The third session of RJIF 2020 was right up the alley of retailers who are looking for ways to engage with millennials, as it dealt with retail technology, something that interests youngsters greatly. The topic was “Building retail Intelligence through smart technology”, and the speaker Sachin Jain, President, Forevermark India, set the ball rolling by talking about how important technology has become for connecting with consumers, understanding their tastes and preferences, and figuring out their buying patterns, especially in a country such as India, where 71 per cent of the population will comprise millennials by July 2020.
In an attempt to underline the importance of technology in retail, Jain cited the example of Amazon Go convenience stores in the US, which are the first of their kind, being totally frictionless. When customers visit these stores, they do not have to pay via cash or card. They just use the Amazon Go app which scans the unique barcode as they enter the store through sliding gates. Once in, customers can pick up what they want and walk out, without queuing or paying. The groceries are automatically billed to their Amazon account.
The Just Walk Out system uses technology that automatically detects when products are taken from, or returned to, the shelves, and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. Starting with just three stores, Amazon is moving to 3,000 Amazon Go stores this year. Jain said that this was evidence enough that the way consumers are using technology is evolving. Putting things in perspective, he said that the research budget of Amazon is close to $ 22 billion, whereas the global rough diamond market is just $ 20 billion.
Jain then went on to talk about the necessity of talking to customers in the language they understand, expressing concern that the industry is not doing that, as of now. He gave instance of family jewellers, adding they might be having customers comprising three generations, but the newest generation would be thinking, behaving and shopping very differently from the earlier generations. “We need to talk to this generation in its language,” Jain said.
Coming to Forevermark stores, Jain said that technology is being put to good use in these outlets. “We are using technology to drive business insights based on consumer behavior at the point of sale. We have implemented heat maps in our stores, which are basically AI-based scanners that track the movement of customers inside the store, figure out their gender, and also determine the time of the day when the concentration of customers is higher. Besides, the high-end tech that we use maps out the parts of the store where sales are happening,” he added. The entire process is integrated to the phone and can be evaluated while on the go.
Jain said that thanks to technology, when an ad is placed, or an offer is announced, products can be placed in the most optimal manner, store space can be used better, which part of the store is best for the display of promoted products can be determined more accurately, and so forth. All this can be done on the back of empirical data thrown up by technology, rather than just perception.
Technology is throwing up other interesting insights, said Jain. For instance, it has been found in a number of cases that the places where customers spend more time may not necessarily be the spot from where they are actually buying the product. Overall, the implementation of cutting-edge technology will give lots of insights to retailers having large retail stores, Jain added.
He shared data about Forevermark stores, saying the company started its journey a few years back with its partners, and now has six operative stores, with two being under construction. By the end of 2020, the company is expected to have 22 partner stores. As of now, the company is launching exclusive Forevermark stores that will use technology in a big way.
Forevermark has already incorporated smart era RFID trays, which enable customers to view the back story of products they might be interested in, and also provide the price break up. It all allows the company to understand how many times a product was placed on the tray before being purchased or returned back to the shelve. When the company analyses the products that come up on the tray but do not get sold, it can go back and investigate why they did not sell – was it pricing, a lack of connect with customers, or some other reason.
Jain said that insights on merchandise are now provided by scientific data, and not perception. Besides, the company is using smart Point of Sale systems. As a result, when a product sale is made, the supplier is informed in real-time, resulting in zero time lapse. This ensures timely replenishment so that no sales opportunity is lost.
Sharing more details, Jain said Forevermark has started sending invoices online to its customers, thus taking a step forward to go paperless. The company is also tracking consumers from the online space to the offline physical space. “For all our digital advertisements, we are able to track how many consumers clicked, and how many actually visited the store,” he said.
Jain also talked about Forevermark’s collection called Tribute, where the company allows customers to make their own stack. The idea is to get customers involved in the category and its design. The company created Tribute Koisks across the store, and when customers insert their hand in it, they can make their own stack, whichever way they like. The price shows up, and when customers press “Enter”, the sales staff gets to know exactly what they need and bring it over. While the average time that customers spend in the store goes up from about three to four minutes to 20-25 minutes, they enjoy the experience and it is a good way to get them involved and arrest their attention. As it is, young customers like talking to a machine more than human beings.
Jain concluded by saying that companies have to start using technology in a bigger way. Providing another example of Forevermark, he said the brand has put up gaming modules in its stores, which help it to be a better storyteller and incorporate fun into the process of buying. Giving a suggestion to the gathering, Jain said companies can put their history on a touch screen, and encourage young customers to go through it. It won’t take much persuasion as youngsters anyway like to use technology and gadgets. Besides, this is a good way to enable them to consume content.