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Q.1 Elaborate on the role played by IT applications in retail stores.


Answer:
Role of IT in Retail Store Operations
Most of the big retail businesses use retail IT applications widely. But few critical areas where IT applications are effectively used are as follows:
POS: use of scanners and bar coding equipments to identify the item, displaying its cost and thus facilitate the billing process. A new technical advancement in which the shopping cart is kept for scanning which scans the item in cart by laser beams and thus generating the final bill is the virtue of technological advancement in retail sector.


Payments: payments at billing counter are facilitated by the technological advancements in retail payment systems. Now a day’s most of the customers shop using credit cards due to fast and easy payment process. Conversion of electronic cheque is a recent development where the cheques are processed electronically rather than manually where the retailer has to voids it and hands back a receipt to customer. In this process the cheques are captured digitally which makes the billing process very fast.

Demand forecasting: Right product at right place and at right time is a key success for any retail business. Demand forecasting in retail business is a key aspect of success. Many types of software are being developed in recent times to forecast the demand of products or merchandise in the stores. Though they cannot substitute real retail expertise personnel but these applications can be augmented by an efficient, objective and scientific approach of forecasting demand.

Inventory management: In order to optimize the deployment of inventory, retailers need to manage the uncertainties, constraints and complexities across their global supply chain on continuous basis. This allows them to improve their inventory forecasting abilities and accurately set inventory targets. And IT solution is approved and market leading solution for determining optimal time-varying inventory for every item, at every location throughout supply chain. This allows the retailers to significantly reduce inventory without adversely affecting service levels. Various ERP software’s are now available in markets which are retail specific which help in integrating all the functions from ware house to distribution, front office to back office and merchandising. An integrated supply chain helps the retailer in maintaining his stocks, getting stocks in time and avoiding stock outs by reducing the cost and rendering high customer service.

CRM: Customer relationship management which is the present day mantra of many retailers is also using the IT applications. The rise of loyalty programs, mail order and internet shopping provided the retailer with an access to customer data base. Data warehousing and data mining tools facilitate the retailers for productive use of the database to promote his /her business. These applications also facilitate the research of customer buying behavior, product demand etc.

Store Management: Information technology is used in store operation management. Information technology applications generally integrate the different departments in the stores and facilitate different operations to function smoothly, effectively and within less time.

Even though information technology applications are useful for a retail business, the usage of these applications in retail business is determined by some factors. The following are few of them:

The nature and size of operations: Though Information technological applications facilitate the store operations, retailers require huge capital investment to adopt them in their business. They should first check the feasibility and returns on the investment if administered in his stores. If the nature and size of the business is large and complicated then it would be beneficial to the retailer in adapting the information technological applications. If the business is of small size then it may not
be feasible to adopt the IT applications.
Availability of Financial resources: as discussed above the investment in Information technology is huge. So a retailer should consider his nature and size of business, availability of funds before investing. Retailer should also keep in mind the payback period of this investment.
Human resources availability: information technological applications require some specific skills and expertise which are different from normal retailing skills. So retailer should pay attention on the availability of skilled work force to handle the technological applications in stores and drive the business to profit end.

Future of IT in Retail Store Operations
With expansion of modern retail sector, the increased application of Information technology is predicted. The advanced technological applications which are present or show their presence in near future are as follows:
• Improved RIFD technology: The future of RFID technology in retail sector is huge. Right from inventory management to providing better customer service this technology is used with little modifications.
• Data mining: improved technologies like data mining facilitate the customers in better decision making and enables the retailers to perform the business functions and decisions effectively and efficiently.
• Customer service: latest technological advancements help retailers in better customer service, better store management, complaint handling etc. they are also helpful in boosting the customer loyalty and drive the sales.
• Smart operating systems: these are mainly used in bettering the efficiencies of supply chain. Smartops enterprise software solutions support many initiatives and challenges associated with supply and distribution from lean manufacturing, just-in-time (JIT), collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment and sales and operations planning (S&OP) activities.
These technologies optimize algorithms and manage uncertainties in the data and offer visibility into the inventory at item-time-location level.
• Wi-Fi Technologies: Wi-Fi technology is quickly becoming standard applications in retail. These enables handheld devices, application POS, inventory audit, item lock up, pricing, labor scheduling etc.
• Smart shopping carts: smart shopping carts are to be seen in coming few years. It is provided with scanners on carts so that the shopped items are billed instantly making the shopper aware of the bill amount. One step ahead it can be having a book-sized computer in which the shopper needs to wipe his shopping card so that the history of shopping is recorded. Based on this provision It can also offer a guide to the customer about the frequently purchase items, their prices etc.

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