Giving consumers a personalised and seamless experience

by April 19, 2020 0 comments

Abhay Tandon, Director and Head of Lowe’s Innovation Labs – India, feels that the rapidly changing retail environment is reflective of more aware customers who are looking for higher convenience, specific products and faster access.

How is Big Data driving decisions in merchandising, store operations, finance and the supply chain sector?

• Data analytics and intelligence has become critical across the retail operations and more so with the omni-channel approach to provide consumers a personalised and seamless experience.
• Big Data plays a crucial role in understanding the data points across various stages of retail be it merchandizing to enhance the customer experience of providing them specific products at specific time and at a specific cost; at stores to enhance the assortment mix, right promotions at geo specific locations; to understand leakages, variances and pricing; to ensuring that we hold the right inventory and deliver the products to the consumers in the most efficient ways.

What about advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning? How are they helping the supply chain and anticipating customers’ needs and enhancing their experiences?

• AI and ML are gradually becoming an integral part of processing data, assessing needs and deploying the right measures through both predictive models as well as prescriptive models, again across the organization. If you look at the whole value chain in supply chain and logistics, AI and ML can be applied across right from developing efficient sourcing strategies, efficient planning strategies, warehouse management – better demand forecasting, inventory holding, packaging and route optimization, geo-localizing the storage, faster and cost effective transportation, and so on and so forth.

What other futuristic retail technologies are being used to streamline operations?

• The rapidly changing retail environment is reflective of more aware customers who are looking for higher convenience, specific products and faster access. Thus it is important for retailers to continue to evolve, keeping ‘Customer Centricity’ as the core of the transformation to develop unique and innovative solutions, creating seamless and frictionless experiences for the customers across channels.
• The infusion of innovative technology is no longer a thing of the future but rather being considered as an essential tool in retail to power their strategy towards creating the best experience for customer, associates (team members) and other stakeholders with clear financial impact.
• Technologies are being applied across the value chain of retail to enhance customer experience. Only when it is applied across the value chain like sourcing, supply chain and distribution, in stores, digital, omni-channel, last mile deliveries etc. will the customer benefit the most.
• The technologies and their applications are continuously evolving. Data analytics along with technologies such as AI/ML allow for us to assimilate a lot of data, apply intelligence, generate insights which allow our internal associates to create more value for our consumers.
• Technologies such as Blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things) and AI can help us bring more transparency to our customers, increase sustainability, reduce carbon footprint and create a stronger circular economy.
• Technologies such as robotics, haptics, AI, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality can create a stronger visualization environment for the consumers and build an immersive sensory enabled e-commerce environment, consumer adaptable stores, faster fulfilments etc. blurring the lines between stores and digital.

What is the key focus of your Innovation Labs in India? Is India ready to be a big R&D player?

• Lowe’s Innovation Labs is the innovation hub for Fortune 50 retailer Lowe’s Companies, Inc., with locations in Kirkland, Wash., Mooresville, N.C., and Bangalore, India.
• Lowe’s Innovation Labs is what’s next for home improvement retail. Through emerging technologies, the Labs accelerate the experiences our customers and associates expect today and develop the capabilities that will power tomorrow.
• The Labs explores how emerging technologies can advance home improvement; rapidly prototypes solutions and puts them to the test in real-world, living labs; and scales solutions that drive value for Lowe’s customers and associates.
• Lowe’s Innovation Labs in India will focus on partnering with technology startups, enablers and other potential partners towards the same global intent of the labs. These partnerships would leverage the Indian startup ecosystem to co-develop solutions that can be applied to Lowe’s and create a win-win for all the stakeholders.
• Startups that we partner with will have potential access to North American market (GTM), potential paid PoCs, mentoring from functional and technical experts and a host of other benefits.

I personally think that India has made great strides in R&D as well as innovation space. In terms of rankings, India has risen 29 spots in Global Innovation Index in last 5 years to rank 52 in 2019, which shows the change in culture and the zeal behind the same. However, there is still more work that needs to be done to boost R&D in India. On the software front, India is leading on multiple fronts specifically on incremental innovation. However, we need to leap frog more on disruptive innovation specifically in emerging tech. Across the roadshows, we did find a few very interesting startups on their path to disrupt!

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