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5 omnichannel retail strategies for business growth

Kiran Komatla, Associate Vice President – IT, Burger King India Private Limited, on integrating online and offline channels for a more robust business. By Shweta Gandhi

Kiran Komatla has been working in the retail industry for the last 14 years. He has engaged in leading and contributing towards multi-dimensional technology and system management in retail. His experience spans across functional domains, including retailing solutions, loyalty programs, replenishment tools, delivery management, vendor management, outsourcing and ERP projects. Engaging customers and enhancing their experience has been a constant throughout his career. Kiran has been instrumental in discovering and delivering solutions at Burger King so as to reach customers in a far better way. Burger King started with online orders, giving customers the option to use their mobile app or website or call centre to place an order. Kiran was recently recognised as a SaaS Icon at CIO Power List 2016. Here, he shares some strategies that he thinks every CIO in the retail business must consider.

1. Embrace the omnichannel experience
“Initially, retail was nothing but brick and mortar stores. Then online came in to the picture and customers got multiple platforms to reach the retailer. That’s when the era of omnichannel retailing started. A true omnichannel shopping experience can be created when retailers offer their customers an ultimate value proposition. The order delivery and fulfilment experience is a vital part of this new shopping journey as well.

“And with the advent of digitalisation, there’s also digital retailing. So it’s no more about just being online or offline—in fact, you can’t be on just one channel. You should be omnichannel—be able to sell on any platform, and use technology to seamlessly incorporate everything between the platforms. You also need to have a strong digital reach and communicate with your customers and listen to their feedback. To succeed, retailers must allow shoppers to receive their items at any time, and through any channel.”

2. Find digital strategies for online and offline customers
“Online and offline retail caters to two different customers. And there are many customers who still shop offline. In India, not even five per cent shop online. So there is a huge potential for growth in the online market. But at the same time brick and mortar stores still exist, and they need to provide proper digital experiences and find an interactive way of communicating with customers at stores. This strategy will help in the long term, as opposed to just jumping online. You need to cater to both sets of customers—those who shop online and those who come to your stores. So you need to create a digital experience for both to increase the top line.

“Moreover, digital retail solutions have the potential to completely revamp the way retailers and brands interact with consumers. Many consumers have become immersed in a digital lifestyle, and those retailers and brands that apply digital retail solutions to their stores/ecommerce have a significant advantage in staying relevant over the next decade. With technology continuing to develop, retailers must take the time to understand how this digital world can help increase sales and the overall efficiency of their business.”

3. Utilise tech to interact with customers
“If a customer comes to a brick and mortar store or to a website only giving them information about the product is not enough. You need to have another mode of information distribution built in. You can’t always have skilled labour at the store to provide it and sometimes customers would rather learn from the Internet. So retailers should acknowledge where technology can help them interact with customers, provide product information, etc. Older, offline, one-way marketing channels will not work now. We have to make way for newer channels—online interactions, mobile communications, tweets, blogs, Facebook updates, etc. The old ways aren’t dying; it is just that there are several more ways to connect to the customer today. Technology and social media are changing the rules of customer engagement.

“Today, customers are also talking back and amongst themselves. It is therefore important for retailers to hear what customers are telling them, and listen to what they’re saying about the retailers to their inner circle and the whole world. Instead of focusing on a few ‘touch points’ during the marketing and sales process, companies must utilise these new communication channels to form meaningful and ongoing relationships. Customer engagement is an ongoing dialogue and it can happen anywhere, anytime.”

4. Keep up with mainstream tech
“Today, the tech landscape is completely dynamic. CIOs should understand mainstream tech and adopt it quickly in a reliable and sustainable way. So the key challenge is to understand the dynamic platforms available and make the right decision at the right time to ensure your company is on the right track. Today online and offline has synchronised and companies will gain much by taking both into one platform. We are at the verge of digital synchronisation and seamlessly adopting it within the existing technology. There’s also structured and a non-structured data. And CIOs need to use meaningful analytics to bring sensible info in to business. The first step is recognising the right tech.”

5. Data analytics using big data
“The shopping experience has changed dramatically in recent years as the power has shifted to consumers. Shoppers can easily research and compare products on any device, even while walking through a store. They can share their reviews through social media and influence prospective customers. So retailers have to employ new strategies to attract and retain customers.

“Big data helps retailers store, integrate and analyse a wide variety of online and offline customer data—e-commerce transactions, clickstream data, email, point of sale (POS) systems, social media and call centre records—all in one central repository. They can analyse this data to generate insights about individual consumer behaviour and preferences, and offer personalised recommendations in real time. Big data analytics is now being applied at every stage of the retail process—working out popular products by predicting trends, forecasting where the demand will be, optimising competitive pricing, identifying prospective customers and working out the best way to approach them, accepting their money and finally working out what to sell them next.

“Retailers—large and small—have been reaping the benefits of analysing structured data for years, but are only just getting to grips with unstructured data. Great benefits will come to those who put it to best use, and that can only come from innovative thinking and approaches to analytics.”

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