Disrupting the retail landscape

The retail industry today is undergoing a paradigm shift. Changing technology trends have revolutionised the customer experience to a great extent and for good. Whether it is smartphones enabling consumers to check prices as they tour a retail store or e-commerce sites offering discounts on favourite brands, it is without doubt that mobility and internet have taken the retail world by storm.

Cognitive computing represents a new era in retail, where systems not only understand the world and but also reason in the same way that humans do: through senses, learning, and experience. The cognitive computing age in retail has ushered in an incremental change and signifies a fundamental shift in computers interacting with customers, store associates and the overall retail environment. A recent IBM survey found that 91 per cent of retail executives who are familiar with cognitive computing believe it will play a disruptive role in the coming future, and 94 per cent are likely to invest in the technology in the near future.

Cognitive technology enables retailers to embrace “thinking applications” – mobile applications that employ intelligent, self-learning systems and use data-mining, analysis, pattern recognition and natural language processing to get the power of Big Data to shop floors. Using these intelligent apps, data can be crunched into a format that is easy to work upon giving employees the ability to become experts with every product offered. It also enables them to perceive customers in a better way by analysing and understanding their demographics, purchase history and wish lists as well as product information to guide them in their purchase decisions.

One such example is of that of a leading digital technology company that wanted to understand how people of various age groups relate to digital visualisations and thereby make rudimentary changes in its business operations. By deploying a content analytics solution, it analysed customer sentiments on social media and captured the voice of customer through its call centre to identify problems and ascertain solutions. As a result, the company armed with a deeper insight into customer behavior, now hopes to achieve a major increase in the operating profits through 2016.

By 2025, we may not have flying cars, but we may have a smarter, cognitive enabled retail industry that understands customers and their needs better.

And together with IoT generated data, retailers will be better able to blend into the disrupted scenario and meet changing customer expectations far better in future.

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