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Current Technology Trends And Challenges

by Tarun Bali, IT Head, The Body Shop August-2016

The current technology trends are Digital transformation, OmniChannel enterprise, Social media, Automation and Big Data.

Customer centricity approach is the way forward strategy for every business enterprise to thrive and sustain. So I will focus on the ongoing and upcoming trends and challenges and how technology will help in growth and business sustainability.

Digital Transformation: Digital means no traditional boundaries and no fixed timings either for workforce or for customers to accesses the company products, services and resources. Digital transformation is creating one user friendly self-service ecosystem hiding the complex backend restricted application environment. The main theme would be putting customer first , learning from his journey , creating network of trust and creating products , services and environment  for customers and workforce to flourish .Final outcome is Loyal customer and Loyal workforce.

Omnichannel technology is the best outcome of digital ecosystem to cope current demand created by content enriched customers who has their own way of interaction irrespective of channels, processes, timings set by the organizations. Enterprises who are already under pressure due to market conditions, buying sentiments and global competition has no other option but to rework entire strategy, technology, people, process to become Omnichannel for CRM , seamless shopping and returns across channels , connected feedback and support systems.

Brick and mortal retailers has edge over e-tailers as best transformation is always when digital meets physical to enrich the customer experience. Information kiosk, feedback and suggestions applications, app based loyalty program adaptation are the ways of honouring customers as they just believe in self-service, digital method of interaction and expecting instant assistance In-Store or Online. Social Engagement with customers through social media , own blogs , rating and review , question and answers session are being adopted to create rich contents , higher rankings in search engines further enhancing  brand value , transforming product into best product and service , converting  customer into loyalty customer by focusing word of mouth marketing while creating transparent environment for all . Loyalty apps are the other ways to communicate, listen, and respond simulating one to one human touch rather going with bulk standard message and generalised offers. There are enough tool available to listen, record every interaction right from first communication to sales conversion and post sales interactions. 

Going digital at customer touch points mere not enough rather backend support system should also be digitally robust to answer and provide immediate assistance to customers. Internet of things, machine learnings and digital empowered workforce are current technology trends. Internal collaborative company social network is another tool to view, monitor and govern the internal and external customer conversations, escalations and resolutions in minimum turnaround time and with the idea to add transparencies at each level. 

Complex backend transactional applications, multiple data formats, different databases & technologies systems  and above all digital content generation further requires BIG data analytical technology solution to listen, suggest and gratify the customer instantly without having any human intervention. Accepting high density contents generated at higher velocity and converting into productive information and action points on go and requires big data analytical solutions to create automated personalized environment with relevant offers at relevant time and keeping enterprise above their competitors.

Operational Challenges:

• Integration and inconsistent data flow across channels

• Complex application environment

• Culture and workforce training

• Hybrid infrastructure

• Data quality & hygiene

• Data privacy and leakage

No size fit for all this is very common proverb for evaluating applications for managing end to end product development , customer life cycles. No other option just to implement multiple apps for production, supply chain, Merchandising planning, POS, E-commerce, Mobile commerce, CRM, HRMS hosted on hybrid environment.  API’s as its look simple word actually lot of failure points because of application architectures, communication and network loss, bugs and involved application downtime. SME has very limited resources and budgets to handle these jargon whereas competition are with big enterprises to simulate the same customer experience.  Multiple vendor SLA’s management is also daunting task to keep them at one place.

Culture is the major barrier into successful technology adaptation. People training and little know how and lack of familiarity about digital can influence negativity across customers, product experiences. In the digital world customer coming at stores are more informed then sales staff. Isolated knowledge, vertical skill sets, dispersed team structure often possess challenges for collaboration, technology adaptation and effective usage. Thus failing the purpose of customer centric technology.

On-premise data centers, cloud and offline databases can create inconsistency in accessing the service and delays in transactional applications to create negative sentiments, and bad services.   

Redundant structured and non-structured data, multiple touch points, social connects and human layer over technology often creates duplicate and over communications to customers generating negative sentiments among them.

Multiple data repository, sensitive data and internal company’s data access policy may possess serious data leakage and can add vulnerability into customer privacy and has to be dealt carefully using proper NDA’s policies sigh off with vendors and internal employees and robust audit trails applications.

Last but not the least success is all about integrated people, process and applications.