Technological evolution in the retail sector: Past, present, and future

Technology has been a fundamental element to the massive progress the retail sector has achieved over the years. Let’s take a look at how the industry has evolved.
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Over the years, the Indian retail sector has become one of the most dynamic and fast-growing industries that have progressed through several phases. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, India was ranked 63rd and is the world’s fifth-largest global destination in the retail space in the world. While retail was hit hard by the pandemic, the sector’s revival process is well underway.

As more and more people begin to gradually step outside to shop, players in the industry need to tweak their approach around several aspects such as marketing, customer services, safety protocols, pricing, and product coverage.

To elevate business growth and sales, and meet the ever-evolving consumer expectations, retailers are now leveraging cutting-edge technology to gather relevant information from the vast volumes of data available.

As the retail sector is on the cusp of a revolution, technology has been a fundamental element to the massive progress the retail sector has achieved over the years. To gain better insights, let’s take a look at how the industry has evolved by leveraging novel technologies.

Origins of retailing

In India, the origins of retailing can be traced back to the emergence of mom-and-pop stores. Despite bigger franchises coming up later, mom-and-pop stores continue to remain a preferred source of shopping for customers, particularly for urgent requirements. It was only during the 1990s that the Indian retail market began to witness the emergence of large-scale franchises from big corporates.

Today, the retail market has a significant impact on the country’s economy. Over time, India’s retail sector has transcended from technology incorporation being a pipe dream to even Kirana stores leveraging leading-edge technology.

The advent of technology

Just like other industries, technology has truly been a game-changer for Indian retail. Retailers today are trying to harness its power through AI, ML, Data Analytics, etc. A burgeoning millennial population, growing per capita incomes, and most importantly, increasing internet penetration are fueling the rise of the retail sector. Today, the entire retail sector, right from Kirana stores to large corporate franchises, has gone digital and is embracing the revolution to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market.

For instance, in-store services, integrated payment gateways, 24x7 virtual assistance and order placement, same-day or next-day deliveries, real-time order tracking, warehouse automation, and inventory and supply chain optimisation have given a major boost to the industry.

Data has become the new oil in the retail sector and startups are leading the Indian retail sector’s digital transformation by empowering even small retailers such as neighbourhood Kirana stores.

The present retailing scenario

As more and more players gravitate towards online retailing, with technology providing easy access, both the in-store and online shopping experience has transformed. From providing tablets or iPads, viewing products and their specifications to downloadable brochures and other online marketing, retailers are leaving no stone unturned to enhance the customer experience.

Various trends such as omnichannel retail, digital marketing, social commerce, etc, are being propelled by AI, AR, Facial Recognition, Cloud services, and Analytics. Furthermore, an increased preference is being given for membership and loyalty programmes through mobile applications for registered customers.

The future outlook

India’s retail sector has come a long way from offline, in-store shopping to providing tech-led services to enable a completely digital way of shopping. Even against the backdrop of a global pandemic, retailers have managed to reinvent their strategies and adopt a holistic approach. Amidst the paradigm shift in consumer behaviour and demand, the objective of retail is also evolving.

The aforementioned trends and technologies are expected to gain further traction in the future and India’s retail industry is set to become a dynamic realm as there are parallel growth and evolution of investments in infrastructure, modified approach, and consumer demands.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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