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Better Business: Increasing automation of processes by retailers

July 27, 2017

Better Business: Increasing automation o...


Enterprises in the retail space are increasingly adopting IT solutions such as big data analytics, cloud and internet of things (IoT) to generate business intelligence and gain real-time insights into market trends and customer preferences. They are also building capabilities in omni-channel retailing, which has now become critical for these enterprises not only for ensuring brand visibility, but also for delivering a seamless customer experience. However, operationalising the omni-channel strategy requires a significant amount of investment in ICT. Industry experts talk about the technology trends in the retail space...

What role are IT, telecom and enterprise solutions playing in improving the company’s business performance?

Annie Mathew

Mother Dairy has always been a leader in innovation, whether it is in setting up innovative business solutions like bulk-vended milk, milk and Safal booths or in adopting technology as a way of life. The use of SAP for core transactions, back-end systems to automate milk collection, front-end systems like point of sale at Safal booths, the Mother Dairy app for consumers, distributor systems, SFA and ORM tools indicate that every process is assessed and prioritised for automation. The intense daily supply chain and the high perishability of the product basket necessitate real-time visibility and immediate plugging of any gaps, which can only be enabled through technology. Connectivity is important as our ecosystem is spread over a large geographical area.

Kothanda Raman K.

The role of IT in the retail industry involves enhancing transaction capability through advanced retail information systems. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are the other key contributors to this. These solutions enable organisations to effectively handle large volumes of their product and optimise manpower within the stipulated timelines. Myntra uses automation in warehouses to enhance productivity. The company uses industry standard customer relationship management (CRM) and unified communications tools in combination with its home-grown CRM solutions to support its business. Moreover, the in-house developed proprietary supply chain management and DevOps software support Myntra’s retail business seamlessly, and enable it to deliver large transactions during business peaks. Myntra’s key strategy is to leverage cloud solutions for hosting the DevOps and production applications to support its business and grow exponentially while achieving high business volumes seamlessly and instantly.

Spokesperson, leading apparel brand

As a part of our IT strategy, we have implemented enterprise solutions such as warehouse management system, SAP and Success Factors to integrate all our business verticals. Further, we have rolled out a cross-format loyalty programme, which will help us achieve our omni-channel strategy. We are also working on a strategy to utilise enterprise mobility solutions for connecting our field staff, stores and business managers to receive real-time reporting, booking orders and various other updates.

What are some of the challenges faced in managing IT and telecom infrastructure?

Annie Mathew

Robust connectivity in rural areas and even in some Delhi-NCR locations is still a challenge. Straddling the public and private cloud spaces while managing the security aspects and ensuring that IT costs are optimised are some of the other challenges. Enhancing skills to keep up with technology changes is also a continuous challenge.

Kothanda Raman K.

Some of the challenges faced with respect to managing IT and telecom infrastructure are the lack of high speed and high bandwidth wireless solutions that can be scaled up rapidly to meet the growing demands of the retail/e-commerce business. The second challenge is that the retail parks are remotely placed from the city and main hubs. We aim to overcome these challenges through automation, enhanced speed and efficient operations in order to deliver services quickly during sporadic business peaks.

Spokesperson, leading apparel brand

The company faces challenges mainly with regard to operationalising the omni-channel strategy. Moreover, internal and external threats to data security need to be taken care of. Finally, technology heads need to work closely with the top management to understand the overall business plans and chalk out a clear IT strategy.

What has been the impact of the growing digital transactions and omni-channel retailing on your IT needs and requirements?

Annie Mathew

While we have leveraged digital payments very effectively for consumers and farmers, and have launched an app for consumers, more digital initiatives have been focused on managing the supply chain. While these initiatives are disparate, the key challenge is to consolidate them onto a robust platform and ensure compliance on security and data management aspects. Our growth in the marketplace has been a good success story too.

Kothanda Raman K.

