Technology, a Boon for Small Retailers against e-Commerce Giants

Technology is changing the trend of running, managing and expanding a business, and retail is no exception to the ever-evolving advancements. The advent of digital technology and penetration of shopping websites in the online market has completely redefined the retailer’s industry. These smart technologies and internet invasion have entirely reshaped the retail industry by moving everything online on digital platforms. The opportunity to take small retailers online is seen as the re-invention of retail.

In the age of internet and social media, the online presence is encouraging small retailers to grow and expand their reach to their potential customers. Several tech-driven technologies are being implemented, and are worth consideration to remain a top competitor in the heavily competitive retail industry.

As the retail industry is evolving at an unprecedented speed, and with it comes big opportunities and challenges as well.

Current Scenario of Retail Industry in India
Over the past few years, the Indian Retail Industry has undergone an enormous transformation, evolving rapidly due to the entry of several new players. India is the fifth-largest global destination within the retail sector. It is among the highest in the world in terms of per capita retail store availability. According to the report by Statista, the retail industry is expected to reach 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars by 2026, up from 795 billion dollars in 2017. The employment within the market is estimated to be between 45 to 50 million. It explicates that the Indian retail industry is experiencing exponential growth with retail development taking place not just in major cities or metros, but also in tier II and III cities. Change in the demographic profile, increase in disposable income, urbanization, the shift in consumer tastes and preferences are some of the factors driving growth in the retail segment in India.

The current scenario could be noted by significant shifts in the Indian retail sector as new competitors, divisions, and challenges that emerge within the sector. The key driver in the retail sector is the penetration of online retail. The adoption of online retailing is at a fast pace, driven by new technology, evolving consumer taste and preferences and bold new innovators.

Several discovery retail apps which are beneficial for experiential purposes, to appeal to mobile users, increase convenience for shoppers, or to promote a retailer’s online presence. With purchase and discovery activity through apps on the rise, technology can be an excellent way to keep up with consumer expectations and enhance loyalty. They allow customers to explore products, such as how they look, quality, to check stock and request sizes. These kinds of discovery apps have reshaped online shopping experiences and even customer expectations of physical stores.

According to the report, the online retail industry in India amounted to an estimated 32.7 billion U.S. dollars. The rapidly expanding online retail market is projected to be valued at 73 billion dollars by 2022.

Post-COVID Scenario of Retail Industry
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest disruptors of life and business globally. While the Indian retail industry has witnessed increasing dependence on technology over the past few years however, the challenges posed by the pandemic will constantly accelerate the rate of adoption of new technology and tools. Even after lockdown restrictions are eased all over the country, along with safety precautions and hygiene regulations like social distancing, contactless shopping, etc., will require a distinct approach and small retailers will have no option than to rely on technologies or digital retail channels for continuous services and experiential shopping experiences.

Now, the future of shopping will be more distinct and uncertain due to COVID-19, however, will increase the adoption of technologies. More stores like Supermarkets or Kiranas will be behaving more like online websites and websites like stores. Discovery apps are experimenting with and betting on online retail functionality lately. Apps, where retailers can showcase their products and connect with customers providing a seamless experience. These discovery apps allow small retailers to set up a professional profile page with the contact information like address, phone number, and website etc. The purpose is to encourage small retailers to build a community and raise awareness about their brands or products. For example, users/customers can discover new local stores from the app searches and check for the required information about the wide range of products they are scouting for and their availability on the nearby retail stores. This will be going to transform how we live life, and how we shop. As more retailers seek clarity and adopt technologies, the more they will be able to face challenges ahead due to pandemic and provide enhanced expertise to their customers.

Several technological trends have emerged and helped the retail industry flourish. It has increased the convenience in browsing and selecting products along with facilitating faster checkouts. Online retailing is expanding steadily and have opened a plethora of opportunities for Indian retail. Small retailers should leverage digital retail platforms (e-commerce websites or apps) which would enable them to spend less money on real estate while reaching out to more patrons in tier II and III cities. The e-retailers should work towards enhancing the overall customer experience as the future outlook for the online retail industry looks positive, supported by favorable demographics, entry of foreign players, and increase in urbanization.