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CIO Review >> Magazine >> August - 2013 issue

Retail Industry: Opening a New Horizon of Shopping Experience

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Founded in 1973 in Bahrain, the Landmark Group has successfully grown into one of the largest and most successful retail organizations in the Middle East and India. In 1999, Landmark Group entered India, to revolutionize retailing in the country with the introduction of Lifestyle Stores. Landmark Group has launched several of its core retail concepts in the country including Lifestyle, Home, Splash, Bossini & UCLA, Max Fashions, Auchaan supermarkets & hypermarkets, Fun City, Krispy Kreme and Gloria Jean’s Coffees.

Developing Trends in the Retail Sector

The retail industry has made major strides toward technological innovations to connect with consumers and enhance the shopping experience. In last couple of years, the rise and impact of social media as a tool to connect with consumers, map their brand affinity and entice purchases has become phenomenal. In a recent survey, it has come to the fore that shoppable media has the greatest influence on consumers. Video or print vehicles engage and encourage the consumers to make an immediate purchase via various technologies. The growing consumption of the social media and platforms has ultimately led to the creation of the socially connected consumers who seek, form and give opinions on brands on social space and this are ultimately impacting the revenues of retailers.

Besides this, the popularity and ease of online shopping have led retailers to update their stores with technological conveniences like tablets, interactive panels, and digital signage. Internationally some retailers are expediting the checkout experience by allowing shoppers to use their mobile phones to instantly scan their items and pay at self-serve kiosks.
Finally, a few have started using state-of-the-art tracking technology that prompts the play of product videos when consumers reach for a particular product. These innovations are revolutionizing the way customers shop and ushering in technology to play a more substantial role in the purchase decision.

Obstacles CIOs Face

Today's constantly evolving economic environment signals that much is in a state of flux, especially when it comes to IT functions. So every IT function would be prepared, organized and ready to meet emerging business needs. There are some myriad challenges and issues that arise every day, and in timely manner, largely depend on the well trained and motivated people. The biggest hurdle to manage IT function is IT staffs and budgets. Also shifting into growth mode can be difficult in part because employees may need to change their mindsets from one of caution to one of optimism. When new initiatives are launched, a team should be explained how the project will help the company as a whole. The more team understands what is ahead, the easier the adjustment will be, and the more excited they will be about it.

Managing workloads and helping employees meet objectives and keep up with performance expectations is another key challenge today. As workloads remain high at many organizations, the introduction of new projects may bring resistance from the staffs. Ensuring that workloads are manageable and reassigning or removing items from individual to-do lists can help gain support for higher priority initiatives.

Keeping up the employee's skills current and up-to-date should be one of the major priorities. Training is important in every field, but it is all the more in case of IT where technology changes at a rapid pace. If IT employees' knowledge is outdated, the firm is at a competitive disadvantage. Through a series of initiatives like IT seminars or courses, in-house training sessions with experts, circulating technology magazines within the group, not only can help staffs to keep skills sharp but also can be highly motivating to employees to know their firm supports their growth.

Roadblocks in the CIOs way

Innovation and Technological Change is the biggest challenge that CIOs are facing in 2013. Cloud, mobile devices, social networking and big data will all come together to create a technological boom that will test the ability of even the best technologists.
Also finding quality staff, retaining as well as managing them effectively is another significant challenge. It is no secret that retaining top talent increases business productivity, but retaining staff is not as simple as offering them more money.
To strike the balance between cost and growth is the most challenging for the CIOs.Growth is the top priority for many companies, even in uncertain economic times.
Despite increasing IT budgets, businesses also have higher expectations of getting more for less money. There is a reluctance to tie up capital in investments in new hardware and software assets. There is scope for emerging technology trends such as Cloud and Bring Your Own Device to reduce costs.
Business Alignment is one of the biggest challenges facing CIOs this year as well. IT exists to support business. So it is important that IT investments and efforts align closely with key objectives of the business. Rather than allowing IT to rise or fall on its own, the business can recognise its responsibility to stay engaged throughout the project lifecycle. The CIOs need to ensure that they become the harbinger of change and should collaborate and contribute to their team to understand and achieve business objectives.

Driving Innovation in the Team

Innovation in technology solutions include data analytics and mobility. Data is crucial intoday’s world as it helps to understand and serve customers better. One should capture customer information across channels such as POS, and use a complete view of customer purchase history to personalize interactions. Through an in-house developed program the company can enable their marketing team to leverage the information of millions of members of customer loyalty program and helping them create more meaningful offers, promotions and events that help drive sales and strengthen their relationship with the customers. They can also successfully leverage IT to provide their buying, merchandising and store teams real time visibility into inventory, so that they can monitor stock at all points in the retail chain and ensure availability of the items customers expect to find.

Mobility is an essential component of retailing, and is already being used by leading retailers worldwide. We are in process of introducing Mobile POS that creates a connected, engaging shopping experience. It allows staff to interact with customers anytime, anywhere. Staff members empowered with mobile devices can accept payment, look up customers, and receive real time sales and inventory updates.