In the retail industry, an optimal set-up and mix of payment solutions can be a key revenue driver as this reduces payment processing costs. To this end, the availability of convenient mobile payment solutions is the key driver of digital transactions. Further, the industry requires a robust mobile solution as a large number of customers now shop on their mobiles. However, omni-channel retailing demands high availability and anytime, anywhere kind of services, which makes it highly challenging to have a robust scalable IT infrastructure. Moreover, ensuring security of IT solutions is still the number one priority, which is a constant challenge for the industry.

What is the scope of big data analytics, cloud and IoT for the retail industry?

Annie Mathew

We are using IoT selectively, based on the use case. Cloud is becoming the norm. We are using analytics to supplement the IoT initiatives and are also experimenting with predictive analytics in retail. We are building skills by executing small projects in newer technologies to create awareness around use cases.

Kothanda Raman K.

Big data analytics integrates digital capabilities to secure business growth and provides visualisation capabilities to understand complex data patterns for business. Implementing big data across industries has led to improvements in the public health, finance, telecom and FMCG sectors. It has also helped mitigate fraud and sentiment analysis on communication channels. Big data analytics is creating a new paradigm by generating data through various kinds of sensors, smartphones, social sites and even satellites. However, the usage of big data analytics is facing challenges related to storage, applicability, security and scope. Meanwhile, IoT enables businesses to turn data into insights. Market forces like cloud computing and analytics are driving the growth of IoT. The key factors contributing to the adoption of IoT are mobility, improved decision-making, the evolution of a smarter lifestyle and analysis of critical data from connected sensors. Further, cloud computing can reduce the IT costs incurred in managing existing as well as integrating new systems. It makes communication between different departments and customers seamless and scalable. Myntra leverages big data analytics and cloud technologies to help scale up its business.

Spokesperson, leading apparel brand

Enterprises in the retail industry need to be careful about the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, IoT and big data analytics. There are generally two options that enterprises have. They can either choose to be experimental and be ahead of the curve, or be the second-movers and take their decisions based on the learnings of other players. Further, enterprises need to be clear about the relevance of big data analytics and cloud computing. To this end, a certain amount of clarity is needed to define the relevant data that has to be hosted on the cloud and the systems needed to be integrated to use this data, as this would mean higher costs with regard to connectivity, data security and systems integration. Meanwhile, IoT is one of the most interesting areas to look at from the manufacturing, logistics and sales perspective.

What are the key emerging IT and telecom trends witnessed by the retail industry?

Annie Mathew

The retail industry has already been transformed by technology and it still has unlimited potential for further transformation. To support innovative business concepts like self-service stores, drone delivery systems and auto-replenishment at the home, every technology - big data analytics, IoT, machine learning, mobility, robotics, bots, even blockchain for traceability and payments - will be leveraged to create the next innovative customer experience.

Kothanda Raman K.

The emerging technologies in the retail industry have created a positive impact on the customer experience and have influenced consumer behaviour in many ways. The rise of online shopping has led to showrooming, the use of social media for product reviews and instant feedback, access to price comparisons, and the integration of smartphones with other retail technologies. In the future, the industry will see the establishment of experiential centres to enable shoppers to control their shopping experience. These stores may offer experiences that cannot be provided online. Data warehousing and mining technologies will be used to support online business and advancements in machine learning, while deep analytics and AI will be the key to providing a personalised shopping experience. In addition, IoT will increase the focus on voice as a user interface. Further, virtual and augmented reality is going to play a major role in boosting the online retail industry. In-store mobile technology too will gain momentum.

Spokesperson, leading apparel brand

The advances in mobile computing, social media and cloud-based services have led to the emergence of disruptive technologies.  The payments landscape is undergoing a major transformation with customers adopting digital payment and electronic wallet technologies in a big way. At present, a retailer can easily track customers’ profiles and understand their buying patterns through mobile devices and social media accounts. Further, the influx of big data analytics and software intelligence is helping machines make informed decisions. Retailers are exploring ways to leverage 3D printing for apparel and digitalisation of the supply chain.


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