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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Globalized expansion with localized experience

Retail in a global economy has unlocked multiple channels and opportunities for retailers to enter or expand operations in developing growth markets. The diversification of business demand is critical to counter economic stagnation. But, the capability to safely and successfully port your brand across continents is harnessed through streamlined core operations. Retailers need to be more strategic, as each marketplace represents unique advantages and challenges. While India’s PPP ranking is high, its foreign investment policies remain restrictive. China’s increased demand for western goods needs to be carefully routed through its extensive tax regime.

Retail brands are adapting to local culture, skill-sets and eco-systems. They balance localization with customer expectations by fine-tuning store models and personalizing online strategies. For example, Walmart in America is focused on bargains and selection; the same is true in China, but for different items. Real estate is much more expensive in China, so Walmart purchases a small plot of land and creates several levels, like a mini shopping mall, instead of a single level that is spread across what seems like acres in America. However, the quantities are kept smaller in China as most houses in China are small and do not have room to store bulk purchases. Samsung plays an active role in understanding local appetites, customs or preferences to meet customer needs – In Bulgaria, yogurt is an important part of the local diet so they developed an oven able to produce the perfect homemade yogurt in seconds. 

Regional retailers are also flexing their marketing muscle to maintain growth, as global players increase footprint in their respective regions. The future will lead to increased localization efforts by foreign retailers to fortify market positions. Consequently, regional retailers would focus on strengthening existent customer connect while emulating the proven best practices of the larger retail competitors. Technology has played a vital role in enabling globalization across multiple industries including retail. From manufacturing processes established at different continents for cheaper labour and raw material costs to end consumer analytics for determining the right product and market matrix; retailers can expand their supply strategies and introduce cost-effective innovations to operations. This helps optimize business capital expenditure to support local market efficacy and boost global expansion.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Retailers - The sleeping giants of eCommerce

- Naresh Ahuja

At ETP, as we work with retailers across 20 countries and over 25,000 stores and 500 brands, we have seen tremendous depth in their skills in merchandising, brand management, sales and supply chain management, their understanding of their diverse customers and employees, their ability to manage cycles and seasons and still produce a profit, their infrastructure management, their cash management, so on and so forth.

In the last one year, we have seen these giants waking up to their potential in the eCommerce space. With all their powerful management and execution capability, they could be the game-changers of this new “omni-channel” retail world. Like all large organisations with a legacy and systems and processes in place, they may not be as nimble as the pure-play eCommerce players, however they seem to have got it now and are ramping up their organisations' technology, culture and capability to play the eCommerce game. At the same time, the eCommerce players have grown and are struggling with the lack of the same competencies that the larger retailers have.

It is a fascinating new battle front and the next couple of years will tell all. My guess is that the winners will be the ones who leverage the core competencies of retail and deploy the technological savviness of eCommerce.

This article has been written by:

Naresh Ahuja, Chairman and CEO, ETP Group

Naresh as the Founder, Chairman and CEO of the ETP Group leads the company with a clear focus on bringing enduring value to customers through best practices mirrored in software applications. Spanning 25 years of focus on retail domain expertise and IP development, ETP today, has a strong customer base of market leaders in more than 20 countries across Asia Pacific, India and the Middle East, and is on its way to becoming a global leader in Retail Software Solutions.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Top 5 questions to ask before investing in retail POS technology

As technology continues to thrive around the world, businesses need to reevaluate their offerings and operations. In retail, the POS is where the ‘business promise’ is realized by the customer. Today, it represents much more than a system to process purchases and can be used as a powerful tool to fulfill both customer and business expectations. So here are the key checks to be made before ringing in a new retail POS system:

Does it provide true integration with enterprise data?
Julia, a customer, approaches the POS terminal to complete her purchase. Paul, the cashier, feeds in Julia’s name or swipes her membership card to access her buying history. The system interface now displays her purchase patterns and past sale analysis. Paul makes recommendations basis the most frequent bought items, preferred modes of payment, and current offerings on her loyalty credits and identifies promotions to cross/up-sell. If a product is not available in-store, he views, ships and tracks products directly from other stores or the warehouse to Julia’s desired location. Through an integrated POS system, Paul accesses real-time enterprise CRM and inventory data, store sales reports, product performance and business analysis. It empowers him to fulfill customer expectations and thus drive demand optimally. 

