‘Retailers need to modernize operations to cater to tech-savvy customer’
By Retail4Growth Team | January 07, 2020
Deep Agarwal, Regional Sales Director – Indian Sub-Continent, Zebra Technologies, Asia Pacific, shares his views on burgeoning consumer demand and how retailers are preparing to meet the challenges of an on-demand economy.
What are some key challenges that retailers face today?
There are several macro challenges that are forcing retailers to develop smarter operations to ensure that they are managing costs, improving the efficiency of their capital investments and inventory, and elevating the customer experience whether online or in-store.
- Economic policies around the world
- Operational pressures due to rising labour costs across retail and warehouse environments
- The continuous shift toward e-commerce puts pressure on the profit margins of brick and mortar stores
- An on-demand economy has given rise to increasingly demanding customers who want their goods to be delivered within the shortest possible time
How are retailers preparing to meet burgeoning consumer demand?
First, retailers are working toward a better customer experience by exploring different formats that include convenience, food freshness, health and more curated brand experiences. They are also looking for improvements in the checkout experience to provide more convenience to the customers either through self-checkout or mobile checkout. A major area of focus for retailers is equipping their stores and associates with technology that helps automate tasks and frees up associate time so they can focus more on customers when they are in the store.
A second development is the rapid penetration of store fulfilment which is driving growth for technology that helps across the full range of options from BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) to delivery to the customer’s home. This (along with the ongoing desire to improve operational performance) drives the need for new modalities of store associate mobility through advances in software and hardware purpose-built for these dynamic workflows.
Finally, there is strong growth in RFID, especially in the apparel space which needs it to identify the stock position to support omnichannel experiences as well as the maturity of the solutions.
How will the needle shift further in 2020 as retailers prepare to meet new challenges of an on-demand economy?
Point of Sale: Customers will continue to demand more convenient experiences either in terms of line reduction or ease of payment options. This starts off with self-scanning, mobile POS and self-checkout solutions that allow various types of payment including phone payment such as through barcodes.
Intelligent Automation: Retailers are also looking at newer technologies to help drive more efficiency in the warehouse and in-store through intelligent automation. This can come in the form of a robotic solution that helps workers pick products more efficiently, or complete tasks like shelf inventory control, or a computer vision solution that can identify operational inefficiencies in the store such as out of stock or missing price tags. Machine learning and advanced analytics will also continue to be a growing player in the retailer’s toolkit to help optimize inventory efficiency.
RFID: RFID will continue to make a difference with the ability to manage inventory accuracy and visibility. Its demand will continue to grow thanks to its effectiveness in fulfilling the desire of retailers and their partners for full visibility of their inventories.
What are some solutions that Zebra is offering in the retail vertical in order to bring in enhanced ease and efficiency?
Zebra solutions can help by enhancing the efficiency of employees, helping retailers manage store costs through prescriptive analytics and inventory tracking and offering a wide range of warehouse modernization technologies to improve overall efficiency.
Zebra is the leader in providing associate enablement today, and we continue to expand our offerings in-store inventory monitoring. We have the widest range of location solutions and cutting-edge picking solutions (FulfillmentEdge, HD4000) along with our investments in Locus; Fetch Robotics; PlusOne Robotics.
- To help drive smarter operations, Zebra has solutions that improve worker productivity through migration to Android devices in the warehouse, deployment of Workforce Connect to improve collaboration in the store and connecting associates who have historically not been connected with purpose-built IoT solutions, such as the EC30.
- To optimize inventory, Zebra has best-in-class RFID solutions along with efficient physical inventory solutions like Zebra SmartCount and the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics suite. The former delivers real-time inventory visibility with significant savings to better manage shrink, increase sales, and ensure retailers have the right products in the right stores at the right time. The latter tackles both, analyzing and interpreting data for evidence of loss and positive sales behaviours that should be replicated to boost revenue.
- Finally, improving the customer experience can be driven by mobile POS and self-scanning solutions.
How is the Indian landscape changing?
In light of omnichannel retail and the on-demand economy, both online and in-store retailers are faced with operational pressures due to rising labour costs and increasingly demanding customers who want their goods delivered quickly. Retailers are embracing technology such as frictionless payment as well as robotic and RFID solutions to ensure that they are always managing costs, improving efficiency and enhancing customer satisfaction.