In the past couple of years, technology has been rewriting the trajectories for almost all sectors and industries. Invariably, the consumer goods and retail industry has been impacted in several ways. On the one hand, with the unleashing of the pandemic, the conventional retail stores underwent a significant turmoil and there was a move towards everything digital. On the other hand, even with the resurgence of physical stores and retail experience, aspects of technology and digitization will continue to exist and even expand.
Chief Information Officer
The Supreme Industries Ltd
Thus, technology will be a mainstay for the consumer goods and retail industry, creating new opportunities, as well as, providing solutions to the challenges that might surface due to uncertainty and ambiguity. On a macro level, technology will enable the consumer goods and retail industry to facilitate business continuity and growth, even during crises by ensuring seamless operations, enhanced experience and greater resilience and agility. Spearheading the technology adoption for a leading consumer goods enterprise, I will reflect on the five main trends that are likely to lead and impact the digital transformation journey for the consumer goods and retail industry.
Addressing changing customer expectations
The customer expectations are changing across sectors and consumer goods and retail are no different. In fact, as customers have a greater power of choice for different products, their expectations from consumer goods is becoming increasingly dynamic. Technology can play a major role in enabling the consumer good providers and retailers to adapt to these changing customer expectations. Retailers need to leverage technology to enable customers to search, evaluate and reach the products.
Simply expecting customers to buy products available in the counters or to navigate to the right ones will no longer suffice. Rather, retailers need to adopt technology led solutions to enhance the experience and convenience for their customers. For instance, the simple adoption of a navigation system at the entrance and at short distances in a physical retail store can greatly empower customers to make the right choice and lead to a better experience.
Think beyond product sales
Today, retailers need to be cognizant of the fact that to ensure business continuity, simply creating a smooth sales experience for the customers is not enough. The entire customer lifecycle from the time the need for the product is established to the post sales experience, each milestone or phase is critical for consumer goods and retail success. Furthermore, it is not only important to provide a pleasant experience, but equally important is to track the customer experience at all steps, identify trends and focus on improving it. Here, technology can play a major role.
Technology can enable retailers to establish a market need for their product by scouting the market. Once the need is established, retailers can leverage technology led solutions to enable customers to easily search their products, provide relevant and customized product information as well as offer real time customer support and query resolution. Furthermore, digital solutions can help create a pleasant post sales experience as well. Thus, retailers need to expand their focus from only offering a great product to focusing on every phase of the customer lifecycle, which technology can enable.
Offering honest products
That being said, the product still remains at the core of each transaction and experience. Offering honest products continues to be the key to a great consumer experience. However, what constitutes a great product can be determined using the right technology solutions.
Enabling meaningful consumption
Taking cue from the point above, product offerings lie at the core of a great experience for the consumer goods and retail industry. However, the approach to mass consumption is long gone. In the age of hyper personalization, customers expect their retailers to personalize the offerings according to their individual wants and needs. One size fits all consumptions needs to be replaced by custom offerings. This requires retailers to effectively utilize technology to capture the changing customer demands and expectations, analyze the trends and create and market products in a way that resonates with what customers want.
The objective is to make consumption customer driven and meaningful by personalizing the entire experience which the customer can connect with and not rely simply on the conventional modes of consumer goods and retail benchmarks.
A data-driven, proactive approach
Finally, technology has the potential to rewrite the future of consumer goods and the retail industry with the power of data to fuel a proactive approach to market trends and customer expectations. For a long time, retailers have been relying on a product push trend where they set the market standards and customers adjust their expectations according to the supply available. However, with the rise of the hyper aware consumer, consumer goods and retail industry needs to focus on a customer pull.
Here, the power of data, harnessed by technologies like artificial intelligence, analytics, etc. can help retailers rewrite the future. Capturing and analyzing data can enable retailers to gauge insights to adjust and customize their products and services based on customers’ needs. Furthermore, market data can help them keep pace with new market trends.
Key takeaways for the consumer goods and retail industry CXOs
It is important for CXOs leading digital transformation for consumer goods to acknowledge that technology for retail will try to blend the best of the physical world with the conveniences of the virtual world. Some of the top key takeaways include:
- The customer expectations are constantly changing and retailers need to leverage technology to keep pace with these changes.
- Technology can fuel the creation of new experiences even within the physical retail world.
- Advances in data, machine learning, automation, etc. will guide the future of consumer goods and retail transforming the sector for greater resilience, agility and productivity.
To conclude, it is quite evident that technology will continue to play a major role in redefining the future of consumer goods and retail, enabling the retailers to transform business as usual and facilitate growth in a new avatar.
About the author
Sudhir Kanvinde is currently the CIO of Supreme Industries, leading manufacturer of plastics in India, based in Mumbai. Sudhir is leading the organization towards digitization and automation of the existing landscape and harmonizing it with new IT initiatives. He aims to effectively use technologies like IoT, AI, and ML to optimize operations, ensure scalability and drive business goals.
Prior to joining Supreme Industries, Sudhir has over 25 years of experience in IT management. In his last assignment as Executive Director IT at IPA, Ministry of Shipping, GoI, he has led various IT projects across Indian ports and managed several ongoing technology initiatives while introducing a few new ones.
Before joining the Ministry of Shipping, Sudhir held the role of CIO at IL&FS Transportation Networks and successfully executed IT projects such as the execution of SAP ERP solution at ITNL across all locations. He has spent over 6 years at the transportation company and introduced IT policies, IT governance, and other key IT initiatives apart from core technology implementations. Prior to that, he was with the German giant Siemens, in their software arm.