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Infosys 2019 Predictions: Retail, Supply Chain and Emerging Tech

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2019.  Read them in this 11th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Karmesh Vaswani, EVP and Global Head of Retail, Infosys

Retail, Supply Chain and Emerging Tech

Not to be left behind in the age of digital transformation, the retail sector will become smarter, more connected, and more immersive in 2019.  Driven primarily by data for customer experience and digital operations, retail enterprise will move beyond pilots and proof-of-concepts to become mature in effective usage of data collected from diverse sources.

Infosys research projects 4% to 5% growth for the US retail sector in 2019. Technology investment growth will match these growth rates in the US and other developed countries. This growth mindset will motivate CIOs to shift their priority from cost reduction and risk mitigation to revenue impact, to innovate for new ideas and business models, supported by a data-centric culture.

  • Technology investment growth will match these growth rates in the US and other developed countries. This growth mindset will motivate CIOs to shift their priority from cost reduction and risk mitigation to revenue impact, to innovate for new ideas and business models, supported by a data-centric culture.
  • Stores of the future will become context-aware, understanding why a consumer is looking to buy a particular product at a specific point in time. Non-intrusive user interaction across physical and virtual channels will help to create relevant personalized experiences. In the next 3 years, more than 80% of consumers across segments will be in favor of such engagement and be influenced by it in their purchasing decision.
  • The experience will be immersive in nature, providing rich digital product content and insights beyond just pricing, on multiple devices, nudging customers to make a choice. Augmented reality (AR) will be a top investment area, with more than 50% of consumers using AR on their smart phone for product evaluation and comparison in the next 2 years.
  • Store operations will become self-adaptive, making autonomous decisions. Robotic Process Automation (RPA,) backed by Machine Learning/AI with cognitive capabilities, will enable near real-time, rational decisions.  This next-generation RPA will consolidate insights mined from internal operations and the external market. RPA will automate more than 50% of operations in every function in the retail sector within the next 3 years - from HR and talent acquisition to supply chain, finance, store operations, IT services and planning.
  • Supply chains will become cognitive in decision making and nimble in operations, with shrinking order sizes and fulfillment cycle time. This will help them become responsive to fluctuations from consumer demand and nature. Data-oriented supply chains with visibility into shipment status will enable more accurate lead time and delivery prediction, accelerating the trend away from statistical models.
  • Distribution systems will adopt multi-modal logistics, shrinking the gap with customers, targeting an elusive and ideal zero distance, moving as close as possible to the point of consumption.
  • The rising need for traceability and transparency from farm-to-fork will see wide blockchain adoption, saving retailers and manufacturers from excessive litigation in the food and consumer sectors. Regulatory requirements will move the hype from cryptocurrencies to material, financial and process traceability as the strongest, must-have use cases for blockchain. This will be important to effectively manage or hopefully prevent problems causing inconvenience to the consumers.
  • To play catch up with smaller and new age players in the technology and developing market race, retailers will look for partnership and inorganic growth in niche technology areas (AR/VR, IoT, blockchain, AI/ML), new product categories and market segments. More than 50% of top line growth will be from new classes of products, segments and geographies, leveraging digital technologies.
  • Brick and mortar retail giants will focus upon leveraging what has traditionally been their strength in physical stores and supply networks. They will not just copy the digital native new entrants. If pilots such as Wal-Mart's Alphabot - an example of humans, robots and algorithms working in collaboration for order fulfillment - are successful, retailers will scout for more such players to scale up.
  • With accelerating technological changes, IT and business people alike will play more important roles to conceptualize, implement and manage the transformations for a smart workplace of the future. Retailers will go beyond the usual classroom-based training, investing significantly to leverage emerging technologies for large scale reskilling. More than 50% of the budget and participants will be from business units and functions outside the CIO's office.
  • Traditional roles such as the cashier will see less growth, eventually becoming a quaint exception while new roles such as data analysts, systems engineers and programmers will see significant growth, starting with large format stores. In the next 3 years, 50% of roles will see churn, with new roles not yet named.
  • Among all these changes, IT infrastructure enhancement will accelerate to match industry expectations:  from mobile apps to IoT, cloud, enterprise systems and data centers.
  • 80% of investments for new IT applications and technology will be off-the-shelf, needing little customization, with rapid deployment on cloud, a mobile app for last mile human connectivity and IoT for closed-loop asset monitoring. Partners will better understand the business, working in collaboration with retailers to apply technology solutions where it matters most, in ways that are secure and do not compromise consumer privacy.


About the Author

karmesh vasvani 

Karmesh Vaswani, EVP and Global Head of Retail

Karmesh is the Executive VP and Global Head for Retail, Consumer & Logistics at Infosys. With over 25 years of experience, Karmesh is a customer-centric, values-driven, industry partner and leader. His expertise includes strategizing, architecting, and delivering technology-enabled business performance improvements for Fortune 500 Enterprises.
Published Friday, February 08, 2019 7:15 AM by David Marshall
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