The physical retail stores have remained the backbone of our economy by being the primary revenue generator all this while. However, in the golden age of e-commerce, the tables have turned and now the products are coming to the customers. They are available anywhere and anytime, and the credit goes to the telecom companies for making the 3G/4G networks available to the mass.
As per the study by Statista, we find that revenue generated by the e-commerce market worldwide in 2018 is nearly USD 22,138 million. The biggest segment is the Fashion industry with a market volume of USD 7,864 million. The forecasts suggest that by 2023, the market volume is expected to reach USD 51,236 million, showing a CAGR of 18.3%. The same study also points out that we can expect worldwide users of online shopping to rise up to 528.3 million by 2023.
With this major tilt towards online-shopping, one may have thought the demise of retail shopping as we knew it. Like all things convenient, shoppers prefer online-shopping for many reasons. Many a time, it so happens that a prospective customer might visit a brick and mortar store to check out the product variety before procuring it online because they may have found attractive discounts, or they may just be getting better after-sale-service there. The retail stores are forced to rethink their entire strategy and come up with something more to lure the customers in. Now the customer is truly the King, as they need not go the product anymore but the product is brought to them via the technology.
The latest buzz in the market is an “Experience Store”. A perfect combination of technology and retail stores. IoT (Internet of Things) is a wonderful thing and brands such as Alibaba and Decathlon are making the most of it playing the new game of “NEW RETAIL” (a term coined by Alibaba). And Boy! They are playing it well. They have incorporated things like VR to check out products, or self-check-out and payment options, or even product research by scanning the QR-codes of the products, in their physical stores to encourage shoppers to walk in.
Something that China has been developing and enjoying is retail-as-entertainment. Their “See-Now-Buy-Now” retail show is a star-studded entertainment event which is televised. If viewers liked anything that the models and the performers are wearing, they can directly order it online in real time. Then there are games that the customers play to win coupons and so on.
If a shopper visits an Apple store or a Vodafone store, she/he not only gets the actual product there, but it is largely an interactive store with tablet technologies, AR (Augmented Realities) and such others. The customer gets a complete experience when she/he walks out of that door.
Some of the digital technologies that enhance the store experience
Tablet technology (touchscreen experience)
These are categorized into 2 broad parts – Digital kiosks and digital signages. The basic idea is to encourage customers to visit the stores to get complete user experience. Social media presence is of paramount importance nowadays. With this newly unified commerce, shoppers are able to click images of themselves in the store and tag the store’s Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat accounts. The digital signages can be used to showcase the latest tag or post that the account receives, ensuring that the shopper can see him/herself in those large signages. The in-store interactions can also be extended to something called IH (Interactive Hangers). When a hanger is picked up, it triggers the pre-fed visual media on to the nearest screen. It can also be programmed to change the mood lighting and background music as per the outfit that is picked up.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Many furniture stores have this feature, where the shopper can check out how a piece of furniture will look at her/his home before buying the product. The said app utilizes the live camera feed of a mobile device and projects a virtual representation of the object in real time on a tracking marker, allowing the user to view the object from any angle. The purpose of this tech is to digitally enhance the view of the real world by giving it a 360-degree view of the said object.
Quick-Response (QR) Codes
Almost all retailers use this in some form or other, whether to enable product research, obtain vouchers or check the availability of the item etc. These are scattered everywhere. Be it a print ad, or stuck at Point of Sale (POS), mobile ads and so on. A simple scan of the code on the shopper’s mobile device allows them access to the next set of information.
Location Based Services (LBS)
A GPS-based solution, which determines the user’s location to the nearest store. Indoor LBS is Bluetooth-based solution that sends a notification to the shopper’s mobile devices when they enter the store or the aisle they are looking through. Google and Apple are two enterprises who are heavily into using this tech. Decathlon (Bangaluru branch) has this tech installed which aids the shopper in locating the desired item in the giant space and also check the availability of sizes before walking the distance.
Compared to others, this is a very basic service. So, even if a situation arises that your phone network is acting up when you are in a store, you can simply log on to the store’s Wi-Fi and check out their offers and products online.
The possibilities are immense, and what we see in this amalgamation of the retail and digital concept is just the tip of an iceberg. The real thing is much deeper and has mammoth potential, which is yet to be discovered. By now, we have understood the fact that the Cloud, the Internet, and the Network will be the underlined definition of the future of everything related to enterprise IT. And, the only tech that will ensure that this holy trinity coexist is Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN).
As we have discussed in one of our previous blogs that the retail industry is achieving unified commerce with SD-WAN solutions. The sheer increase in the number of branches and outlets for enterprises indicates maximum cloud computing. With the SD-WAN architecture, the primary benefits the enterprise is getting is software-defined security. It increases network performance and reduces total operational costs drastically.
What happens if an enterprise decides to not let go of their legacy WANs for their enterprise?
The answer is rather simple. You see, a traditional WAN does not have the potential to be the backbone for an enterprise’s Digital Transformation- for IoT, Artificial Intelligence or any other Cloud-based technology. It will end up becoming a road-block for the entire system. To achieve nirvana in the field of unified commerce and 360° retail store experience, enterprises need to start shedding the weight of legacy infrastructure and start upgrading to SD-WAN.