CIOs Seat: V Suresh on Heading Jumbo’s Headless Commerce Journey


April 14, 2022 | By Shruthi Nair

As a strategic partner for premium brands like SONY and DYSON and operator of Du Franchise stores, Jumbo Group has positioned itself as a leading consumer electronics retailer that hasn’t shied away from spearheading innovations and transformations responding to its customers’ needs over the last four decades.

Like most companies, the Group’s omnichannel and digital transformation journey was accelerated drastically in the last couple of years to accommodate solutions such as AI-enabled last-mile delivery, endless aisles, curbside pick-up, real time tracking, BOPIS,and a huge focus on Headless Commerce. In its simplest form, headless commerce is a separation of the front end and back end of an e-commerce application in order to ensure convenient and rich customer experiences. Switching to headless commerce has proven to be beneficial for enterprises as the simplicity of processes facilitate better employee adoption, helps ensure coordinated, brand-consistent experiences across channels, and propels overall efficiency.

In an exclusive Q&A with Shruthi Nair, CIO of Jumbo Electronics, V Suresh sheds light on the key initiatives and operations the Group has undertaken in order to make the omnichannel retailer resilient and profitable for the future by centering strategies around headless commerce, rapid digitization, and incorporation of AI and automation.

What are your key responsibilities as the CIO of Jumbo Electronics?
My primary focus is to oversee Jumbo Electronics’ computer systems and overall IT infrastructure which play a vital role in supporting the organization’s unique objectives and goals.

Has your role evolved since the pandemic? How?
My role has evolved and expanded in line with changing technologies and our business objectives. I work closely with my team to leverage technology in a way that best suits our business needs to grow our top and bottom lines. Today CIOs, in general, lead digital transformation initiatives, as well as efforts that result in broad organisational change.

What are the technological investments you prioritised in the last couple of years? Were you under increased pressure to demonstrate positive ROI in the midst of an economic downturn?
Our focus at Jumbo Electronics has been centered upon Headless Commerce, Digital Transformation of core application, Last Mile Delivery focusing on Automation, Optimization and efficiency improvement. There has been some increased pressure on ROI to reach an objective goal but that is the nature of the competitive industry we are in.

With constant change in the technology landscape, what factors do you think retailers and brands need to consider in their efforts to modernise their processes and systems?
For retailers to remain relevant and profitable, technology must be at the core of what we do. In fact, technology is pivotal across various business operations such as the retail experience of the future, which will be propelled by physical technology and advanced analytics to meet changing consumer expectations. This will allow retailers to reset their operating models and economics.
Retail is at the forefront of a technology revolution driven by two key forces. The first is consumer behaviour, as they embrace e-commerce, turn to smaller store formats, and interact with retailers in new ways across channels. The second is the intense pressure on legacy retailer margins from the cost of meeting new expectations while fending off competition from digitally native retailers and discounters. To truly thrive in a future of proliferating technology, retailers must re-imagine the very nature and role of physical retail. Technology can enhance the customer experience and lower a retailer’s costs but will also change the set of tasks required to run a store. So, rather than simply automating their existing operating models, retailers should rethink their entire value propositions for customers and employees alike.

What do you think is the biggest game changer when it comes to enhanced technological experience?
Normally, E-commerce is often what retailers think of first when discussing the impact of technology on shopping and retail. However, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), computer vision and Internet of Things (IoT) have changed every aspect of the shopping experience from browsing to checkout. As such retailers must carefully examine how best to leverage these innovations to best suit their needs and goals.

What are the biggest innovations that Jumbo is looking at bringing to the market to enhance customer experiences?
Technologies such as Voice and NLP based search, and transitioning away from transactions towards personalised relationships will be critical. Every year we see customer expectations rise and therefore we must turn to technology to provide solutions to delivering innovative, personalised and omnichannel experiences.

How do you mine, and more importantly, use data to cater to the changing needs of the customers and personalise your offerings?
We employ data mining to provide us with information across a wide spectrum of areas. These include: product sales trends; customer buying habits and preferences; supplier lead times and delivery performance; seasonal variations; and customer peak traffic periods. Furthermore, we use predictive data to help us make effective proactive decisions.
Data mining also helps us to identify customer buying patterns and trends that in turn lead to improved quality of customer service and good customer retention and satisfaction.

What role does technology play within your stores?
We use technology across almost every aspect of our in-store operations. It ranges from reducing inventory costs; improving customer satisfaction; automating and facilitating our inventory control; keeping track of our margins; improving our forecasting capabilities; and adopting an efficient just-in-time relationship with suppliers.

Can you tell us more about your digital transformation/evolution plans for the coming years?
We are implementing Digital Transformation across our business to future-proof our operations and become more efficient and effective in the way we work and interact with our suppliers and customers. To make this possible we are working on applications for seamless data flow between multiple applications to gain true headless commerce experience and enhance customer experience, and use more automations such BOTS, RPAs.

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