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Retail Digital Transformation with Low-Code Platforms | @CloudExpo #DX #Cloud #Analytics

See how low-code platforms play an important role in digital transformation of the retail world

Fast-paced changes in the business landscape demand enterprises to rethink their existing business models and add innovative capabilities keeping in mind the new imperatives. One among them is the focus on Digital transformation. In the retail industry, growth is measured in terms of increased sales and value addition to existing products while keeping customer expectations in mind. This is where a digital focus is important to remain competitive.

Surviving the Competition
Surviving in a highly competitive marketplace needs more than just the ability to sell; it calls for the evaluation of existing business processes for identifying bottlenecks/loopholes, the creation of more robust frameworks for improving operational efficiency, and more importantly convergence of evolved technologies, processes and enterprise solutions in the system for delivering transformational customer experience. With personalization becoming the key to enhancing customer experience, it is time for retailers to make the shift from ‘customer interaction' to ‘customer engagement'. Apps and kiosks are replacing elements of a traditional shopping experience, calling for store environments to evolve. Moreover, with an increasing number of customers moving to online platforms, retailers are trying to cater to their needs by redefining delivery models and enriching shopping experiences across all touchpoints and channels.

Digital transformation is a conscious shift from the traditional ways of operating existing business to modern solutions that deliver incremental value to a business. This in turn results in enhanced customer experience, efficiency and business innovation.

Digital innovation in Retail
Digital transformation for retailers is about looking beyond bare minimum changes in the product and service line to rethinking processes, creating a connected engagement enabled application of modern tools and technology. It is not only about customer centricity, agility, innovation, data intelligence and new value propositions, but also about streamlining processes, reducing costs and improving efficiencies across all the phases in the retail cycle.  With the rules of the game changing, retailers need to rethink every aspect of their business - from sourcing and pricing strategies to inventory planning, employee training and customer experience management, product offering and automation.

Changing the e-commerce landscape: Transitioning from bricks to clicks
Stores are more than just sales channels today. They are experience centers - extended arms of an enterprise's digital touch-points. Organizations, thus, endeavor to integrate innovative digital experiences to ensure a connected and engaging in-store experience. Digital transformation in-store happens when retailers deliver tailored experiences to the customer through a convergence of multiple technologies - for example, analyzing customer preferences through behavioral analytics, detecting customer location in-store and delivering context-aware, personalized promotions on mobile devices. Another example is Amazon and Alibaba using kiosks and interactive digital displays to help customers browse through the entire catalog and choose the items they need, especially apparels, home goods ensuring the superior experience for customers. In addition, enabling store associates through assisted selling and advisory tools where store associates are armed with customer information and insights, is the need of the day, be it to save a sale from showrooming or to enable customer retention and loyalty.

Driving the digital value in retail industry
To become a Digital Retailer, you need to understand the customer psyche to the fullest and be able to anticipate their needs and provide service better than the competition.  A good decision-making point for a retail head a decade ago was whether to build or buy a custom application or retail software. Traditional IT departments were structured typically with large development teams who were quite capable of developing large-scale applications as well as modifications to existing systems. In the present scenario the changing business demands and, agile methodologies, outsourcing and custom application development have made it imperative.

As most customers today prefer to shop online besides physically visiting the store, visual merchandising, new resources, and better online applications for retail app creation are of utmost need. A simple platform that can help retailers build applications to automate inventory management, store merchandise records and or an application that can derive meaningful dashboards based on customer buying behavior and analytics - is the need of the hour.  You should be able to act very quickly to changing customer demands and preferences.

These daily challenges related to different aspects of retail like sales, catalogs, analytics, customer behavior, Omni channel representation, and inventory management can be easily tackled by adopting new technology like RAD, Cloud, IoT and AI that deliver solutions for digital transformation coupled with efficiency, cost optimization, and engagement.

Key levers that drive digital value in retail:

  • Cost - Enhanced payment methods, and connected marketing initiatives drive great value in retail. Improved mobile apps for payments, analytics, tremendously help reduce transaction costs and improve customer convenience. Connected ads drive revenue growth by increasing traffic to apps and provide targeted communication to customers groups.
  • Productivity - This the biggest advantage of adopting new technology. It improves the performance of workforce and automates many important processes. Retail companies can become more responsive to changes and obtain agility with digital transformation.
  • Innovation - With Technology comes innovation. Gathering important data using tools and application innovative changes can be made in the existing retail in store and online models. Invest in analytics and related tools to understand spending and shopping patterns of customers, and use them give them a highly targeted sale, like giving away a discount coupon on a sweet box to a specific customer a week before his birthday.  Based on feedback, new product changes can be implemented easily with applications reading browsing patterns, customer behavior and buying habit. At the same time decision making also becomes faster than with legacy systems.
  • Customer Experience: Digital transformation enables a deep-dive into the retail customer experience. Many digital transformation initiatives arise from pain points, business innovation needs and transformation imperatives on the customer (experience) side of the business.  Becoming data-oriented through analytical tools is a must for a digital retailer by gathering details from all the touchpoints of a consumer in his/her buying journey and get to know the consumer behavior.

