Today’s retail market is in the midst of great changes. The current competitive set is under fierce competition from new and emerging venues. There is a technology boom and stores – both online and offline are struggling to keep up with changing technological trends as well as embryonic consumer needs. Brands seek importance as well as a fixed place in the ever-evolving retail expression.
In this article, we explore the challenges and opportunities for the new retail experience thrown up by new channels and rising customer expectations.
Retail spaces have had to up their game and incorporate multiple strategies to satisfy consumer demand. They are consistently upgrading the look and feel of their stores to position their brand differently as also to enhance customer experience and bring it at par with international stores. The idea is also to push up the price point now and then.
Director Business Development, Raymond, Sanjeev Rao says: “We are a 90-year-old brand and we have seen the entire landscape change – from when we opened our first store to what we are doing today. If you don’t change stores with what consumers want, you start becoming irrelevant. Our focus has always been the quality of products that we deliver. Numerous requirements from a consumer’s perspective have emerged since then – the way you display your merchandise, the look and feel inside the store, the way consumers want to touch and feel the merchandise and even the way our store managers handle consumers.”
“For us it was a mix of everything. We wanted to bring in a relevant product, raise the price points but at the same time, we wanted to keep up with the consumer’s experience, because you may have the best product but you have to give it to the consumer the way he wants it, not the way you feel is right,” he adds.
Raymond has kept up with the changing pace of technology too.
“Our stores have iPads which help you select your garments, scan sizes and colours, and by the time you are ready to try on the clothes, our sales people move your selection to the trial rooms. We are moving with technology. We have scanners that take your measurements, leaving hardly any physical measurements to be taken,” says Rao.
Small Towns and the E-Explosion
For smaller towns – Tier-II and III cities – exclusive stores and malls came at the same time as e-commerce. Suddenly, the customer had so many choices since products sold online were standard but e-marketplaces had huge discounts and deals on offer. Existing store owners started studying consumer behavior in order to retain them.
“Online shopping drives more consumers to our malls. Consumers have moved on from high streets to malls since they want the whole experience – shopping, movies, play areas. They also move to physical stores from e-commerce because many times online stores don’t have the latest styles / designs / stock. Our supply chains work better than those of online marketplaces. Physical engagement with the consumer gives us superior knowledge of needs and we can provide accordingly – something which an online store may not be able to do. However, if the time comes when we have to branch out into the online space if the customers so demand, we will do so.”
MD Sangeetha Mobiles, L Subhash Chandra adds, “Online shops are not masters in any particular category. We on the other hand are experts in our chosen products. The running models that we sell are just about 3 per cent cheaper online. It’s only end of life models that have huge online discounts tagged to them.”
“Consumers want touch and feel, demos, data transfer from old mobiles to new mobiles, and our store managers are able to better advice customers depending on their needs,” he further says.
Sangeetha Mobiles has recently started a repair service for customers on the go. Their representatives reach customers in need within the hour in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai.
CEO Prozone Intu, Bipin Gurnani, concludes by saying, “We can’t dictate what the consumer will do, so in my view the consumer shift is towards omnichannel purchase behaviour. Anyone who stays only brick-and-mortar will not stay in the game too long. Offline they can make people experience their brand – that will be the differentiator. E-commerce will be standard sales. Consumer will choose what platform they will use to buy. It has to be seen holistically. The product has to be available to consumer when, where and however he wants.”