"The proliferation of smartphones and tablets, coupled with the ubiquity of Wi-Fi networks, is urgently demanding a change in retailers' traditional go-to-market model," says Anand Mehta, the director for Retail Industry at Motorola Solutions for SEA, India, Japan and Korea. "The traditional attributes of retail being location, product, price, quality and service are simply a prerequisite now rather than a differentiator. Retailing in the connected world is about understanding the impact of mobile, online and social media."

"This irreversible trend is "omni-channel" retailing. Omni-channel retailing is no longer just a concept and is now best defined as multiple and individually-relevant touch points equipped with unfailing memory and the intuition about consumers' preference available both digitally and physically. This is helped by the game-changing ways in which wireless technology and applications are coming together to form solutions that are empowering sales associates and connecting with the already connected customer with their personal tastes, at their preferred locations, through their preferred media."

To better understand the challenges retailers face today and dissect the promises of omni-channel" retailing, we recently had an exclusive interview with Anand Mehta in Singapore. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Why bother with Omni Channel at all?

There are two trends that you cannot ignore. It's the emergence of mobile devices, principally smartphones or tablets or as the smartphones get larger, the phablets as they are known in the trade.

The fact that now Wi-Fi is ubiquitous, you are constantly connected. So these are just two things and here are some statistics to support them. If you look at mobile devices, the total amount is 40 percent in smartphones and 17 percent in tablets which is 57 percent which far exceeds laptops which is only 39 percent. So the point I usually call out here is that the world is moving fast from what was known as 'e-comm' (e-commerce) completely to what we term as 'm-comm' (m-commerce).

Here are just some statistics to support it. Current smart device sales for 2013 are likely going to exceed 1 billion units. There are more global devices than the global population. Smartphone use is going to exceed two billion by 2015 and more importantly there is a 13 times increase in data traffic being forecasted from this year to 2017. So data is the new voice. It has been and it's only been growing exponentially. The other thing to really give consideration to is also the fact that social technologies are growing at a great speed.

Now here are further statistics to support. The statistic is 59 percent in Asia Pacific use is through mobile devices for social technologies. This actually exceeds the world. So in terms of social media on mobile devices, Asia Pacific is Number 1 around the world.

Statistics again to support this: There are in excess of one billion Facebook users, 600 million of these access through mobile phones. This is astounding and every 60 seconds there are 98,000 tweets, about 650,000 updates and in excess of 11 million instant messages. The message clearly is that we live in a world of exponentials. Everything to do with technology is growing exponentially.

So now the impact of all this to a retailer is very simply an absolute explosion of data collection. If we think big data was something big last year, we haven't seen anything yet because all the big data stuff that we are talking about is coming out of repositories of databases of businesses that have accumulated that data. But now every smartphone and every tablet is a data accumulation point. Now a retailer is sitting there, scratching his head and saying, "How do I take this explosion of content and make it valuable to me commercially as a business?"

These are just some trends to reiterate. With smart devices, customers have digital options, social networking, wireless data completely explodes, Omni Channel. M2M is a very interesting thing where ultimately devices will be talking to one another intelligently and all will be growing at an exponential rate. So now what this is doing to the retail industry in our view very clearly is changing the core attributes of retail.

Retail traditionally was location, location, location and then product price and of course product price with quality. This is now table stakes. If you don't have a location, if you don't have a product price combined with quality, you're not in the retail game. It's a precursor to get into the industry now.

THE FIVE NEW BUSINESS ATTRIBUTES

So what we see is that the three traditional business attributes are being converted into five new attributes. The first one clearly is connecting. The shopper is connected to the Internet or to his mobile device for product information. We need this connectivity to be available to the same shopper in store and we need the same connectivity to be available to the store staff as well. So this far what was happening with the connectivity of the consumer was they were smarter than the seller. So the seller was order-taker. He was fulfilling the transaction and not influencing the sale. So the gap there was the associate was not being as equipped as the customer. So connectivity in that was omni present.

Predictive is a very big one because of the accumulation of all these data points, the only logical thing to do with them is to look at them predicatively whereas all traditional BI (business intelligence) has been historical. So traditional BI looks at averages and the month gone by whereas predictive technologies look at individuals and forecast it real-time. This is a big change in the entire CRM (customer relationship management) and BI kind of business or vendors. They are going from traditional, single, average evaluations to individual dynamic evaluations.

