In­dian malls take tech route to woo cus­tomers in smart way

IN­NO­VA­TION A clas­sic ex­am­ple of cre­at­ing a dif­fer­en­ti­ated ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers is seen in Kochi’s Lulu in­ter­na­tional mall, which uses ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies like au­to­matic num­ber plate recog­ni­tion, geo­fenc­ing and dig­i­tal bea­con tech­nol­ogy to en­gage wi

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Anuj Ke­jri­wal let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com n The au­thor is MD & CEO – ANAROCK Re­tail

The e-com­merce rev­o­lu­tion and the up­surge in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies are fun­da­men­tally trans­form­ing shop­pers’ ex­pec­ta­tions.

This is trans­for­ma­tion also has a ma­jor bear­ing on the func­tion of brick-and-mor­tar stores, which now need to ren­der more use­ful and en­ter­tain­ing cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences.

As trends ad­vance glob­ally, mall op­er­a­tors are forced to re­think and re-strate­gize as to how they must de­sign, en­able and op­er­ate their phys­i­cal stores.

THE ADVENT OF ‘SMART’ STORES

In to­day’s dig­i­tal era, phys­i­cal stores are get­ting ‘smarter’ by us­ing tech­nolo­gies like ro­botic in­tel­li­gence, an­a­lyt­i­cal data and con­sumer-cen­tric platforms such as Aug­mented Re­al­ity (AR) or Vir­tual Re­al­ity (VR) to at­tract cus­tomers and give them an im­pact­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

By unit­ing con­ven­tional meth­ods with key suc­cess el­e­ments of the dig­i­tal ethos, brickand-mor­tar re­tail­ers, in fact, have an ad­van­tage over e-com­merce, as they can of­fer mall vis­i­tors an ex­pe­ri­ence that vastly sur­passes that of on­line shop­ping.

In­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy can be ef­fec­tively used to tap into tech-savvy con­sumers’ predilec­tions with ap­pro­pri­ate techen­abled in-shop ‘re­sponses’.

Num­bers sug­gest that con­sumer ex­pen­di­ture in In­dia will rise to US$ 3,600 bil­lion by 2020 from US$ 1,595 bil­lion in 2016.

If mall op­er­a­tors and the re­tailer ten­ants get their strat­egy right, they are def­i­nitely poised for re­tain­ing and ad­ding cus­tomers.

To­day, a tech-en­abled re­tail en­vi­ron­ment equals re­peat vis­its, in­creased foot­falls and higher sales.

TECH ADOP­TION DONE RIGHT

A clas­sic ex­am­ple of cre­at­ing a dif­fer­en­ti­ated ex­pe­ri­ence for con­sumers is seen in Kochi’s Lulu In­ter­na­tional mall, which num­bers among the largest malls in In­dia.

This mall uses ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies Au­to­matic Num­ber Plate Recog­ni­tion (ANPR), geo-fenc­ing and dig­i­tal bea­con tech­nol­ogy to en­gage with mall vis­i­tors and in­form them of the lat­est pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties and deals avail­able in the mall.

Con­sumer-cen­tric tech plat- forms like AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence), AR (aug­mented re­al­ity) and VR (vir­tual re­al­ity) add sim­i­lar value by en­abling per­son­al­ized and en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

Th­ese tech­nolo­gies help in build­ing malls’ con­nec­tion with con­sumers via prod­uct vi­su­al­iza­tion, be­hav­iour analy­ses, com­mu­ni­ca­tion with cus­tomers, cre­at­ing real-time mer­chan­dis­ing, mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, and pro­mo­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties.

In­creas­ing de­mand for ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­tail cou­pled with the stores’ abil­ity to be dif­fer­ent is, in a way, fu­el­ing de­mand for new tech­nolo­gies.

In fact, we may soon start see­ing holo­grams be­ing used in malls, in place of the tra­di­tional pro­mo­tional standees and flex boards.

With the right kind of tech­nol­ogy, holo­grams can even go from be­ing mere static vi­su­als to in­ter­ac­tive ones.

RE­TAIL ON IN­FOR­MA­TION HIGH­WAY

Al­ready, we have at our dis­posal var­ied dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools, from bots like Kik Bot Shop and WeChat to voice-ac­ti­vated AI agents like Google Now and Ama­zon’s Alexa.

Mall op­er­a­tors and ten­ants need to lever­age th­ese per­sonal- ized dig­i­tal ecolo­gies when shop­pers are ei­ther in or away from their cen­tres.

For in­stance, DLF Cy­ber Hub of­fers a unique AI-based ‘Phy­gi­tal’ ex­pe­ri­ence with Hu­ber, a vir­tual concierge, Shop­pers can talk to Hu­ber to find out about the next event, nav­i­gate through phys­i­cal space while ad­ding to the ‘dis­cov­er­abil­ity’ of avail­able brands and ex­pe­ri­ences, re­serve a ta­ble, check out menus, etc.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Hu­ber gets to know about the cus­tomer and can make per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions.

Also, with shop­pers’ mo­bile de­vices con­nect­ing to the mall’s Wi-Fi net­work, a new chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion has opened be­tween the mall op­er­a­tor, re­tailer and cus­tomers.

This av­enue gives shop­pers rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion right from where to park the car to var­i­ous of­fers and en­tice­ments like dis­counts.

This makes the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence more per­sonal, con­ve­nient and en­joy­able.

In­ter­est­ingly, to­day’s tech­savvy con­sumers are now open to shar­ing some per­sonal data via dig­i­tal in­ter­ac­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Ac­cen­ture, more than 50% of con­sumers are will­ing to di­vulge per­sonal in­for­ma­tion in re­turn for more cus­tom­ized of­fers.

CONCLUSION

The re­tail world to­day is noth­ing short of an on­go­ing war of sorts - the war to win cus­tomers over from the com­pe­ti­tion and to re­tain them.

As can be ex­pected in any war, there will be vic­tors and losers; and in the case of tech­nol­ogy adop­tion, it is no longer about the in-store use of in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies.

While the dom­i­nance of tech­nol­ogy is ex­plic­itly seen across mod­ern brick-and-mor­tar stores, the win­ners will be those who can strike a bal­ance across mul­ti­ple platforms and cre­ate an omni-chan­nel for tech-savvy con­sumers.

Mall op­er­a­tors and re­tail­ers who are ag­ile enough to adapt and nav­i­gate their way through th­ese changes will con­tinue to grow and thrive.

And as we have seen in many other real es­tate ver­ti­cals, play­ers who are un­able to over­come their change re­sis­tance (and make the nec­es­sary in­vest­ments in tech­nol­ogy) will even­tu­ally lose out.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Kochi’s Lulu in­ter­na­tional mall ranks among the largest malls in In­dia.

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