In every industry, the product is the star and the customer is king, and the same holds true for retail. However, the fact remains that an Indian customer is hard to please. Technically advanced or not, middle class or rich, Indians like to explore a multitude of options before they buy anything and they always love a good bargain.
As the consumer has transitioned, the challenges a retailer is faced with have also evolved. Retailers and brands are creating product portfolios for consumers that evolve continuously. They make sure they expand their product range and carve out an entire experience in a store for a consumer.
A lot of online retailers are also targeting at breaking the clutter for consumers.
The Personal Touch
Director Business Strategy at Kirtilals, Suraj Shantakumar says “Retail experience has evolved a lot over the years. From the very beginning, when our company started in 1939, our core philosophy has been that the experience has to be a very personalised relationship between consumer and the retailer. There are generations of customers and families with whom we have a personal connection. We want to maintain this so that these people continue to patronize our brand.”
“In India, when a customer goes to a brick-and-mortar store, he expects to be treated like royalty. This is where we differ from the West. What we have taken from the West is the concept of a beautifully designed retail space, with upgraded technology, to give consumers the whole experience,” he adds.
Retail in India seems to have woken up to the value of service, great product display, interactivity, digital technology and a great shopping experience.
Ambience Or Education
However, there are retailers who disagree that a good ambience is necessary to attract consumers and up sales.
MD Thulasi Pharmacies, M Ramakrishnan says, “It’s a positive thing, but may not be important in the case of a textile store or a jewellery retailer.”
However, he quickly adds that Thulasi Pharmacies were pioneers of store design concepts in the year 2001.
“We were the first in South India to start pharmacies in 1000 – 1200 sq.ft of space, which was a rarity. Before us, 99 per cent of the pharmacies were cramped in 200 – 300 sq.ft. of space, products were not properly arranged, there was no proper storage. These stores were almost like kirana shops,” says he.
When asked whether the experience has shifted with this scale of the industry,
Ramakrishnan said that the advantage Thulasi Pharmacies has over others is the fact that it provides local and national brands all under one roof.
He also talked about how his company had enhanced consumer experience by holding Q&A sessions called ‘Know Your Medicines’- for all the things a consumer should know before consuming medicines.
“We believe strongly in educating the customer rather than creating an ambience to enhance experience,” he added.
Pamper & Value Add
An Indian customer traditionally expects a certain kind of experience when he enters a store, he expects to be spoilt – both by the employees and for choice of products. A retailer needs to learn that a good employee, who masters the art of pampering consumers, converting their footfalls into sales and ensuring they keep returning to the store, needs to be retained.
President Group HR, Landmark Group, B Venkataramana says, “We have learnt to identify and retain quality executives, who can add value as a consultant for the consumer who is seeking some advise. We give incentives such as better pay so as to make sure they don’t go seeking jobs elsewhere.”
“In Chennai, Pothys, RMKV or Nalli have one attendant for every customer, but large format retail stores need to bring down the number of people, have better quality staff to give the customers a better shopping experience,” he concludes.