The COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdowns that followed threw up various unimaginable challenges for businesses across verticals. On the other hand, it also gave rise to substantial technology adoption irrespective of the industry in question, which undoubtedly was a much needed transformation. Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan, founder and CEO, CASA Retail AI recently spoke to Dataquest, and said that while the pandemic gave rise to various challenges, it also resulted in astounding innovations in the retail industry in order to ensure that customers received the best possible experience. While the customer was always king for retailers, CX has become even more pertinent in the post-pandemic scenario, said Vijayaraghavan. Read on to know more about what he had to say about the impact of the pandemic on customer experience:
DQ: The pandemic has been tough for all companies across verticals. What were some of the common challenges you faced when it comes to customers due to the pandemic?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: We believe that, for most retailers, the pandemic has had a dual impact. During the first four to five months of 2020, the challenges were significant for most lifestyle retailers and they faced a massive dip in revenues. From the festival season onwards though, most did exceedingly well and some even beat their 2019 numbers. The most challenging issues impacting most lifestyle retailers included cash flow troubles, inventory turns, etc. From a technology solutions provider standpoint, the challenges of cash flow translated to difficulties for us, in tandem with the need to rapidly innovate and enable retailers to continue serving customers in this changed scenario. This has caused the industry to innovate quite significantly on various aspects such as store to door, proactive consumer safety measures, omni-channel solutions, etc., thus revamping the entire face of the industry.
DQ: What are some of the pandemic induced changes that customers can now not do without?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: Retailers have always been focused on knowing the customer better and understanding their preferences, in order to offer them the best products possible. This aspect has now garnered greater significance. Marketplace revenues have also grown significantly over the past year. Going ahead, retailers need to serve the customers across various channels while still obtaining sufficient intelligence to achieve greater loyalty and long term value. Retailers have shown a greater willingness to rapidly adopt practices and technology, in line with the situation, and this by far is the most critical aspect. Retailers that aren’t flexible and agile, in their thinking and methods, will face an uphill battle to win the customer’s loyalty. The pandemic has also clearly highlighted the need to have a robust retention strategy and required retailers to look at their supply chains more closely, to optimize turns, inventory days, etc.
DQ: What are some of the trends that will drive customer experience post-pandemic?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: Retailers have always known that the customer is king. However, post-pandemic, customer experience has gained even more importance. In this scenario, the key trends that will drive customer experience, over the next few years, include a larger focus on omni-channel retailing, attention towards creating a unified view of the customer and hyper personalization. Innovations that provide a greater sense of security for consumers will also find favour with retailers.
DQ: How are new age technologies impacting the business of customer experience?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: Technology is now powering every sector under the sun, and the retail space, with its focus on customer service, is no different. People are now keen on customised experiences, and that is what new age technology enables. The business of customer experience is being drastically altered and enhanced by the widespread availability of affordable big data and AI technologies that process at scale and in real time. Retailers are also keen on adopting cloud and SaaS offerings to enrich customer experience in a sustainable manner.
5. Kindly highlight some initiatives taken up at your company to deliver superior customer experience?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: At Ginesys One, we are consistently working towards enhanced customer experiences and our retail partners can attest to the same. We are focused on creating a wholesome interface with the customers, while enabling retailers to meet their demands in the most optimal manner possible. Accordingly, we are leveraging advances in big data, consumer tech and AI to deliver retail technology that will enable a richer and personalized customer experience. Another major initiative is to understand the customer’s journey at various touchpoints and provide a more seamless experience.
DQ: Any final comments that you would like to add?
Sathiyanarayanan Vijayaraghavan: The pandemic has changed the retail ecosystem significantly. In the past few decades, retailers battled for optimal locations, products and supply chains. That is no longer the situation today. The terrain has now shifted to customer experience, omni-channel services and agility. This requires retailers to adapt to the new normal and adopt technology which can stand them in good stead. In the years ahead, we expect retail tech to be a major part of the equation and we look forward to playing a key role in this transformation.