Retail.


This was followed by an address by Harsh Manglik,
chairman of NASSCOM and senior advisor, Accenture. Speaking about best
practices for aligning strategy with operations in terms of combining social
media with retail, Vanessa DiMauro, CEO, Leader Networks gave the international
keynote address next.


In the panel discussion on IT Jugalbandi: Has IT made a
difference to your enterprise?, speakers spoke about the store of the future,
selling beyond the stores, increasing wallet share from your customers,
understanding customer loyalty, making your supplier your partner, and much


Other sessions went on to talk about the importance of a
connected experience for customers, using cloud computing to turn your capex
into opex, BI and BA emerging trends in retail analytics, outsourcing vs
insourcing, and multi-channel integration. There were also several exhibitor
booths offering more information on these topics.


On day 2, after some interesting perspectives on
LASAR-guided retailing by Greg Girard, program director, IDC Retail Insight,
the impact of social media in retail business was spoken about in length by
Mahesh Murthy, founder, Seed Fund. Among other things, he discussed how social
media today has a much larger and wider reach than other mediums, without
having to invest any money at all. According to him, the dividends from
investing in unpaid media like social networking sites are much higher from
paid mediums and plus it is a much faster medium of communication, more
interactive and one that is impartial and unbiased, promoting real-time
decisions. Mobile phones are the most popular and sticky medium for social
media or networking today, and social media is the new TV.


Anand J Mehta, director – Asia Pacific, Retail Vertical,
Motorola Solutions, spoke about solutions on the enterprise side, how to engage
not only customers but also vendors – as a vendor is crucial to the supply
chain, ‘e-tailing’ or retailing on the net is ‘in’ today, and how cloud, mobile
applications and tablets and ubiquitous computing are all popular trends today.
He also spoke about how the speed of information at the right place and time is
very important for the customer today, and how a smartphone is nothing more
than a mobile computer. According to him, RFID is also rapidly gaining ground
today as a mobility solution, nd three emerging trends today connecting the
vendor, retailer and customer are the rise of the mobile worker, perpetual
inventory, and smarter customers.


Enlisting how Blackberry stands out as a top retail
gadget today being much more than just a phone, Annie Mathew, head – Alliances
& Developer Relations, Research in Motion (RIM), spoke about how the
popularity of app browsing today is almost equivalent to that of Internet
browsing, and how the mobile is the new service channel.


Speaking about upcoming solutions, Mathew elaborated
about the BB Voice System – for which RIM is partnering with Cisco to have a
single number that is linked to one’s personal and landline number, the new
BlackBerry Playbook which has a cloud solution to take care of an ever-growing
need for expandable memory, and BB Balance, which separates personal and
official mails on your device. Augmented reality, which combines real and
virtual data to provide personal profiles and real-time information, simply by
using the phone camera to zoom in on an object or person, is also catching up
today, and is present in the new BlackBerry Bold.  


On the integrated retailer, Mathew said that in today’s
age, some of the key trends in this industry include real-time interactive
communication with customer, higher conversion rate for mobile marketing,
leveraging GPS for LBS personalized marketing, which complements mass
marketing, and optimizing online presence for a better mobile experience.
Examples of these are some companies having integrated SAP or workflow to the
BBM messenger to connect with employees, or retail stores sending out
personalized special offers to customers through BBM messenger.


Some of the other BB Analytics provisions for retailers
on the BlackBerry device include Smart Glance – real-time monitoring of
business anytime, anywhere, and e-Commerce – for user empowering,
merchandising, and marketing. Mathew summed up by saying that vendor offerings
today need to match up to customer expectations to offer a converted customer


The last session had a discussion on ‘The Customer is
King’ and how to treat him like one, by being more involved and alert to his
needs, interacting more on a personal level, quick solution of grievances and
better, more satisfying billing solutions, to ensure customer loyalty.


What clearly emerged from the event is that IT and mobile
technology, combined with social media is today playing a major role in the way
retail operates, allowing for quicker turnover, increased efficiency and better
satisfaction, for both retailers and customers.



By Beryl M

[email protected]