What about omni-channel functions?
Consumer expectations are not just getting the right product at the right price at the right place at the right time, but also the right interaction and the right service everywhere! An omni-channel point-of-sale system streamlines business operations across physical and digital retail platforms. Customers value instant connect with the brand and staying informed, updated and engaged seamlessly across channels. So, while shopping in-store or on a smart device, they are greeted with personalized communication on products, prices and promotions. Retailers also manage multiple touch-points through a centralized supply chain and intuitive system interface. The capability to delight customers across multiple channels lends to a bigger market share and favorable social quotient. The sustained engagement and accessibility also fosters loyalty and distinction from the competition.

So is it completely mobile?
Often times, even the best shopping experiences are ruined by long queues at the checkout counters. In the age of instant gratification, the sight of a long waiting line would deter walk-ins and even lead to basket abandonment. Installing more POS terminals is an impractical solution in terms of added expense, floor space utilization and viability during low rush hours. mPOS technology extends the functions and capabilities of the POS system on smart devices, as an application. It helps in-store staff to approach the customers, consult them basis their CRM profile and conclude the purchase from anywhere in the store. The invoices are electronically transmitted with enough time left to receive valuable feedback from customers. Happy customers often spread the love to other prospects and drive demand. Saving in-store floor space and using cost-effective smart devices optimizes operational costs further.

But will it support business growth?
Retail is growing, markets are expanding and opportunities are abundant. Considering the time it takes to set-up or upgrade enterprise technology software, it is essential to ensure the POS system is future-ready. It needs to be easily scalable and secure with the flexibility to adapt to different markets and industry dynamism. The ROI increases steadily with low administration costs and virtual system updates across the enterprise. The POS system processes are seamlessly automated across channels, providing centralized control. This helps deliver uniform brand experience, uncompromised customer service with complete operational visibility.

Vendor or partner?
Implementing technology is a long-term commitment which requires equal collaboration between the solution partner and the retail organization. While a software vendor might support to the point of implementation, a solution partner will share business goals towards innovation, growth and profitability. It is vital to choose a solution partner who has created a solid foundation in the industry with the experience of working with retailers of similar size and scope of operation as you. Your investments are better protected with a company which has reached the scale to support you globally but keen on continual customer satisfaction to accommodate your unique requirements. The solution partner should be able to dedicate expert teams with in-depth best practices knowledge. This helps structure the implementation, training, consecutive project phases and support in line with the business projections.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Mobile Technology Redefining Retail

Recently, Flipkart – India’s leading e-commerce marketplace offering over 15 million products cross 70+ categories, announced it would convert into a mobile app-only format within the year. Flipkart’s mobile traffic was at 6% a year ago, but it has increased more than 10 times since then. The move makes sense as India is the third-largest internet market in the world with more than 243 million users, trailing China and the US in that order. Boston Consulting Group expects more than 580 million people in India to use the internet by 2018, 70-80% of them accessing the web on mobile phones.

Mobile technology has brewed exponential change in retail operations. We dive deeper into the main and most successful components of the same:
Mobile Point Of Sale (mPOS) technology has removed physical limitations on a sale check-out and created more in-store floor space. mPOS technology empowers the in-store staff to use wireless, intuitive mobile and tablet applications to accept payments on the spot. For example, the ETP MobileStore mPOS application integrates in-store item record, customer data, sales person information, product barcodes and multiple payment transactions with electronic invoice capability. This enables features like queue busting, mobile CRM, easy customer/inventory lookup, price check, quick customer service, customer registrations and promotions gratification. mPOS reduces walk-outs and reverses the trend of small basket check-outs through up/cross selling, based on personalized customer profile and secure, faster modes of payments.

Beacon is a hardware technology of nominal cost and it is small enough to be installed anywhere in the store. This battery-friendly device uses Bluetooth to transmit messages or prompts to smartphones and tablets around the store location. With the requisite permissions, beacons integrate with the company’s analytics software and access the customer’s buying history. The messages can be targeted according to past sales, current customer location, average time spent in the store, and more. It seamlessly combines the data captured from both online and physical store, directing online preferences to the retail store. According to customer research, 63% of respondents can be persuaded to enter a store by a push notification sent to their smart device via beacon technology.

The mobilization of shopping with m-commerce has grown exponentially across the world due to the swift adoption of smart mobile devices. The unique selling point remains the convenience of shopping anywhere, any time with multiple payment options. Big data analytics has helped retailers fuel their mobile marketing strategies through data-driven insights. It has helped brands reach consumers who cannot access conventional retail touch-points.

Macy’s became the Retailer of the Year 2014 by embracing image recognition, beacons, mobile wallets and event-driven mobile commerce, bringing added convenience and excitement to the shopping experience in a way few other retailers can match. Mobile technology would continue to thrive, develop and stimulate retail transformations that evolve the customer experience. In the near future, models like social media retail, virtual showrooms and 3D printed customization are going to head the next stage of change.