- Mandeep Singh, CEO & MD,
CPM Indiawrites how Coronavirus, albiet devastating in many ways, also brought with it the much-needed push for digital transformation.
- He further highlights how
predictive shoppingbecame a reality where we knew exactly what the consumer would be looking for and when.
Along with destruction to life and livelihoods, the COVID19 pandemic of 2020 brought with it, questions that the industry had never even considered until then. Never had we imagined a time when shopping malls would have to close their doors for months on end, or a point when manufacturing would come to a grinding halt. Nevertheless, halt it did. While I believe a dynamic sector like retail would have found ways to innovate and embrace change anyway, the pandemic five years ago definitely accelerated the pace.
The last 5 years have seen the rapid emergence of the new retailing. This period has seen the emergence of some interesting global platforms that have begun to dominate the retail landscape, both, digitally and physically. It is amazing to see how these giants have created an ecosystem along with local stores, start-ups and large format stores with the super empowered consumer at the centre of it all.
Today the lines of retail have blurred. It is no more about value chain but instead a mix of multi layered apps, personalized curation, data and analytics, digital engagements and payments. Retail learnt some important lessons while it remained shut for months five years ago and these lessons should not be forgotten. Here are some key drivers of retail that helped us bounce back five years ago and will continue to do so for coming period as well:
The post COVID-19 tech boom
The coronavirus pandemic was devastating in many ways. However, it also brought with it the much-needed push for digital transformation. Consumers needed contactless easy solutions, and those were going to be possible only by bringing in some tech-based solutions. Owing to this, early 2020 was when we first spotted a robot, scanning the aisles in supermarket and at the checkout counter.
Today, retailers and brands are reaping the benefits of this forced technological transformation that has transformed the very core of how we do business. The digital was not only limited to solutions for shopping. Safety became a key factor for consumers and a measure of their shopping trust/comfort. We at CPM enabled retailers to have the latest version of our AI merchandizing and POSM solutions along with maintaining digital record of the ACNV ratings of their staff and reflect the same to their consumers.
For the first time ever, online and offline stopped fighting for dominance and instead came together to give rise to unique cross channel shopping experiences to consumers. This opened up a completely new set of opportunities for retailers making the sector even more exciting. Merging the offline and online, CPM was at forefront with retailers to ensure that the consumer journey was never compromised, and the quality of stewardship remained high. A click of a button led to a direct consultation with an expert, where the consumer needed and how he wanted it.
The essential became visible
The pandemic did what decades of business pitches failed to achieve – a strong focus on people who were going to be the final frontier – the interface between the brands and the consumers. Brands started investing more in up-skilling the retail staff, updating them to face newer realities. Moreover, retail staff were trained in skills that went beyond stocking and reporting (which the robots could do) so that they could now go on to become consumer experience specialists, instead of only focusing on sales. For the first time ever, hygiene and health became a part of the training module. The entire staff now had to be a Health A1 holder.
CPM India identified the changes that COVID-19 was going to bring to the industry early on and began investing in upskilling the workforce through a multi-pronged training approach. Interactive digital learning and assessment, which led to greater efficiency and aided in optimization or clients.
Predictive analytics to predictive shopping
Analytics solutions helped many a retailer and brand help navigate this deluge of data and brought into the picture the use of predictive analytics, which helped clients and partners safeguard their businesses against unknown and sudden events while enabling learning on a daily basis.
Post the pandemic, predictive analytics found applications in several scenarios where businesses started analyzing historical facts and made predictions on future and unknown events. Greater restrictions and cost sensitivity catalyzed the adoption of predictive analytics. Axis the analytics entity of CPM has played a key role in developing and enhancing their predictive capabilities, which has helped retailers, predict when a resource, product or communication needs to be deployed for the greatest return. In addition, the newer version has used consumer insights to give customized individual predictive recommendations to them.
Predictive shopping became a reality where we knew exactly what the consumer would be looking for and when, what were must have stock at homes (MHS) and good to haves, which made planning a breeze!
With the pandemic, consumers became more cautious about who was selling to them. They needed to know whether the right safety and health standards were being followed. This gave rise to contactless retail. Today, at the store, a digital POSM guides me to the correct aisle and helps me make the right choice. Also, I no longer need to lug back products from the store. They are delivered to my house in self-driving vans.
Changing the way we shop
Five to seven years ago, e-commerce was the buzzword. And while online shopping as we knew it had its advantages, we all have had those times when the wrong product (or even bars of soaps) turned up instead of the phone that we ordered. Today, we can use our hand held and wearable devices we not only get to size up the product through holographic 3D touch technology but also get to track its journey through every stage – from our specific customizations to the time when it is drone delivered to our doorsteps.
With the technology at hand, it was possible for the consumers to shop from the comfort of their homes. In order to enable brands to capitalize on the e-commerce boom, Detail the online tool of CPM ensured that the right product was in the right place with the right offer and message. Coupled with the ability of a virtual consultation by an expert, a brand was able to communicate their promise to the consumer. Shopping in-store became shorter and with the need for limited contact.
In 2020, the challenges seemed impossible to overcome. However, today while I key in my grocery requirements, customizing them largely, knowing that they will be delivered perfectly packaged by driverless vans, I know we as an industry acted quickly to help turn the situation around. Retail, being the resilient sector that it is pulled through by doing everything that was required for retailers to do in response to the disruptions to ensure business continuity and emerge successfully in the post-pandemic world. Today, five years later, it would do us all good to remember that we need to constantly keep innovating and calibrating and recalibrating risk in order to stay ahead of the curve, so we do not have to wait for another extraordinary event to ‘force’ us into changing.
What you read above is what I hope to write five years from today. A happy account of lessons learnt from a difficult period. While I may not exactly be a clairvoyant with the ability to look into the future, I am hopeful. With each passing day as we are getting back to what is being called ‘The New Normal’, new learnings are emerging. Never before had we had to evolve so quickly. But evolve we must. It’s time we take the learnings this pandemic has brought us and put them into practice and be prepared, always, so we are better able to serve our customers who have deemed us as ‘essential’ in their lives.