Sangeeta Gupta

Transforming through innovation @ Nasscom Retail Tech Day 2020

The Nasscom Retail Tech Day 2020, titled ‘Transformation through Innovation’ was held today. Opening the Day 1, Ms. Kritika Murugesan, Director, Nasscom, said that retail can be the driver for social recovery and the economy.

Ms. Sangeeta Gupta, Senior VP and Chief Strategy Officer, Nasscom, said there is an interesting session on retail technology. Covid-19 has made digitalization important. There is more focus on being self reliant. The government is becoming a major spender in technology. Healthcare is a no brainer! As-a-service realm is also redefining the technology landscape. Many new technologies will define what WFH will look like.

Technology spending is undergoing a massive disruption. Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technologies, such as cloud, etc. In retail, there is a boom in the omnichannel. Retail CXOs are investing in AI for enhancing customer experience. The road ahead requires massive customer centricity on the part of industry players. Stay close to clients, build out BCP strategies, focus on acquisitions, invest in new technologies, platforms and products, etc.

Re-imagining retail
Delivering the keynote, Ms. Rachel Whitcomb, VP, Technology at Target in India, said: “We are re-imagining retail. These are challenging times. There are shifting shopping patterns. There are needs for smart, flexible and powered teams to deliver results. Our same day services jumped 278%.

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“We have a durable strategy. There is value-driven purpose, drive-up, in-store, pickup, same-day delivery. We have enhanced safety measures for guests and team members. We have our own empowered teams that are talented and diverse. Technology has been an enabler. We are addressing individual needs and doing independent decision-making.”

The team has enabled Target to be more productive with collaboration tools within a week. It is so fulfilling for each one of our team members. We don’t need to get into the leaders’ way. The ultimate goal should be to make Target an easy, convenient place to shop.

Target has a culture of learning and innovation. There are enterprise events. There are also interns and outreach programs. Target held its 2nd largest demo day last week. In July, there was a successful hackathon. We also give programs to team members and incubators. We are committed to supporting every team member in their path to learning.

The Target team in India works with the other teams. They enable the digital business. There are AI and data science strategies. There are marketers, architects, designers, etc. Our India entity is a natural extension of Target. In USA, many retailers are struggling. Not many have been ready. We are ready for the future. We support that with a culture of learning and innovation.

Supply chain issues
There was a panel discussion as well. Snehanshu Mitra, CoE, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Nasscom, and moderator, said that fundamentals for the retail sector will change. Questions are being asked of the supply chain. We need to restore them.

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Hari Vasudev, Country Head and SVP, Technology, Walmart Labs India, said that e-commerce has changed in the decade. In 8-10 weeks of Covid-19, it has jumped to over 27%. For restoring the supply chains, more needs to be done. If you are ordering online, you can get that faster. We have expanded this across all the stores. We will also see people take advantage of technology.

Customers were always looking for convenience. Now, safety has been added. We have enabled contactless delivery. The customer never has to get in touch with the driver. This can help the customers’ convenience.

Maneesh Mittal, Chief Omnichannel, Shoppers Stop, noted that the world is now changing very fast. It has gone in a direction that the customers and the world were getting used to. One of the major things that we enabled was shipping from stores. At times, we were not able to open stores, and so, products could not be shipped. We have changed that.

Retail is a very simple business. The customer has not changed their fundamental experience. However, they are lot more conscious about their health and hygiene. Window shopping is happening more digitally. So, visit to the stores is becoming more purpose driven. Customers are going at the brands that they trust. Vocal for local is growing quite loud. The impact on demand will continue.

There are some immediate behavioral changes. There is some shopping from home. There is a take-off for video chat solutions. The avoidance of trying out products in stores has come down. There is also growth of VR in online and in stores. There are some appointments being taken by customers. We are ensuring social distancing is being maintained.

Mitra added that people’s choices are also changing. What are the internal and external changes that retailers need to do?

Maneesh Mittal, Shoppers Stop, said that retail has to drive its own success in the future. They are also looking at resources. They are challenging themselves with people, productivity, etc. There is a willingness to take orders and deliver faster. They need to leverage data assets much faster. Lot of data taken in the past will also need to be tweaked. CRM becomes that much more significant.

Today, retailers need to be empowered with much more data about the customer. We need to amplify the basket size for the customer. The thought process has become much more involved. Online and offline are merging more seamlessly. We have a digitally-enabled staff. We have become more efficient as an organization and a retailer.

Hari Vasudev, Walmart Labs India, said that there is going to be an acceleration in shopping. The journey may begin online or offline. Customers are looking for a much more integrated experience. Harnessing the power of data is very critical. There is surge in personalization. Customers and retailers will also need to leverage technology. Companies are looking to scale up using technology. Walmart became a contactless source within a week, and hence, became nimble.

Mitra observed that the full recovery plans are there. How can that be executed?

Hari Vasudev, Walmart Labs India, said that technology innovation has been happening in India. Look at omnichannel! There are various signals coming from the offline and the online. We need to build ML algorithms for stores. Technology has to be scaled up. Retailers will use technology for all parts of their business.

Now, there are consumer-grade apps being built for stores. You are constantly learning from the system. By leveraging technology and also building an ecosystem will become important. We also work with startups. We are helping them develop the scale.

Maneesh Mittal, Shoppers Stop, concluded that retailers need to have lot of periphery. They need to take a look at the entire technology landscape. They need much more plug-and-play models. A lot more leanness from the retailers is required. It is also allowing us to open up to the startups. They can get started faster.

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