Kishore Biyani-led Future Retail, which operates 738 retail stores in 221 cities, is gradually transforming into a ‘connected commerce organisation’ to reach today’s consumers who live a seamless life between the physical and the digital world.
In May last year, Biyani combined Future Retail’s operations with Bharti Retail Ltd. bringing together winning retail brands such as Big Bazaar, easyday, fbb, Food Bazaar, Home Town, eZone and Foodhall.
“Having built a robust and unparalleled retail network in the country, we today are moving towards building a connected commerce organization that lives, breathes and thrives in the digital era,” Group Chief Executive Officer of Future Group, Kishore Biyani told investors in the company’s annual report (2015-2016).
Here’s How They Are Doing It
Over the last couple of years, Future Retail has made substantial investments in building its loyalty and data analytics capabilities. The company says it is now benefitting from this by interpreting and reacting to consumer data and information in a real-time in a much more efficient and seamless manner.
“Our data analytics program is helping improve one-on-one communication with customers, improving their frequency of visits, helping predict and shape consumption patterns and create smarter promotion and engagement engines with customers,” Biyani said in the 2015-16 annual report.
For instance, during the last year, the company set up a dedicated data war-room to constantly monitor and take real-time action on the shop floor. The group has also partnered with dunnhumby, a Tesco subsidiary and one of the world’s leading consumer analytics firm, and Bangalore-based Manthan Systems to further analyze and act upon this data.
The Company’s own loyalty program, Big Bazaar Profit Club offers an additional free shopping value for customers who commit to pay 10,000 upfront and visit the stores at least 12 times in a year. Payback is a coalition loyalty program run in partnership with American Express and offers a chance to earn and burn loyalty points. The T24 program, run in partnership with Tata DoCoMo offers free mobile talk time every time a customer shops at the store. Payback and T24 program is run across all Future Group companies having direct customer interaction.
Collectively, these loyalty programs have over 28.5 million members with an estimated 20 million being unique customers. Customers on loyalty program spend on an average around 3 times more than non-members. Each of these loyalty programs focus on increasing frequency of visits. The annual spend of loyalty customers over the course of the year is almost 10 times of a non-member.
“This consumer data now allows the brands to interact with customers on a one-on-one basis, offering customized promotions and incentives to shape behavior and interact in the customers’ preferred language. An initiative purely focused on moving food buyers to also buy fashion merchandize, yielded extremely positive results with share of higher-margin fashion merchandize going up significantly,” the company’s statement read.
The organisation has also started benefiting from engaging much more effectively with consumers on social media.
However, the biggest change is happening within the organization wherein most people processes are now embedded with mobile and digital technology catering to over 32,000 colleagues who make this organization succeed and transform.
Many of companies businesses have now moved into digital platforms – led by its electronics and home retailing business. For instance, in April this year, Biyani acquired the home furnishings e-marketplace FabFurnish and plans are afoot to relaunch the marketplace along with offerings from Future Group’s own furniture retail chain HomeTown.
Along with this, the company also introduced Big Bazaar GenNxt stores in Noida and Mumbai. The stores integrate superior shopping experiences with innovations such as interactive digital screens, sitdown checkouts and smart customer service. Even the Big Bazaar stores today offers home delivery at multiple locations and a partnership with Amazon, allows customers to order online.
“Soon, they will sport smart trial rooms and endless aisles or kiosks wherein the customer can order from a larger range of merchandise, which may not be stocked within the store. Our stores are also turning into fulfillment centers and merchandise return points for goods ordered online,” Biyani said.
In addition to online retailing, payments have also become an important tool of transformation for the company. Payments are now possible through multiple channels including mobile wallets. For instance, customers have the option to pay through Mobikwik mobile wallets at all Big Bazaar stores.
Recently, the company announced a tie-up with Paytm under which Big Bazaar will be the anchor store on Paytm’s e-marketplace and all the merchandise from the physical stores will be available online.
Customers will also get promotional offers from Paytm if they use the mobile wallet to buy goods at Future Group outlets.
Talking about the partnership, Biyani, said, “I believe this strategic partnership will be a game-changer for the industry. On an end-to end basis, between Future Group and Patym, we will have the lowest unit cost economics in the Industry and this will be our key differentiator to create sustainable customer value. The Strengths of both the companies in large scale customer acquisition and seamless payments through digital wallets will be key ingredients in driving this partnership.”
Going ahead, the company envision a scenario wherein the customer has the choice to choose to perform digitally or physically any of the activities connected with buying – discovery, choice, pickup, payments, fulfillment or return.
Future Lifestyle Fashion reinventing Central
Along with Future retail, Biyani said in the annual report that Future Lifestyle Fashion made substantial investments last fiscal year in reinventing the company’s flagship retail chain Central.Germany-based architecture firm Blocher Blocher Partners is redesigning the new look Central stores for the next decade, the company said.
“Starting with our earliest stores in Bangalore and Hyderabad, the retail chain is going through a rapid transformation,” said Biyani. “Digital interfaces, new and innovative customer services and an architecture and design that can compete with the best from across the world in lifestyle and luxury fashion are being rolled out at these stores as well as in a new upcoming store at Aerocity in Delhi.”
According to the company, smart and technology-led interfaces along with customer service initiatives such as free home delivery, in-store wi-fi networks, personal shoppers and infant care rooms will be among the top features of the store.