Shaping the future of retail: Emerging trends and the evolving workforce | HCLTech

Shaping the future of retail: Emerging trends and the evolving workforce

Unveiling the shifting consumer landscape and the role of AI-driven innovation in retail
6 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
6 minutes read
Shaping the future of retail: Emerging trends and the evolving workforce

Driven by a confluence of emerging trends and advancements in technology, the retail industry is witnessing a profound transformation. From the rise of e-commerce to the integration of cutting-edge technologies, the future of retail is being shaped by a convergence of trends that promise to revolutionize the way consumers shop and engage with brands.

Among the key drivers of this transformation are emerging technologies, the pursuit of a unified customer experience and the relentless quest for personalization. With access to vast amounts of customer data, retailers are leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer personalized shopping experiences.

Emerging trends shaping retail's future

According to Salesforce, 90% of shoppers say the experience a brand provides matters as much as the products or services themselves. One of the most significant technological advancements is the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Retailers are leveraging AI-powered algorithms to analyze vast amounts of consumer data, enabling them to gain insights into purchasing behaviors, preferences and trends. This data-driven approach empowers retailers to make informed decisions, optimize inventory management and predict future demand accurately.

“The future of retail is all about ensuring the availability of products as and when required. Technology advancements that bring unified customer experience along with an optimized supply chain network and a common view of the inventory across all different channels is a key trend,” says Rahul Gupta, the Head of Technology – Store Team at Coles Group.

The integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is bridging the gap between the digital and physical shopping realms. Customers can now virtually try on clothing and accessories or visualize how furniture would fit in their homes, enhancing the shopping experience and reducing the uncertainty associated with online purchases.

Blockchain technology is also making inroads in the retail sector, particularly in the realm of supply chain management. By providing a transparent and tamper-proof ledger of transactions, blockchain enhances traceability and authenticity, thereby reducing the risk of counterfeiting and ensuring the integrity of products.

Privacy regulations around the end-user make it difficult to gain in-store insights around the connected shopper, handing omnichannel retailing the advantage in their bid to match the shopper’s growing expectations. HCLTech’ Real-time In-store Insights (RII) utilizes radar-sensing technology, camera imaging and the limitless power of IoT, enabling the retailer to make real-time, intelligent decisions and create the retail space of tomorrow.

The role of generative AI in retail

“Disruptors like generative AI and computer vision are coming fast in retail. Across organizations, everyone is investing in it to find the right balance,” adds Gupta.

By transforming the way products are designed, manufactured and marketed, generative AI is being used to create innovative and customizable designs, allowing retailers to offer unique products that cater to individual preferences.

In marketing, generative AI is used to generate compelling content, including product descriptions, social media posts and ad copy. This automation saves time and resources while ensuring consistent brand messaging across platforms.

Gen Z and Millennials - the changing face of retail

Generation Z and Millennials are significantly impacting the retail landscape as both consumers and employees. As consumers, this generation seeks authentic and personalized experiences, favoring brands that align with their values. Being early adopters of technology, retailers must engage them through social media, interactive platforms and immersive technologies like AR and VR.

“Now a younger workforce like Gen Z is entering into organizations which brings in a different level of expectations for organizations to work through. We have to create an environment that celebrates and values each person, their interests and contribution into overall business objectives” continues Gupta.

As employees, Gen Z and Millennials demand a more flexible and purpose-driven work environment. They prioritize work-life balance, professional development and social impact. Retailers such as Coles are adapting their HR policies and company cultures to attract and retain young talent. They realize the importance of transforming their workforce management from being in a reactive mode to a predictive and a responsive one. The technology can speed up this process by enabling scientific what-if analytics to counter any unplanned exceptions, delays, or any peak/ event-based simulations.

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Looking ahead

The future of retail is being shaped by a host of emerging trends that prioritize personalization and omnichannel experiences. As Gen Z and millennials exert their influence, retailers must adapt to cater to their values and preferences as both consumers and employees.

Moreover, emerging technologies and generative AI are revolutionizing retail operations, offering innovative solutions in product design, marketing and creatives. Embracing these trends and technologies will be crucial for retailers to stay competitive in the dynamic landscape of the future.

As Gupta says: “In retail, the basics remain the same—it’s all about customers and making sure they have their needs covered.”

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