CloudCorner OfficeExpert Opinion

How SaaS is Changing The Paradigm For Retail Businesses


The Indian retail sector is experiencing one of the fastest growth stories globally, as it explores new-age retail with developments that offer a unified buying experience to customers. Thanks to the spread of the internet and developing technologies, these developments in the retail space are reaching Tier-II and Tier-III cities and not just restricted to the metros.

Omnichannel retail which provides shoppers with open head commerce digital assets is helping retail businesses grow manifold. The idea is to unify the retail experience across different touch points. This includes seamless social and local searches, exploring physical channels, browsing to order fulfilment, and delivery without any break in the experience.

An omnichannel operation is not about being omnipresent, but ensuring shoppers enjoy a retail experience on a what they want, when, and where they want it, basis. Since 2010, it has led to in-store shopping versus online buying, in-store pickup, and trying before buying, becoming commonplace. The entire infrastructure has to be designed by understanding that integrating multiple touch-points brings in additional value. An added value is more significant than the sum of its parts as a whole.

Omnichannel retail is achievable due to the backing of a true SaaS Platform. SaaS offers a cloud-based solution that lets customers access their applications remotely. A true SaaS Platform helps efficiently sell, distribute, and manage cloud-based software and services.

Shaping the Future

SaaS has established itself as an incredible innovation whose popularity is based on simplicity, user accessibility, security, and widespread connectivity. As a software distribution model, it offers a lot of agility and cost-effectiveness for companies. SaaS-powered omnichannel retail solutions are not just critical but ever-more important today. One of the reasons for this is the way digital devices are shaping in-store sales. The Statista 2022 Retail shows that the use of digital devices before or during shopping will influence 58% of in-store sales. Digital devices come in handy for a variety of options from making payments, managing loyalty points, communicating with customer service agents, browsing products, and getting a visual understanding of them. While in-store shopping is the biggest retail channel, online sales have increased with COVID-19 forcing people to stay at home.

Today, the attention of consumers is dispersed across channels. Shoppers have begun to compare prices and get the best of discounts. Reports suggest 75% of shoppers use multiple channels of retail. As most searches are generic and brand-agnostic, discovery and engagement are essential on mobile devices. Data presented by CB Insights reveals that 85% of consumers prefer interacting with brands using digital and physical channels based on their convenience and urgency. Using omnichannel services shoppers discover products on one channel, but research on another channel. And eventually, buy from another channel and would then complain about it on a completely different platform.

Only brands that had a greater degree of digital integration at multiple touch-points have grown during the pandemic. Industry data shows that 90% of leading retailers either have an omnichannel strategy or plan to invest in omnichannel tech when it comes to offering digital experiences, while only 8% think they have mastered omnichannel. Organic discovery is a roadblock that a SaaS-powered retail channel helps overcome while bringing down the cost of customer acquisition.

Critical Pillars  

As SaaS continues to power the change in how retail business functions, tech-enabled omnichannel retail has seen success with a Last Mile First approach. While setting up shop, e-commerce retailers must create a few critical pillars that will hold the digital and commerce infrastructure in place. The deployment of digital assets will allow the customers to choose the fulfilment either online or from the store. The key to self-service enablement lies in dynamic engagement and handoffs between EPOS, inventory management, and check-out and payment fulfilment.

SaaS offers omnichannel retail, a flexible structure through a headless commerce architecture. This helps in enabling social search, social local, and physical commerce. SaaS helps in unlocking the true potential of omnichannel, real-time organic marketing, and brand building. Retailers can create a platform to offer quick commerce at the least cost of fulfilment. But until and unless they have a dynamic engagement platform, it will be challenging to fulfil sales and be profitable at the same time.

Dependencies on third-party integrators and change request delays will destroy the implementation and fulfilment of a retailer’s digital dream. Dynamic Customer data platforms for real-time engagement and done in the proper context helps in delivering a human-like experience even with BOTs. Offering loyalty and rewards tech is important in building long-term customer lifetime value offering experiences through marketing.

Retail discovery becomes meaningless if the customer experience is lacking.  Over 62% of digital dropouts are due to the poor user experience – from discovery to checkout due to poor customer service. It is thus essential to engage contextually and build trust to earn first-party data of your potential customer. Brands exploring omnichannel retail must know customers are coming from a zero-brand affinity space.

And so there should be an automated and real-time or dynamic communication platform-as-a-service. This must be mobile, offer virtual try-on, virtual client handling, and a cashier-less checkout that is safe and secure. Finally, as SaaS brings all this together, brands need to create an end-to-end predictive inventory management system that makes sure that the purchase to delivery software is all in one dashboard that works dynamically.

(The author Rakesh Raghuvanshi is the Founder & CEO of Sekel Tech and the views expressed in the article are his own)

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