Definitely the impact of all this data collection and all the predictive analytics and algorithms that now exist in a lot of our software, the output required to the end-user consumer is 'Make me a personal offer.' Honestly they don't care about what is going on backstage. They want a good show in the palm of their hands when it matters to them, so all of this now is enabling an individual offer to an individual customer real-time. So if you have 100 people in your store, you can make the store individually valid to 100 different people. You can have 100 different experiences with one store. This is really where personalisation comes in.

Context aware is a great emerging space. We are clearly at the cutting edge of this. What we mean by context aware is essentially is locationing. Now you know your customer and know what offer to make to your customer. What context aware locationing does is it makes that offer real-time in your store in the right part of your store.

So if the guy is in the Corn Flakes section, he gets a Corn Flakes offer. If he's looking at apparel, you get a combination offer of "Why don't you buy a belt with this pair of shoes?" Everything that relied on human interaction can now be prompted by technology. I guess it's the retail world's equivalent of "Would you like fries with that" or "Do you want to upsize that?"

Obviously analysis clearly shows that just asking that question enough increases your conversion significantly to at a very minimum give you a single percentage point lifting your sales. Retailers that are not optimum, they can see a 20-25 percent increase in sales. It's a very simple solution and that's the joy of retail.

The retail business model is actually very simple. You buy, you sell and hope that your expenses are lower than your gross profit and you are left with some net profit but the complexity of retail is in operations. Business is very simple.

So context aware we term as two different things. We have what is known as "presence." So when a customer is in the vicinity of your store outside, you can detect it and acknowledge him and greet him and pull him into your store. We also have a second component known as "proximity" which is when he is within a certain zone of your store; he will get an individual offer valid to that zone.

Now a third emerging space in this and we are in active discussion with the best landlords in the region for this is indoor mapping. So everybody has the blue dot outdoors. Traditionally that has been a space that's been established solidly over the past 6-7 years. We see the next 24 months for indoor mapping as critical.

What is indoor mapping?

Within the store or within the mall. So if you are at the entrance of Mall A and the kids want to go off for a bite to eat, the wife wants to go shopping for female apparel and the guys wants to go to the sports store, you can allocate individual directions. Now you combine that with all the data intelligence that you have gathered and you can start giving these guys coupons on their journey. It's wonderful and it's going to be big here. We are having some very advanced discussions with some very prominent retail landlords.

And last, certainly not least is the consumer is spending so much of their life in digital form either surfing the web or on a mobile device that they have grown accustomed to the product knowledge depth and the price comparison depth that you can get through online still doesn't exist in the retail store.

The reason they got shopped out online wasn't just price. It was information, product information and product comparison. So we can now enable that in-store. So basically retailers definitely have to consider a fresh approach. These are the new five attributes of retail and they have to address that.

Key things they have to look into here is that they have to blur the channels, they have to align the shoppers online experience with the in-store experience. They have to use in-store locationing to start individualising experiences and last but certainly not least, they have to use live analytics while the shopper is in your store at the point of purchase. There is no point doing something with historical data. It's now, it's live, it's got to be in the store.

THE CONNECTED SHOPPER

So we have got an approach and solution to this which we term as the "Connected Shopper" keeping in mind with the five new retail attributes and it's basically a mobile-driven engagement completely based on technology that will synergise "Clicks and Bricks." It makes personalisation a reality and it completely differentiates an in-door experience.

So from one shoe store to another, from one luxury store to another, from one grocery store to another, we can deliver individual experiences. So the value that it brings to a retailer pretty simply is we use in-sight analytics in real-time triggers; so in the store with the mobile coupon, in the consumer's hand phone, where it matters.

So the components of this new thing are basically that it is modular. There are six modules to this. There is a core module that is a platform which handles the Omni Channel offer management engine and it's all driven essentially by an application. So the glue between the retailer and the consumer is the app on the phone. The differentiator with our app is for the on-boarding process, we only do it once whereas traditional applications, you have to keep volunteering every time you step into a store. So we detect once and the next time they walk into your store, it's seamless. They just get pinned for information.

