The Indian Internet growth story is one of the most audacious examples of the impact of technology in our day-to-day lives. Recent reports by Internet & Mobile Association of India (IMAI) pegs the Internet user base in the country at 190 million by end of 2013 and estimates the number to grow to 243 million by June 2014, this year. Coupled with this, is the power of Internet in your palm through a mobile phone! Availability of affordable smartphone devices, reduced tariff rates, improvised network infrastructure, etc, have complemented online growth, bringing the internet closer and within reach for the masses. In fact, IAMAI expects the number of mobile Internet users to touch 185 million by June 2014, accounting for about 76 percent of the Internet user base in the country.
So what’s driving this? What are Indians doing online, you may ask? The answer is NOT so surprising! According to a report by CRISIL market research agency, 26 percent of the total population online are buying and selling things online. The report further notes that the Indian online retail industry has grown at a swift pace in the last 5 years from around Rs 15 billion revenues in 2007-07 to Rs. 139 billion in 2012-13, translating into a compounded annual growth rate of CAGR of over 56 percent. CRISIL Research expects the buoyant trend to sustain in the medium term, and estimates the market will grow at a healthy 50-55 per cent CAGR to Rs 504 billion by 2015-16. Factors that are propelling this trend further could be 24/7 hours of shopping with ease, home-delivery options which saves time, a platform to research products, compare brands, prices and discounts all in the comfort of your homes!
These statistics and consumer behaviour ramps up already intense pressure on retailers, who once had the power of captive in-store audience. Many consumers now divide their attention between evaluating products they can see and touch – and researching similar offerings from retailers online. But the news isn’t all bad! The online retail has put the spotlight back on the high-street retailers and reinforced the need for retailers to reinvent their in-store marketing strategies. It has given an opportunity to retail stores to help improve store traffic, on-ground sales and simultaneously delivering to consumers multiple choices, flexibility and a WOW shopping experience!
Create an Omni-channel Presence
As consumer gets digitally savvy to make online purchases, and as retail market sees fragmentation with competition from online and international retail chains, it will become crucial for all high-street retailers to create an omni-channel presence to reach and engage with the customers. Retailers, therefore, must deliver excellent service across all touch points – mobile, in-store, and online. And the use of communication via social media channels, increasingly accessed through mobile devices, means that retailers can push content about their products and services, thereby creating a platform that enables an immediate “call to action.”
Turn Salesmen into Closers
There is enough evidence and you can review your personal experiences too to suggest that one of the important irritants at a retail store is the long queue and a salesperson’s lack of knowledge about the product, brand, its services, discounts etc. Frustrations like these can drive any customer straight to an online website or a competition’s store. Arming employees with mobile technology- devices and solutions can let employees track down inventory items, information on features, USP, prices etc – whether in the store or at another location – within seconds. It can further help store employees to record last customer purchase; up-sell and cross sell new products, services and brands accordingly. Last but not the least, retailers should note that price discounting is not the only reason for people to shift buying habits from high street retail to other avenues. The relationships that retailers hold with regular customers, far surpasses the few hundred rupees that consumers can gain from go to touch points that offer deals.
Drive Store Traffic with Geo-targeting
In the era, where consumers are digitally connected 24/7, even on the go, it is critical for retail stores to stay relevant with innovative methods of in-store marketing. One of them is definitely geo-targeting! Retail stores can send offers to customers’ smartphones via SMS text messaging, directing them to web-based deals, depending on their location. Taking a step further, retailers can drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores with location-based mobile SMS messaging and banner ads or create opt-in SMS campaigns that alert loyal customers to in-store deals such as free samples and exclusive discounts.
Flexibility with In-store Payments
Customers look for flexible payment options, irrespective of whether they are buying online, from a mobile device or from a store. Offer customers to pay through in-store check-out options. Companies like PayPal allow customers to activate their Pay Pal accounts to use in stores then simply pay at the register by typing in a mobile number and PIN (or, alternately, swiping a PayPal payment card and entering a PIN). An electronic sales receipt is quickly sent to the customer’s email.
To sum it up, the fine balance between providing an experience that is core to the brand and the price at which an experience of this nature comes will become the deciding factor in the consumers purchase. It is high time that retail stores realise the power of personalisation and localisation to engage with the customers, thereby, combating consumer opt-out.