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In conversation with Anand Thakur, CTPO of Reliance Retail on embracing experimental retail

min read
Neelakshi Chandra
Anand, CPTO at Reliance retail is sitting next to Ragini, CBO at Fynd in a fireside chat on a podium set up at the Phygital Retail Conference, 2024, in MumbaiPlaceholder

At the Phygital Retail Convention (PRC) 2024, Ragini Varma, CBO, Fynd, and Anand Thakur, CPTO, Reliance Retail, engaged in an insightful discussion. It focussed on the evolving landscape of omnichannel retail, experimental retail formats, digital disruption, and shifting consumer preferences. This blog captures the key insights from their dialogue.

PS: Statements have been suitably edited for clarity and brevity

The state of omnichannel retail

Understanding omnichannel maturity

Ragini: Omnichannel retail hasn't reached the maturity stage that it needs to. Why is that so?

Anand: There are two aspects to this, one is the customer journey and the other is the underlying tech stack. Omnichannel means different things for different domains, channels, and stages of a business. And that’s where the challenge lies. Decision makers often delay omnichannel adoption due to the complexity and cost of integrating different systems. The fear of the unknown also plays a role.

Overcoming the fear of tech

Ragini: How can retailers overcome this and integrate omnichannel strategies into their tech systems?

Anand: Retailers should not standardize omnichannel strategies. You need to identify what your omnichannel needs are depending on your domain. Second, does your technology allow for that? This should be a more fundamental strategic thought rather than an afterthought. When these two combine, that's when omnichannel maturity comes in. Choosing solutions that seamlessly unify various systems, such as Fynd, facilitates smooth integration across online and offline platforms.

Consumer interaction in a phygital world

Changing consumer dynamics

Ragini: How has consumer interaction with brands changed in a phygital world?

Anand: In the phygital world, customer interaction with brands has evolved to prioritize personalized experiences In context with Tira, especially with the beauty brands, customers now expect brands to understand their preferences and provide engaging, tech-enabled experiences. Another expectation in this phygital world is having seamless integration of loyalty programs across online and offline channels.

Beyond the transaction: Building customer loyalty

Ragini: How do you cater to seamless integration of loyalty programs across online and offline channels?

Anand: For us at Tira, experiences and customer lifetime value matter more than instant transactions. And for that, you need to know your customers’ preferences and choices. So I would rather make them do three transactions in the next three months rather than just one transaction now and no transactions over the next six months. We want them to leave our stores with great experiences and complete satisfaction. For such experiences, we have virtual try-ons, beauty assistants, curated recommendations, smart mirrors, fragrance finders, and so on.

Experimental retail: Gimmick or gamechanger?

Ragini: So you mentioned smart mirrors and all. How can experimental retail go beyond marketing gimmicks to become customer-centric?

Anand: It's about understanding your customers deeply and investing in meaningful data, not just money, but mental investment in qualitative understanding. At Domino's, we once implemented ordering via Alexa. While it was innovative, we later realized no one wants to order a pizza on Alexa. And that is after all our marketing and other spends! That's where retailers need to figure out what will be gimmicky and what will make sense.

Thankfully it all makes sense at Tira. At Azure we deployed smart trial rooms, at Swadesh we have Scan and Know. So all of these are implementations that the customers really like and they drive customer lifetime value and revenue at the same time.

Practical advice for retailers

Actionable recommendations

Ragini: What actionable recommendations can you give for retailers to stay ahead of the curve?

Anand: Most retailers need to catch up before they can get ahead. Understanding your domain and investing in both qualitative and quantitative consumer research is crucial. You need to understand what omnichannel implementation will give you ROI and have strategic roadmaps. Second is to attend conferences, interact, read, and learn continuously. Learn from the leaders who have already done it.

Integration and training

Ragini: What do you have to say about the synchronization between CXOs and store managers?

Anand: Yeah, that’s a great point. The end-users need to understand the systems they are using to provide meaningful feedback. There has to be synergy between CXOs and store managers to align strategic goals with practical implementations. This synchronization ensures that the technology investments translate into improved customer experiences and operational efficiency.

A glimpse into the future

Emerging trends in experimental retail

Ragini: Finally, what are some of the emerging trends that you think that are going to come in experimental retail?

Anand: Oh it’s super exciting! I think in phygital retail, specifically in beauty segment, 3D printing is going to be huge! For example, 3D printing can allow customers to print personalized lipsticks at home. L'Oreal and some of the other brands are doing some experiments around that. So keep an eye for IoT, 3D printing, and AI–definite game-changer. So with the advent of advanced GPUs and everything, I think these three things will converge, to dramatically change the digital world in the next few months.

The final word: Focusing on the customer

The conversation concluded with a clear message: the future of retail lies in embracing change while keeping the customer at the core. By understanding customer needs, implementing the right technologies, and prioritizing exceptional experiences, retailers can navigate the exciting and ever-evolving landscape of experimental retail.

For those looking to explore further, Fynd's solutions offer a promising way to bridge the gap between online and offline retail experiences. The future of retail is bright, filled with groundbreaking technologies that promise to revolutionize the shopping experience. Get more insights from the Phygital Retail Convention, 2024.

Are you ready to embrace change? Learn how our solutions, aligned with the emerging trends, create a winning omnichannel strategy for your business.

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In conversation with Anand Thakur, CTPO of Reliance Retail on embracing experimental retail
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