When it comes to retail stores and shopping, e-commerce giants viz Flipkart and Amazon are already ruling the roost in India as you get your stuff right at the comfort of your home without even stepping outside. But the concept of ‘smart’ retail stores promises to create empowerment in such a way that you would step out with a complete product experience and first hand insights on the new breed of gizmos.
Keeping intuitiveness as the focal point, experts believe at least some chunk of online shopping would make a paradigm shift to smart retail stores very soon. To obtain more clarity on smart retailing and shopping, Rahul R, Electronics For You spoke to Avinash Kaushik; Founder and CEO at REVXX Hardware Accelerator, on the prospects of smart retailing and shopping in India for IoT Gadgets.
Having worked with IoT Startups from India and abroad in the prototyping and Manufacturing phases, Avinash is now potentially set to solve the next big challenge which is establishing smart Retail for IoT Products. The new chain of Stores called ‘Airflash’ are expected to pop up during the second half of 2017.
These new age Smart Retail Stores exclusive to IoT Gadgets could potentially change the way you shop for IoT products. Being the platform to showcase smart gadgets, these stores themselves come with connected infrastructure to enhance shopping experience.
Q. Before we talk about Experience Stores, Can you tell us about conventional retail itself getting connected and smart, Is a smart retail store even relevant to India?
A. As of now, markets in India and abroad are dominated by Offline Retailers. The online retail penetration in USA still hovers around 7% and in India it is still less than 1.5% despite the jazz around e-commerce. The next big expansion of online commerce in the Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities will be slower and more challenging. E-tailers like Flipkart and Amazon are already working on Experience or Assisted Retail Brick and Mortar stores in order to ease the shopping experience. Secondly, experiences of customers at physical retail stores has become random and chaotic.
This is because retailers (physical ones) are not aware of the customers’ history and other vital details to offer them customized solutions like in the online shopping. This is where Smart retailing comes into play.
Not only does smart retail stores help in understanding customers better using beacons and other sensors but these also assist retailers in creating and offering customized solutions based on individual needs. This in turn leads to an enhancement of the customer-vendor relationship. Therefore, I think that physical retail stores in India should get smart at the earliest.
Q. So do you mean that smart concepts adapted by retail store owners lead to owners of these stores actually understanding customers better?
A. Absolutely, retailers can better analyze their customers which means that the demands of people visiting the stores are better mapped. This creates a connected experience.
Also, the key factors to note here are that, customers are smart and evaluate the product through online reviews even before they enter retail stores. Retailers must read the customer behavior and focus on the right offering.
Q. Are you intending to tell us that in case a customer walks into a retail store to buy a smart home product, he/she would be offered an experiential demo of the product?
A. Certainly, Smart retailing is connected directly with physical experiences, and involves comparatively less virtual experience. As you know that smart products such as smart kitchen devices, smart entertainment systems these days are driven by voice controls such as Amazon Alexa.
Customers should physically get a feel of this smart experience which is a behavioral and lifestyle change. Without this experiential Selling, IoT Products will end up with a niche customer base. Hence Experiential Retail is the way to go for smart gadgets. A major advantage is that the customers can effectively analyze the value for money that they get for their products (electronics).
Q. What is the basic engineering within New Age Smart Retail Stores?
A. IoT is the key driver. Smart sensors can be implemented at every level in the store to capture customers’ preferences. Metrics such as Customer Engagement (time duration and attention that customers give a product) and Insights such as the way customers react captured through facial expressions and eyeball tracking all computed through a cloud aggregation and dynamic predictions made using complex Artificial algorithms can point out the best option for Sales staff to convert the lead into a purchase.