How to implement technology for anywhere commerce [#IRE 2014]

Till now, major shortcomings of online shopping have been the lack of instant gratification that comes with in-store shopping and the ease with which consumers can get their hands on products in real time. But with new emerging technologies such as virtual-experiences, the last mile advantage of traditional retailing seems to be fading away.

New technologies like distributed order management system, cross-channel/store inventory visibility, cross-platform digital identification of customers, location-aware mobile applications and location-based services that enable retailers to work seamlessly across channels and reach out to anywhere consumers.

Recently, at iamWire’s Internet Retail Expo 2014, held an interactive session to have more insights on utilizing technology to the best of it’s ability along with Ankur Dinesh Garg, Director, iamWire & IRE; and Mrinal Chatterjee, CTO, ShopClues which was later joined in by Sanjay Sethi, CEO, Shopclues.

The talk began with gaining insights from Mrinal on a significantly new term, “Omni-Channel Technology”. Etailers today are facing the challenges of real time inventory, which includes manually managing the technological processes to an extent. He firmly believes that before adopting any technology, clarity of processes is important.

When asked about Real time inventory, he said that the only challenge with using excel for inventory is what if you run out of inventory in the middle of the night? “Other areas of technology for anywhere Ecommerce, you need to have a way to capture orders and put it online. There needs to be an integration”, stated Ankur.

On being asked by Ankur about reducing the costs, Mrinal said that API’s are really helpful in reducing the technology costs. “One must try to make the best out of them as proprietary softwares costs too high due to the licensing costs associated with them,” he added.

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The discussion further move along the lines of technologies which can be integrated into the portal such as payment gateways, third party logistics, etc. Also, challenges are being faced by the retailers in managing consumer database on quality issues, identifying who is buying what and much more.

As per Ankur, a major challenge that most of the retailers are currently facing is the presence of consumers on multiple channels. For instance, a consumer of today is checking prices online while roaming around in an offline store, while making the purchase at the best available price.

On being asked that if one is already having a strong offline presence and is moving online, then in order to gain traffic there, is it a good thought to give the discounts, etc. only at the online store?? The panelists though had a mixed reaction on it, but they really feel that prices must be kept uniform, as this practice will really not help in the long run.

Is there a challenge with product data management? How important is it? Mrinal answered, “If you are manufacturing. You may or may not have the correct inventory level of that product. You need to have a database which includes each and every spec of the products you sell. It would make it easier for your retail website to fulfill orders and grant overall efficiency.”

Further, Ankur also stated that we need to generate a demand and tap into the potential of technology. “On one side we have state of the art technologies and then we have banks! The solution is Mcommerce, we need to get on the mobile. We are not technically out there yet,” he added.

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The panelists also believe that today’s online banking technology has been outdated. Although, with growth in Ecommerce, some like ICICI are changing their policies, but there are still issues in their legacy technology and existing policies. “We would need to go back and check on these policies as well to ensure a smooth payment gateway,” said Mrinal.

The above discussion clearly lead to the fact that the Banks in India need to grow up and move up with technology. It is lagging behind and that is only causing more damage for the Ecommerce sector.

“With different technologies taking over the world, it is inevitable for retailers in India to plan for channel agnostic technology and thereby avoid repeating the mistakes that western market has done” believes Ankur Dinesh, Co-Founder and Director at iamWire & Internet Retail Expo.

For an overview of the social media discussions around this session, see this Storify. You can also watch this three-minute trailer or the full video.