THE retail sector can no longer afford to hold back on adopting new technologies to enable better operational efficiencies and meet the demands of a new breed of tech-savvy consumers.
According to Anand Mehta, Asia Pacific director of retail vertical for Motorola Solutions, three key trends are slated to define the sector in coming months: The rise of mobile workers, perpetual inventory and more tech-savvy consumers.
Shopper behaviour has been reset with the rise of mobile devices and digital applications, with customers increasingly leveraging on social media to make smarter purchase decisions.
Within this dynamic environment lies much potential for local retailers to modernise and innovate.
He observed that the local retail sector is at a mid-stage point in terms of market maturity, which also means it can leverage on the benefits of technology leapfrogging.
In Malaysia the retail industry is experiencing robust growth, with total sales forecasted to grow 24%, from RM100.84bil in 2012 to RM248.33bil in 2016.
"There's no better time to start thinking about getting the fundamentals in place to meet the changing times. The key is to begin with minor transformation before moving on to innovation," Mehta said.
When faced with savvier consumers, retailers would benefit greatly from applications, which allows for the analysis of consumer behaviour to better target and fulfil their needs.
To that end, sophisticated point-of-sale solutions can play a part, and Metha highlighted his company's self-scanning solution as an example.
Designed for supermarkets and hypermarkets, the use of a handheld retail mobile computer can speed up the checkout process, locate items, check pricing, find complementary products, and take advantage of personalised promotions and recommendations.
"Within the next year or so, we expect it to make a big impact among technology-savvy consumers in Malaysia," he said, adding that Motorola Solutions is already in discussion with several interested retailers.
Mehta said retailers also needed to consider leveraging integrated communications capabilities to empower retail workers in the field via the automation of recurring manual processes, but also improve inventory management via higher visibility to the supply chain in real time.
"With retailers, especially apparel and convenience stores, shifting to an agile supply chain set-up, the need for real-time data to better address dynamic demand becomes vital," he added. - GABEY GOH