Take the next step in the digital world
Traditional applications of the past no longer make the grade to enable a digital retailer. Their purpose was to standardize and integrate back-end business processes. They were not designed to adapt quickly or support innovation. Today's retail digital enterprise demands a different approach: Your applications must adapt continuously and quickly, giving you the agility you need to differentiate from the competition. Every retail enterprise is different, their needs, customers, business model etc.  You need highly customized apps and utilities to service these needs.  Now is the time to adapt Custom applications and software like RAD. What is revolutionary about the application infrastructure of these new and agile Digital Business Platforms is that development, hosting and maintenance of applications can be democratized. They are simple, intuitive and easy to use and customize.

How Low-code Platforms enable Digital innovation in Retail Industry
Low-code platforms
, as the name suggests, enable you to build apps by writing little or no code. They can be leveraged to add the competitive edge to your retail business. In traditional app development, programmers write every line of code manually (hand coding). In contrast, a low-code platform requires zero to very little manual coding. Instead, developers use an intuitive, drag-and-drop editor to create visual models of an app's business logic, integrations and user interface. If that low-code platform is full-featured, generating, compiling and deploying the necessary code is automatic.

In the retail industry, custom mobile and web applications built using a low-code platform provide real-time visibility over inventory, both in-store and on e-commerce sites. They help take better care of customers with CRM integration and tools that provide quality service, products, and stores.

Benefits of using Low code platforms:

  1. Greater Engagement
    Low code platforms help build an app in days and not in months, Developers are able to update stakeholders about project progress rapidly. Delays are cut down and changes can be quickly implemented. Maintaining short and dynamic iteration cycles makes team more engaging.
  2. Lower Risk and Higher ROI
    With a low-code platform, all the security, cross-platform support and data integration capabilities have already been built. In addition, they can be customized easily. As a result, developers and others can focus on solving business problems rather than mundane, error-prone technical requirements.
  3. Elimination of the IT Skills Gap
    The intuitive, visual editors in low-code platforms do a lot to "level the playing field." Knowledge of specific languages is not required, nor do they have to have years of experience to use them. Therefore, more developers can contribute to a project. In some cases, even non-technical stakeholders can learn to build their own prototypes. Waiting for IT support becomes a thing of the past.
  4. Scalable Governance of Multiple Apps
    By shortening lead times and using common infrastructure, low-code platforms can enhance transparency, security, and compliance.
  5. Ease of Deployment
    The best low-code platforms are game-changers for those accustomed to traditional methods. This is because one can build apps for multiple platforms simultaneously. Not only that, it can be done in a fraction of the time needed to hand-code an app for just one.
  6. Innovation
    Writing code is time-consuming, Low code platforms eliminate the effort of writing complex codes. Developers can simply drag, drop, and customize features as per the need. This makes innovation an ongoing process and involves both developers and business people in building applications as a team

How retailers benefit from low-code application development platforms:

  • Retain, attract and engage, providing personalized, differentiated Retail experiences
  • Drive new revenue streams with customized campaigns across customer segments
  • Bring efficiency to store operations with Real-Time Mobile App aided store inspections
  • Serve real-time store data to Area Managers over mobile and web applications
  • Crunch project execution with rapid project-specific app creation
  • Build KPI dashboards that can be customized to store-specific targets, maximizing profits
  • Ready-to-go loyalty app with a comprehensive analytics backend
  • Tailored Location based rewards offering for shoppers every time they walk in
  • Tiered recognition for customer purchases where customers receive rewards when they reach a predefined spending threshold
  • Easy tracking of their rewards progress either at the point-of-sale, online or on their mobile devices
  • Analytics back end for useful insights on customer spending patterns

Conclusion
Despite the challenges that come with taking a step forward towards digital disruption, retailers must embark on this journey of transformation. Going digital and becoming agile is the key way to success in today's age. Technology and innovation can fuel the process and drive value. Digital Transformation in the retail industry has to be a strategic move that encompasses people, process, and technology, only then can the retail industry gain a competitive edge.

More Stories By Karthick Viswanathan

Karthick heads the Products, Marketing and Evangelism efforts for WaveMaker. As one of the original product managers at WaveMaker, he led the technology and design for WaveMakerOnline, WaveMaker's PaaS offering. He also established the Customer Success practice for WaveMakerOnline. Prior to WaveMaker, Karthick occupied various roles in engineering and product management at PegaSystems, IBM and Oracle. He can discuss in-depth, code-level details and just as easily shift focus to business and go-to-market strategies. He was one of the seeders for the product management teams for PegaSystems in India and also a key technology contributor behind Oracle Warehouse Builder features. He writes and blogs about modern app development methodologies, including Rapid Application Development, digital transformation, and the API economy.