As our society continues to evolve and embrace digitization, the importance of frictionless retail cannot be overstated. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for speed, convenience, and seamless experiences in their shopping journeys. The rise of omnichannel commerce and changes in customer behavior are transforming traditional retail operations. At the forefront of this shift is Hemanth Kumar, Infovision’s Associate Vice President who is redefining the retail landscape with his three-fold strategy of modernization, mobilization, and revolution.
Hemanth explains that many potential problems found in retail, such as managing store traffic during peak hours, improving the management of store inventory, and eliminating ques for checkout, can be solved by leveraging IoT, computer vision, and AI/ML. He has guided retailers to implement today’s technology, ultimately eliminating hassle at every stage – including onboarding, product identification, and checkout – and creating frictionless experiences for their customers.
Below, Hemanth gives his thoughts on navigating the ever-changing tides of consumer demand and satisfaction.
A Quick Primer on Frictionless Retail
“Frictionless retail is an industry term that affects everyone,” Hemanth says. “It refers to the elimination of obstacles in the customer shopping experience, making it as smooth and convenient as possible. It is actually very exciting because by streamlining the purchase journey from product discovery to checkout and post-purchase support, we are completely changing the retail experience for every consumer no matter who they are.”
Consumer Expectations in the Digital Age
Hemanth explains that the digital age has inevitably led to an increasingly demanding customer base. Consumers expect not just a wide variety of quality products but also instant gratification, efficient service, personalized experiences, and seamless transaction processes.
“We all know that a single negative experience, such as a complicated checkout process or poor customer service, can lead to customer attrition,” he says. “Frictionless retail, therefore, becomes essential to meet these elevated expectations and make consumers, employees, and store owners happy.”
Technology as an Enabler
Frictionless retail is predominantly facilitated by advanced technologies. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision, and IoT play a vital role in personalizing customer experiences, restocking shelves, automating checkout processes, and providing better customer support. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are providing immersive shopping experiences while chatbots and AI assistants are making customer service round-the-clock and instantaneous.
The Competitive Landscape
Hemanth recommends that businesses develop their ability to provide a frictionless experience. “Retail is fiercely competitive, and companies that fail to offer frictionless experiences risk losing out to those that do,” he says. “A report by the Harvard Business Review reveals that customers who had the best past experiences spend 140%more compared to those who had the poorest experience. It makes a strong case for streamlining the consumer shopping experience.”
The Omnichannel Approach
He adds that frictionless retail isn’t confined to brick-and-mortar stores or e-commerce alone but extends to an integrated, omnichannel approach. Customers are increasingly using multiple channels, such as physical stores, online websites, mobile apps, and/or social media, to research, compare, and purchase products. A truly frictionless experience is one that allows customers to seamlessly transition between these different channels.
Data Security and Privacy
Hemanth cautions that while adopting a frictionless approach, retailers must also pay utmost attention to data security and privacy. “Given that frictionless retail often requires collecting and analyzing vast amounts of customer data, businesses must ensure that this data is securely stored and ethically used, adhering to all relevant data privacy regulations,” he says. “Amidst these complexities, the call for e-commerce and store experience transformation has become louder than ever. It’s an amazing time for all of us because every day, we are seeing incredible changes in how we buy and sell products and services. Digitization, AI, ML, and other technology are completely rethinking the consumer process, and we can only imagine what our future will bring.”
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