How Retailers Leverage Scalable IT Infrastructure for Growth, Global Presence

February 14, 2024

By Vishal Kapil, Chief Information Officer, GMG

In the fast-paced world of retail, the ability to scale IT assets & platforms is becoming increasingly crucial. Scalability isn't just a matter of expanding technical capabilities; it's about ensuring that the entire value chain is equipped to handle growth seamlessly.

To set the context, consider an e-commerce fashion website. The performance of such a platform is integral to its success, as it needs to handle millions of page views while maintaining user-friendliness and user experience. This involves addressing core business processes and underlying technology architecture to work seamlessly without failing, as this is crucial for conversion.

Global retailers like GMG, who are rapidly expanding, will have multiple technology platforms to think about when handling core and complementary capabilities. The scope is larger and requires scalable tech capabilities that involve understanding both the volumetric considerations of the current market, customer expectations and ensuring the adaptability of core infrastructure. This includes assessing how easily a company can integrate or build another system while entering new markets or introducing new products.

In such cases, adapting to local laws and tax regulations, ensuring consumer protection, and data privacy is essential. The payoff for retailers is evident in increased consumer acquisition, revenue uplift, and efficiency gains in terms of cost and time.

We have experienced firsthand how critical an adaptable infrastructure is. GMG recently acquired aswaaq and regional operations of some of Groupe Casino brands. Both had prominent retail chains operating in the UAE, and my team managed to integrate them seamlessly into its existing portfolio. Moreover, GMG's Asian operations are expanding at an incredible rate, and by leveraging scalable infrastructure, the company has maintained operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and brand identity across a growing network of stores in diverse markets.

Scalability also lends itself to the cyclical nature of retail. In the UAE, sales spike around the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), Ramadan, Eid and National Day holidays. A scalable infrastructure should be able to handle these periodic spikes with no impact on operations while dialing down in slower months to optimize the use of tech infrastructure. The resulting efficiency gains foster a more agile and competitive retail landscape. Additionally, features such as RFID (Radion Frequency Identification) driven supply chains for inventory accuracy, contactless payments, relevant promotions, and near real-time inventory visibility, enhance the overall shopping experience, ensuring it is frictionless and satisfying.

Scalable technology platforms are emerging as a foundational pillar in the digital transformation of retail. This transformation occurs through customer and employee-facing use cases, driven by the increasing trend of connected commerce in businesses. While improving internal processes is critical, an effective digital transformation strategy involves key customer use cases that have clear success KPIs on performance and revolve around continuous improvements, creating broad ecosystems with relevant suppliers, the right selection of technology & its partners, and other stakeholders. Such a comprehensive DX model supports the seamless onboarding of B2B partners, managing pre-sales, sales, and post-sales transactions seamlessly.

Adapting AI for Efficiency
Retail is among the sectors that benefit immensely from the AI revolution, thanks to the mass of structured and unstructured data collected in daily operations. Point-of-sale data, inventory data, CRM data, customer reviews, social media posts, and more are being leveraged for various purposes in retail, such as customer analytics, inventory management, offers, and price optimization.

Chatbots have been part of the customers' experience for the past decade; the latest advances in AI are supercharging these agents. We know that customers prefer self-help customer service as it gives them more control, convenience, and satisfaction while reducing wait times and allowing them to find answers anytime. Retailers leveraging AI are delivering an elevated customer experience at lower costs while in retail building scale.

Consolidating technologies and personnel enables accessible communication and collaboration among IT staff, enhancing productivity, innovation, and engagement. Additionally, integrated IT platforms that centrally store and organize information, data, files, and other assets allow easy access to key functions and tools. In GMG's case, investment in a digital capability hub in India allows us to tap into a large pool of talent and expertise in digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data analytics, which can help us enhance our operations and customer experience. This strategic move further enhances our competitive edge, scalability, and global presence.

There's, however, a caveat in any digital transformation journey. As retailers expand and embrace digital transformation, ensuring data privacy becomes paramount. Safeguarding consumer trust through robust data protection measures is not only a legal requirement but also a key component of maintaining a positive brand image. Retailers who earn customers' trust for protecting and safeguarding their data from cybercriminals are rewarded with loyal, lifelong customers.

The ultimate goal of technology in retail is to elevate the customer experience by leveraging innovative tools and solutions to enhance various aspects of the shopping journey in a competitive market. Through these technological advancements, retailers aim to create an environment where customers enjoy a convenient, engaging shopping experience, leading to lasting customer relationships, brand loyalty, and business growth in a highly competitive market. In conclusion, the ability to adapt, innovate, and leverage technology builds retailers’ competitive edge for sustained success in an ever-evolving market & customer behaviour.