Multiple trends have shaped the retail space over the last two years. While online selling was the only option during the COVID-19 lockdown days, even the digital native e-tailers saw their infrastructure stretched to meet their own standards of timely delivery. Erratic, unpredictable supply chains, last-mile delivery issues, inventory imbalances, desperate consumers, and a hoarding mindset have caused turmoil in the retail industry.
Retailers have risen to the occasion with on-the-go innovations ranging from AR-VR options for remote shopping, autonomous in-store assistants, appointment shopping, contactless checkout or curbside pickup, small-scale pop-up or fulfillment stores for buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) customers, to voice-enabled smart home assistants and digital wallets. Digital experiences have matured as well, with omnichannel connects, personalized promotions, seamless communication for pick-up requests, product bundling options, pickup facilitation and customer verification.
With such a wide range of innovative trends and experiences becoming necessary for survival, retailers resorted to technology. This accelerated digital transformation, in turn, created quite a few trends of its own. Let’s examine the technologies that are enabling this digital transformation for retailers across existing legacy technologies.
Intelligent IoT and real-time data drive accelerated decisions
The connected and predictive monitoring capabilities of IoT can be leveraged by retailers for a single pane view of their complete ecosystem of suppliers, warehouses and customers. IoT can connect thousands of devices from edge to cloud across a retailer’s supply chain, warehouse and customer ecosystem. The intelligent and predictive monitoring power of AI-integrated IoT and edge can help to predict, monitor and analyze data from these devices to understand the health of the supply chain, manage inventory prudently, and identify location, footfall and engagement of customers. Well-governed data lakes on cloud can store all these device data at scale and securely through advanced threat intelligence and IT-OT cyber defense capabilities. Such a unified and complete view of their entire ecosystem can enable retailers to glean real-time insights and provide better predictability for accelerated decisions and business opportunities.
Microservices and serverless architecture on cloud enhance agility
As the retail industry races against time for technology modernization through cloud, bulky legacy monoliths hamper their pace. Microservices for independent processes can significantly reduce the technical debt of a retailer in the long run, though initially it may go up as new development cost. Their modularity enables autonomous function, scale, speed and the choice of best-fit tool for specific needs. With devops and agile way of realizing outcomes, experiment-fueled innovation has become viable, enabling faster time to market for new offerings and features.
Similarly, a serverless architecture with automatic scaling and built-in availability enable direct build of applications as against configuration. It can therefore help retailers respond to change faster through rapid application prototyping and development driving business growth and transformation.
AI-ML transform customer engagement
The insights gathered from IoT and AI-ML solutions can work toward accurate targeting, hyperpersonalized promotions, offers and recommendations resulting in better conversions, customer engagement and loyalty for retailers. Buying behavior forecasting, smart stores, supply chain optimization, contact center modernization, computer vision for goods and service personnel optimization and check out are some of the myriad ways in which AI-ML can transform end-customer experience.
Retailers can benefit from the combinatorial power of these technologies from AWS given their rich cloud-native lineage Over the last decade, TCS and AWS have been partners in helping retail giants firmly secure a growth and transformation trajectory enabled by cloud.