Gaurav Sharma Head, IT and Technology, The Ayurveda Company

The retail sector is undergoing a major transformation, driven by continued technological advancements, rapid digitalisation and ever-evolving customer expectations. Retailers are leveraging next-generation technology solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) and internet of things (IoT) to enhance their business efficiency and improve customer engagement. Industry leaders share their views on the key digital trends, implementation challenges, status of metaverse and the future outlook…

What key technology trends are dominating the retail sector? What ICT solutions are adopted by your organisation?

In the current landscape of the retail sector, several key technology trends are significantly influencing the way businesses operate and interact with customers. These tre­nds are not only shaping consumer experiences but also enhancing operational effici­ency. In our organisation, we have embra­ced specific ICT solutions that align with these trends to stay competitive and deliver value to our customers.

One of the pivotal technology trends we are actively adopting is skin analysis. This innovative technology enables us to offer a personalised shopping experience to our customers. By utilising advanced tools such as cameras and sensors, we can accurately assess individual skin conditions and recommend products that cater to specific skincare needs. This approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also establishes a deeper connection betw­een our brand and our clientele.

Another technology we have been exploring is “dosha consultancy”. By inco­rporating this technology on our website, we can provide tailored recommendations based on ayurvedic principles related to the body constitution. This personalised approach resonates with customers seeking holistic solutions and allows us to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

To streamline our inventory management processes, we have implemented statistical forecasting. This empowers us to automate the redistribution of inventory across different store locations. By analysing historical sales data and other relevant variables, we can predict future demand patterns and optimise the allocation of products. This not only reduces the risk of overstocking or understocking but also ensures that products are available where they are needed the most.

Furthermore, we have harnessed the power of ICT to collect sales data from both general trade and modern trade counters. This data-driven approach equi­ps us with insights into consumer preferences, regional buying trends and the effectiveness of marketing strategies. Armed with this information, we can make informed decisions, refine our sales strategies and allocate resources more effectively.

By adopting these solutions, we are not only staying ahead in a dynamic market but also delivering a superior and tailored experience to our customers, while optimising our operational processes.

How are next-generation technologies such as AR/VR and IoT transforming the retail space? What is the status of metaverse adoption in the industry?

Next-generation technologies, such as AR, VR and IoT are revolutionising the retail space in numerous ways, enhancing customer experiences and reshaping the industry landscape. Specifically, in the beauty and cosmetics industry, AR and VR have emerged as game-changers, introducing innovative concepts such as “try before you buy” that are transforming how customers engage with products. Custom­ers can now virtually try on cosmetic products using AR applications. This empowers shoppers to visualise how different products will look on them before making a purchase decision. This immersive experience bridges the gap between the physical and online shopping, fostering confidence and reducing uncertainty associated with buying cosmetics online. Customers can experiment with various shades, textures and styles, leading to more informed and satisfying purchase choices.

The integration of AR/VR technologies also elevates customer engagement and interaction. Virtual make-up and skincare trials provide an interactive experien­ce that resonates with tech-savvy consu­m­ers and allows brands to showcase their products in a dynamic and engaging manner. Additionally, these technologies create a memorable and shareable experience, which can boost brand visibility and word-of-mouth promotion.

Furthermore, IoT is revolutionising retail through enhanced data collection, personalised marketing and streamlined operations. IoT devices such as smart mirrors and connected wearables enable retailers to gather data on customer preferences and behaviours. This information can be us­ed to provide tailored product recommendations, promotions and offers, creating a more personalised shopping journey.

Regarding metaverse adoption in the retail industry, it is still an evolving concept. While it is gaining traction in various industries, its adoption in the retail sector is not yet so widespread. However, visionary retailers are exploring the potential of metaverse environments for immersive shopping experiences, virtual storefronts and social interactions.

What are the main challenges while deploying new-age technologies? How do you plan to address these?

Deploying new-age technologies presents several challenges, and among them, making available high-quality and clean data stands out as a significant hurdle. The promise of AI and other advanced technologies can only be fulfilled when they are fed accurate, relevant and diverse data. However, many organisations encounter issues with data quality, ranging from inconsistencies and inaccuracies to biases within the data. These challenges can undermine the performance and reliability of AI models, leading to suboptimal results or even raise ethical concerns.

To address these challenges, a robust data strategy is essential. Our organisation recognises the critical role that clean and unbiased data plays in the success of new-age technologies. As part of our approach to deploying these technologies, we are taking proactive steps to ensure data quality. This includes implementing data cleansing processes to remove inconsistencies and in­accuracies. Additionally, we are investing in data enrichment techniques to enhance the quality and relevance of our data. Further­more, we are prioritising diversity and in­cl­usivity in our data collection efforts to mitigate biases that can negatively impact AI algorithms. We believe that a well-rounded and representative dataset is fundamental to achieving fair and accurate outcomes when leveraging these technologies.

Which three digital trends will reshape the sector going forward?

The three digital trends that are poised to reshape the sector going forward are as following.

  • E-commerce evolution and omnicha­n­nel experiences: This trend involves integrating physical and digital touchpoints to offer customers a consistent and convenient shopping journey across various platforms. From online ordering and kerbside pickup to AR-based try-on experiences, retailers are leveraging technology to blur the lines between online and offline shopping, enhancing customer satisfaction and engagement.
  • AI and personalisation: AI-driven tec­h­nologies are revolutionising how retailers interact with customers. As AI continues to evolve, retailers will be able to provide hyper-personalised services, en­ha­ncing customer loyalty and driving sales.
  • Sustainable and ethical practices: Consumers are increasingly conscious of sustainability and ethical considerations when making purchasing decisions. This trend is reshaping the retail sector by pushing brands to adopt eco-friendly practices, reduce their carbon footprint and prioritise ethical sourcing. Digital tools, such as blockchain, are being em­ployed to trace the origins of products and ensure transparency in supply chai­ns. Retailers that actively embrace sustainability and transparent practices will likely attract a growing segment of environmentally and socially conscious consumers.

“In the current landscape of the retail sector, several key technology trends are significantly shaping consumer experiences and enhancing operational efficiency.” Gaurav Sharma