Supply Chain Council of European Union |

How customer-centric technology is reshaping retail industry

Hani Weiss Majid Al Futtaim CEO

Many substantial risks are inherent in the retail sector’s digital transformation. As technology develops, retailers are routinely required to take leaps of faith – boldly predicting the wants and needs of tomorrow’s consumers to meet them in the future with innovative solutions. Combine this reality with the fact that technological advancements arrive on the market with ever-quickening timeframes, and we see the sector undergoing remarkable change that needs bold leadership and a vision that not only predicts the future but strives to create it.

Mastercard’s retail report, ‘Top retail trends to watch in 2022: New ways to shop, sell, pay and experience’, points to a continued blurring of the lines between in-store and online shopping. It states that, going forward, we can expect to see extra consumer focus on online marketplaces, new ways to pay, experiential retail, privacy, and purposeful buying. As the CEO of a retail brand, I believe these latest shifts present an opportunity for retailers to push their existing digital innovations to new heights.

The road ahead is yet to be travelled. And while this can present risks, retailers will need to innovate constantly, focusing on new ways to shop and pay – including a reassessment of how they’re reaching consumers and the types of experiences they offer. The alternative, maintaining the current path, while it presents a low risk, will ultimately lead to obsolescence and a migration of once-loyal customers towards pioneering retailers that successfully meet new consumer needs.

Majid Al Futtaim. Carrefour Scan and Go, retail technology

News ways of engaging consumers

MasterCard’s research findings show 90 per cent of in-person transactions occur at a contactless-enabled merchant and 93 per cent of consumers said they are considering emerging payments, in addition to contactless. The research also found an 84 per cent growth of tier-2 marketplaces globally between 2019 and 2020, up from 39 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

Such technologically innovative topics can no longer be spoken of as revolutions. We must always look to the next generation of technology to stay ahead of the curve. The recent timeline of transformation, starting before the pandemic, has shown that retailers need to be committed to a process of continual change. Looking ahead, without a robust digital foundation in place today, I believe retailers will be unable to meet their customers where they are tomorrow, whether in-store or online.

Omnichannel for the win

Under a strategy of omnichannel retail, the challenges of digital transformation can be turned into opportunities. An omnichannel strategy enhances customer experience and provides the required channels to purchase goods where needed, whether on mobile, online, or physical stores. This enables us to anticipate customer demands and pressure points and pursue new opportunities to be where the customer is. For example, ‘Click and Collect’ style options offer greater customer flexibility and choice, a service for all online orders to give our customers greater control for contact-free pick up of orders.

Taking an all-encompassing approach, we continue to make this journey more robust and inclusive by working with stakeholders and identifying new partners, strengthening the outcomes, and supporting our broader network. For example, critical Carrefour innovations include joining IBM Food Trust, a blockchain-enabled global ecosystem for the food industry run on IBM Cloud. By simply using their smartphone to scan a QR code on participating products such as Carrefour’s fresh chicken, customers will be able to get immediate access to actionable food supply chain data, from farm to store shelf. The history of the product, including production process, halal and hygiene certifications, date of birth, nutrition information and temperature data, will be readily available once uploaded onto the blockchain. This transformation journey will further reveal a host of exciting, customer-focused experiences, and solutions for those retailers ready to embrace them.

Remaining dedicated to meeting new demands

Retailers worldwide are experiencing increasing competition due primarily to tech-driven disruptions leading the sector towards more demanding customers and new shopping behaviours. The pandemic proved that you lost if you didn’t have a digital footprint—and those who did, continue to reap the benefits of changes in consumer behaviour and attitude to online grocery retail. Looking ahead, shoppers will not only seek to try novel developments in the retail space; they will expect it as standard. Furthermore, profit margins will only come when scale and efficiency are achieved.

Hani Weiss is the CEO at Majid Al Futtaim Retail

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