The important thing with the core platform with the application is that we are completely driven by being dynamic. Most current apps are static. It's a smaller screen size version of bits and pieces of information that they have anyway. What is in-store today? What is this promotion of today? You can't do a double-click into anything live. So we are completely dynamic. The traditional static app honestly is history. It's not going to be around much longer.

THE SHOPPING TRIP

Now once the core platform is enabled, the application is on the consumer's phone. One thing that we offer very quickly is a module known as the "Shopping Trip." Now the objective of the shopping trip is two-fold. Firstly, you start from an online or mobile shopping list and make it an in-store shopping cart. This is top of mind for retailers. It sounds like a very small thing but just delivering this is a huge significance in retail operations. Otherwise there was a mismatch.

There was no way to migrate the journey you began on online or on your phone into the store. They were two separate entities. We've made it seamless and in making it seamless, we've got a hold on analytics that doesn't exist otherwise. So we go from browsing behaviour to buying behaviour and everything in between.

Now the interesting thing about this is when you have this thing enabled, it also lends itself to connecting with the store staff while they are in there. Say you go into your phone at home late one evening, you develop a shopping list you would like, you visit the store the next morning, you click your way through the shopping cart and you need more product knowledge, you simply press a help button. It goes to one of the devices that we've got round one of the associates and it comes straight over to you. So the journey keeps continuing.

The third component is clearly locationing as we have defined. I guess it is driven towards large formats and large square footages but this is a space that I think you will see emerge in Asia over the next six months very rapidly.

Then we have another component that if you are gathering all this information, we've got shopping lists, we've got shopping carts and we've got consumer personalisation. What matters to the retailer is to monetise this information. The only way to monetise this is to make an offer. The offer becomes a transaction and then the whole thing has a commercial value.

So I think we are the only ones giving consideration to individual mobile advertising and promotion strategy. So we are blatantly recommending to retailers that like if you have a print media strategy, like if you have a television strategy, like you have a radio strategy, you've got to go beyond just having a digital strategy where you just show the same ads in the PDF, you've got to have a live mobile engagement strategy so we hand-hold them through this and once they have a strategy developed with us, we have all the tools to communicate the offer to the consumer on their phone.

Last but not least we have analytics. The prominence of analytics cannot be understated, right? The more data you gather the more you have to analyse it. There are two considerations in analytics here. One is presence so a retailer will know who is in his store using which device on which operating platform. That basically detects the physical. The second component of our analytics is it detects the browsing. Now there is a phenomenon that is emerging rapidly in North America and slowly into Asia Pacific known as "Show Rooming." Have you come across it?

No. Please tell me about Show rooming?

It's a beautiful term. They've said it in one. So "Show Rooming" is basically a customer going to a full-fledged retail store, looking at the products, touching, feeling and getting the price done, doing the comparison if it's consumer hard goods for instance and while he's in the store, he's getting onto a website on his mobile phone maybe comparing price on an Amazon; and physically being in the store with the retailer who's paying rental for that store, staff wages for that store but he's sitting in that store and buying from an on-line competitor.

It's happening with the bookstores and they're dying.

They're dying. That whole format has fallen over to digital markets. So we have found a way to identify who is in the store and what they are browsing and on whose website and which product. I jokingly refer to this part as the "Show Rooming Buster." So we can now pick up this behaviour and automatically alert the assistant and get the assistant to walk over to that customer and say, "Listen, is what you need another x percent or $x off? We value you; you are in our store so let's do the deal here." So far this has not been available and this is really resonating with the retailers.

It's really something that might save the business.

Totally. So what we see now is that retail cannot wait for the customer to come to the store. They have to take the store to the customer first. You take the store there first and then he will come to you. If you wait for him to come to you, it isn't going to happen.

A number of retailers are reporting, who have got robust and solid m-comm strategies, they are seeing 20-30 percent of their revenues coming through that channel and the beautiful part is they start browsing on the application on their mobile phone but they end up transacting in the store. So this is what I call "Clicks and Bricks" and this is absolutely the future of retail.

Retailers will ignore this at their own peril. So the big ones here definitely are the online shopping list to in-store shopping cart, locationing and analytics. It's wonderful.

