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How retailers can remain relevant in the mobile world

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At a time when consumers are spending most of the time on their mobiles and looking for conveniences, how can the regular shop compete with tech-savvy startups like Grofers, BigBasket, Swiggy, etc? How can they leverage superior analytics that gives these tech savvy startups an edge over the brick-and-mortar retailer?

India’s retail sector to double to .2 trillion by 2020: FICCI-PwC Report
The report says the maximum consumer spending is likely to occur in food, household, transport and communication segments.

The Internet has changed things for the better. Our world has never been the same,ever since the world got used to the World Wide Web. We experienced e-mail, websites, platforms, search engines, chat sites, messengers, social networking and many more new experiences that made us spend more time online till a point where we can’t imagine life without wi-fi.

Earlier, we experienced the Internet on the desktop. Now, we experience it on the smartphone. And we use more of it than ever before. The average person unlocks his phone more than 200 times a day! Long lasting phone battery and wi-fi feature are in the top five needs of today. We have seen more changes in the last 10 years (since the launch of the first iPhone) than we have seen in centuries.

Mobile – The Gateway to the Internet

Access to Internet is now a norm. Everyone uses WhatsApp. The gateway to the Internet on the smartphone is app(s) – be it a messaging app, or some game, Google maps, cab apps – you name it. Consumers can’t get enough of it. And understandably so – it’s making their life easier. Consumers are now a part of the app economy. No wonder every large company or tech startup is pushing consumers to download their newly developed app.

Retail in the Mobile World

Many retailers are staring at the new realities the Internet-enabled smartphone throws at them. They just don’t know how to participate in the new normal. They understand they need an online presence on the mobile. They feel the need to have an app of their own.

This brings us to the next set of questions. Does a retailer have the tech wherewithal to develop and maintain an app? It could cost anywhere between Rs 15 lakh – 1 crore to get a sophisticated app for iOS and Android. Does it make sense for a retailer to spend that much? If a retailer earns 10 per cent on an average, how much business will he have to get on app to break-even on the investment? Even if they get an app, will a consumer download 100 apps for 100 different retail outlets?

Consumers want things to be predictable now. They want stuff faster, cheaper and better. And new start-ups are catering to these needs. Where does this leave the brick-and-mortar retailer? It’s not as bad as it sounds. As long as the retailer is willing to adapt and adopt technologies of today and concentrate on their existing strengths. The neighbourhood supermarket has an edge over tech-savvy grocery start-ups like and in terms of their ability to service customers faster without high logistics costs, and knows their customers better than the online retailers. What they lack is technology and analytics. If they were to adopt a platform that gives them access to these two, they’re in a good position to compete with anybody and probably outcompete large well-funded start-ups.

When I say technology, I refer to their ability to sell on mobile, showcase their inventory, take orders on app, accept online payments, provide reward and loyalty solutions to their customers and communicate new offers/ products on time.

Apps– an easy solution for retailers

There are many such apps that supermarkets can sign up and get a ready made solution for groceries. Retailers can ask consumers to download the app and start buying from them within minutes. Apps like the Partner App work on the mobile phone of the retailer – doing away with their need to have a separate hardware.

Consumers are also saved the trouble of downloading multiple apps for multiple businesses. Apps like Goodbox cost just Rs 999 year for any partner (at least 1/1000th the cost of making their own app) and they can be up and running with the app within 10-15 minutes.

Some conveniences that supermarkets can now offer their consumers by using apps like Goodbox are:

• Consumers can select from a catalog of over 10,000 products
• They can buy and pay online or using CoD
• Consumers can place an order on the app, pick it up from the store and avoid standing in a queue
• They can order over a call and make a payment to the supermarket online in case they don’t have cash
• They can participate in the rewards point program of the supermarket and earn points for every purchase that can be redeemed later
• They can get analytics on their top customers (value and frequency), lost customers, items customers bought, items customers ordered for but they don’t stock, highest selling items, customer happiness index, real-time feedback, number of walk-ins on the app, split of online vs CoD customers among many other metrics.
• They can get access to third party logistics in case they need to cater to high demand hours.

The above examples are more relevant for the grocery businesses but certain apps can be relevant to any business and drive similar value to other businesses as well.

Conclusion

The consumer market is very lucrative for global tech giants who want a big play in India. Large amounts of capital and relaxed regulations is all it takes to disrupt old timers. However, the local store is very well poised to service customers better than most aggregators. They just need to adopt new technologies to be at par with their better-funded online competitors. Adapt or die.