Adapting to Growing Consumer Expectations is the Key

By Neeraj Pal Singh, CIO - Apparel & Retail Business, Aditya Birla Group

Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, a division of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd, is a branded apparel company and a premium lifestyle player in the retail sector in India. Headquartered in Bangalore, the company has brands such as Lousi Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England, People, Planet Fashion and The Collective under its banner.

 

Today’s consumer has vastly different expectations of products, services and value than few years ago. Retailers in different fields need to adapt to consumer preferences with in-store availability, attractive prices and location-based offers.  In consumer-facing operations as well as behind the scenes, retailers must move quickly to anticipate and fulfill consumer outlook by leveraging Omni-channel conveniences.

Online retail market is growing at double-digit rates and is likely to be the next big distribution network or format that retailers will have to incorporate into their array of channels. Retailers are embracing mobile interaction with consumers in various forms. In the new multichannel environment, the boundaries between virtual and physical space are becoming blurred. Retailers have to support a seamless integration with all other channels providing access to product information, customer preferences and ordering.

 

Keeping Up With Consumer Expectations

The retail industry is confronted with rapid technological advancements which are reshaping the landscape faster than businesses are able to react. Internet penetration is making it easy and quick for consumers to shop online. Convenience, speed and 24-hour accessibility in purchasing products is being valued increasingly.      

Tracking consumers’ preferences for various competitors’ products, promotional offers and services through browsing behavior is an important task.

Evolving technologies and ever increasing number of interactive devices are profoundly changing customer shopping behavior. So, it is necessary to adapt in-store technologies to create dramatic and unique customer experience. Technology such as touch screens and magic mirrors are being used to allow customers to interact for different products, brands, services and also help to give feedbacks. Tablets based interactive catalogues and order capturing systems deployments at stores are good advancements.

To create quick and easy transactions in store, retailers are trailing mobile POS, mobile payments and also considering biometric technologies for queue busting.

Overcoming Roadblocks

 

With competition so high and consumer spend wavering; having the correct assortment is a major concern for retailers. Ensuring they’ve picked up on the right trends at the right time is just one part of the story. A retailer’s core line is where the bulk of their return lies, and therefore needs the most care given. Consumers are more price-aware than ever, checking pricing with competitors whilst both shopping on and offline. Get the launch pricing wrong on a product line and retailers risk the entire line ending up in the sale category.

 

Adapting to the unique perspective, aspirations, and identity of each consumer every time is key – understand the what, when, where, and why of how each person prefers to shop, and then rethink retail operations to meet each consumer’s explicit and implicit needs. This means retailers must leverage omni-channel, demand-driven and location-based fulfillment, and better manage stock keeping units (SKUs) based on local trends in consumer behavior even more than what they may already have.

 

Companies must optimize supply chain processes by adapting and implementing the theory of constraints solutions for Pull based Auto Replenishment (ARS) that increases product freshness, responds fast to actual demand and different functions such as range alignment, design and new product introduction. They must also work on connecting end-to-end supply chain processes by an integrated demand and supply planning solution that captures customer demand. Another area of focus should be on building strong network of raw material suppliers and outsourced manufacturing units. Along with implementing robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes to improve consumer satisfaction and channel customer satisfaction retailers must also work on capturing consumers’ feedback online as well as at stores through tablet based system or social media tools.

The RFID Advantage

Over the last several years there has been an immense interest generated around radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The usage of this technology in the retail industry can provide benefits such as operational efficiency, improved visibility, reduced cost, improved security, improved customer service levels, better information accuracy and increased sales. MFL has pilot tested this technology successfully in 2005 by implementation of RFID based tracking at both item and carton level right from manufacturing location to the dispatch to the retail store and evening billing at the retail counter. 

 

 

 

Innovative Implementations

 

Apart from RFID technology, retailers can also leverage other latest technological advancements for implementing following innovative in-store solutions which are being pilot tested.

 

-Digital dressing / Trail room: For providing customers the flexibility to visualize combinations by dragging and dropping various styles with simplified user interface on touch-screens. Customer drags and drops various styles and is able to choose various colors, combinations and patterns to suit their choice.

 

-E-tags with digital connection and associate tools: E-tag is a QR Code tag which uniquely identifies every product. The moment the customer scans the code, the app displays more information, available stock and colours and fits. Past customer reviews if any about a product can also be displayed.

-Innovation portal deployed for gathering innovative and breakthrough ideas from employees, which could be implemented across various areas.

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