Manish Saini, Vice-
President, e-commerce,
Ferns N Petals

The Indian retail industry is undergoing a significant transformation, with consumers increasingly adopting the digital way of living. Enterprises in the retail space are incorporating information and communication technology (ICT) in their operations to gain operational benefits and effectively cater to the targeted consumer base. Point-of-sale, order management and digital payments processing systems are some of the key ICT solutions that retail enterprises are investing in. Further, there has been an emergence of online retail channels. Going forward, the adoption of next-generation solutions like cloud, big data, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will help in gaining better insights into market trends and consumer needs. Retail enterprises are also planning to explore technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance the customer experience. However, there are several challenges related to the adoption of new technologies and overhaul of legacy systems. Some of the key enterprises in the retail space share their experience of leveraging ICT solutions to gain benefits…

What are the key ICT solutions being used by your company to enhance business efficiency?

We use ICT for three different purposes –

  • Customer in­ter­­­­ac­­tion: To ensure that customers enjoy a seamless experience with our brand, we have invested in technologies such as cloud infrastructure, IT services, security systems, IP telephony, billing and recording systems. Leveraging big data thus generated, we have been able to not only im­prove customer satisfaction by personalising offerings, but also identify and eliminate unnecessary costs.
  • Scheduling for manpower and jobs: We use human resource (HR) and payroll software to automate HR processes and employee management, optimise recruitment and reduce employee turnover.
  • Communication between management and staff: Various telecom, videoconferencing and email software solutions have helped us in maintaining an open line of communication. This has improved employee productivity and efficiency. To sum up, all these tools have enabled us to enhance our top line while also redu­cing costs.

How have your technology requirements changed with the growth in digital transactions and omni-channel retailing?

The exponential growth in digital transactions and omni-channel retailing has increased our dependence on technology. Conventional methods of doing business do not work any more. With the advent of IoT, customers are generating terabytes of data every day, and building and upgrading the physical data infrastructure. We are continuously engaged in cloud orchestration and real-time Dev Ops.

What are some of the challenges faced in managing ICT infrastructure?

Lack of efficient data storage architecture: Although cloud computing has reduced the cost of data storage, it does not have the necessary architecture to accommodate different applications. The IT community needs something th­at is beyond space and cost in cloud computing systems.

  • Data analytics: Currently, there is no system in place to extract quality data from enormous data sets. It is imperative for a business to identify patterns in data and analyse them for business decisions.
  • Network and connectivity: A good and reliable network ensures that an organisation functions smoothly. Software-based methods and network architecture desig­ns are essential for data optimisation.

What is the scope of big data analytics, AI, cloud and internet of things in the retail industry?

The future of retail will be driven by data, analytics, AI and IoT. AI has the potential to significantly improve customer experience through machine learning (ML). In the future, more than 80 per cent of human interaction in retail would be handled by AI. The key areas of application for big data, AI, cloud and IoT would be personalisation and product recommendations, inventory planning and forecasting, user interface, production and maintenance, research and development, marketing, and operations. Amazon Go and Walmart’s self-scanning robots are no­table examples of the impact of AI in the retail space.

What are the key emerging technology trends that will shape the retail industry?

  • Mobile: More than 60 per cent of our consumers use mobile devices during the discovery phase of the purchase. While desktop still beats mobile as the primary method to make e-commerce pur­­­chases, this trend would not last long. E-commerce global trends indicate that mobile devices are going to be the central piece to discover, research and purchase go­ods.
  • Product visualisation, AR and VR: We are evolving from small and hard-to view images to multiple images from different dimensions. Further, the ability to zoom has improved. Recent technological ad­van­ces in 3D, AR and VR are also poised to change the way products are displayed. AR is chan­­ging the way consumers visualise the­­­ir products before buying them. It can superimpose digital images on a user’s view of the real world through mobile devices. Mean­while, VR, an im­­mersive virtual world created with a VR headset and compatible 360 video, allows clients to virtually experience a pro­duct before making a purchase.

“The future of retail will be driven by data, analytics, AI and IoT. AI has the potential to significantly improve the customer experience through machine learning.” Manish Saini