4 minute read 21 Aug 2020
COVID-19 impact: Creating a new normal for retail

Is digital customer experience the new normal in retail?

By EY India

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

4 minute read 21 Aug 2020

Digital is redefining the retail experience. Here’s a look at some of the latest trends.

COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Indian retailers at an unprecedented scale. The crucial question is to find the new normal, creating a sustainable business model on the back of strong digital technologies.

March 24 lockdown ushered a new era of unprecedented pause in Indian retail. Since then retailers across all spectrums are facing multitude of challenges. Even food and grocery retailers have critical challenges including managing high consumer demand, ensuring liquidity, supply chain disruptions, management of store operations to ensure social distancing and proper hygiene, governance issues and ensuring the health and safety of employees. Leveraging digital technologies are imperative to fill the created void and complement evolving consumer needs via their preferred channels (where), contactless experience (how) and 360-degree convenience (when). Let us look at some of the digital trends that we see in the retail sector today.

Omnichannel and Customer Experience matters: New retail has to be the convergence of physical and digital commerce. Retailers need to be present where consumers are, instead of depending on store footfall. New models like click n collect or deliver at home with pre-fed monthly shopping list is the new norm of post-COVID era. Other popular international models remain Scan & Go, integrated with digital payment to maintain social distancing. In addition to that, personalised customer experience and social listening are crucial to retain brand loyalty. Outside India, we can see a surge in sales on the online platforms for many middle east retailers, which is also one of the best shopping destinations globally. A market which predominantly operates from the malls is fast changing and accepting the new normal and making themselves future ready.

Cloud and Integrated Ecommerce: With low infrastructure cost and ease of use, cloud services have opened new channels for mid-tier retailers to introduce integrated ecommerce services along with complete customer experience and personalised services. Order orchestration and management tools ensure timely online fulfilment directly through dark stores to liquidate locked inventory.

ERP with enhanced usage of Robotic Process Automation & Analytics: Automation enabled ERPs are the catalysts of digital transformation. Retailers should harness their data and processes within the ERP system to redefine the future of work and reshape each of its function from Finance, Supply Chain to Point of Sales and regulate support services. Retailers need to prepare their teams with new skill sets and explore investments necessary to deploy bots as it improves processes, eliminates redundancy and increases accuracy. Accordingly, the demand for decision-ready and real time data will also increase. Clean, meaningful and authentic data can improve the quality of decision making and business outcomes by more than double.

AI holds the key: New emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will be crucial to shape new retail models across functions. Virtual trial rooms, touchless in-store shopping, and personalized digital communication are the new areas to explore.  Interactive live streaming will deliver required experiences for high fashion and automobile commerce. Similarly, content led commerce will be the new way, influencers and stores associates will create content and use AR to deliver commerce.

New Era of Partnership: Retailers and technology providers need to work as partners now. Technology is helping retailers in maturing their shared service models allowing them to broaden their customer and geographic reach and provide greater value and insight to internal customers.

All retailers across the globe are trying to know their customers better, thereby coming out with specific personalised marketing campaigns and promotions. Targeted campaigns on social platforms and on apps are now trending, spends on media ads are slowly being curtailed and the marketing rule books are being re-written.

 (This article is authored by Puneet Mansukhani, Partner, Technology Consulting, EY India. It first appeared in The Financial Express on 29 July 2020.)


This pandemic has fast forwarded the shift to digital transformation. Now is the time for retail players to get control of the current crisis and invest in right technologies and emerge as forerunners to set the standards of new normal.

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By EY India

Multidisciplinary professional services organization