Now the use case scenario simply is somebody does a shopping list on their mobile phone, they come near the outside of the store, we pin them with a message saying, "Hey Mr. Smith. Welcome. Good to see you again. Today we have ABC on special which is relevant to you individually." So people outside the store get an individual message each. Once they come in, our connected shopper approach also has a scanner built in. So you can use your iPhone or your Galaxy phone or whatever the case may be and then scan the product and this is where you get the richness of the online experience in-store.

So say you are an organic retailer selling organic foods. You can now tell them the farm, you can tell them who the farmer is, you can tell them the expiry date is 48 hours because this product doesn't have the shelf life of a preserved product. If that is not enough, through that same module, they can ping an assistant in-store for help, and add it to their shopping cart. The shopping cart will aggregate all the information into one bar code and they can walk over to the cashier and just hand over their mobile phone. They will scan this and take the ping.

This is possible right now?

This is absolutely deliverable. We showcased and launched this at NRF in January this year. It has been about three years of backstage work so the fact is that all of this has existed in bits and parts but we are the first to build it as a holistic solution.

So the way this all fundamentally changes the shopper's in-store shopping experience is we've got five parts to purchase. A shopper will typically identify, navigate, discriminate, validate and then transact. So the idea here is now to have an influence on the buying patterns in a real-time influence on the shopping journey in-store. So currently there is hardly any identification. You walk into a store faceless and you walk out of a store faceless and nameless unfortunately but what we do now is we automate the greetings. So the connected shopper can now be greeted individually upon entry. That's how we do the identification bit.

In the navigation bit when they enter into your store, typically they are lost. They are looking for an assistant or they are looking for a product. That doesn't happen so how do we change this? We make the shopping experience either self-guided or associate guided or a combination of both.

Now our vision very clearly is that in the retail equation you have the store, the store associate, you have the consumer and the inventory. We want all four of these to be seamlessly integrated. It's the only time you can get a closed loop.

So this is how we do it for navigation in-store. You can navigate with your own phone or you can ask for help from an associate. He will come over to you instantly. Now they are looking at a discrimination of their choice so they have narrowed it down some selections and they say, "Is it in stock? Is it the right colour? Does it have my size? Where do I find an associate for help?"

So we eliminate all the questions that could hinder in the retail sale and possibly undo it. So very simply in retail speak, this is stock check and price check. So this can now almost be done by the consumers themselves if they choose or if the product is more intensive in its need for product knowledge, we will automatically introduce a sales associate into the equation.

Then we are moving on to a consideration that wherever we have associates in store, within the store's specific organisation chart, there is a hierarchy. There is a manager, there are backstage replenishment warehouse functions, there are store shelf replenishment functions, there are store sales functions and then you've got cashiering functions. Even the in-store organisation chart of a retailer can be extremely complex. So what we do is we definitely allocate the right device to the right individual so when a customer asks for help, specific to his help request the information goes to the right person.

So another experience we have is we ask somebody and they say, "Hang on this is not my section. I look after toys." So we eliminate all of that. It's a big irritant and it's a big deterrent to closing a sale for a retail store.

Now after the selection they want to compare and evaluate and this is where show-rooming comes in. So they do all their research and all their discovery and selection in the store but they always have more options online. So how do we allow that? We remove the purchase risk. We let them do in-store comparisons on their device whereas traditionally they would have either gone out to do it or done it in-store alone, we are collaborative saying, "Hey Mr. Retailer, this is happening to you. Don't be an ostrich and put your head in the sand. Take it head on and find a way around it."

So the way around it is obviously if you can't beat him alone you join him. You won't recover 100 percent but you will recover more than if you didn't address the situation. So that's how we go on about that.

As for the last part - transaction; one of the least hyped up thing about this solution is as much as you enable your consumer to do self-service, you are actually taking a load off your cashier lines. So in every retail format, transaction time is a huge issue.

There is a solution known as queue-busting that we deploy almost exclusively within hypermart and supermart formats because they are like restaurants. They do all their business every day within four hours. We need to get an uplift within those four hours where it matters but now you're getting your consumer into self-service which is an experience which he is requesting but also enabling your store operations. So we also expedite check-out.

Payment (is) anywhere, any time on the fly. This was then relative to the thing itself. The other thing that I wanted to call out definitely is that very prominent retailers are all having active POC discussions with us and we are in the phase of implementing pilots across the region so we will be able to share the references after the pilots are signed as being achieving all the KPI.