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Integrated Retail Strategy: Retail Customer Experience

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This is the right time to forge strong relationships with customers so that they stick to a brand and keep coming back for more. The time is also ripe to take a look at how leading retailers are innovating with Omnichannel commerce and technology, allowing them to deliver an exceptional shopping experience across every touch point…

The lines between channels of sale are becoming more blurred than ever before, and retailers all over the world are hard-pressed to cater to the consumers’ expectations of high-quality service – then whether the consumer be in the dressing room of a physical store or loading up their online cart. This is the right time to forge strong relationships with customers so that they stick to a brand and keep coming back for more.

The time is also ripe to take a look at how leading retailers are innovating with Omnichannel commerce and technology, allowing them to deliver an exceptional shopping experience across every touch point.

At the India Omnichannel Forum 2017 – held on September 19th and 20th in Mumbai, concurrently with the India Retail Forum – retail leaders met to debate ‘Integrated Retail Strategy- Retail Customer Experience’. The roundtable, powered by SAP, discussed the global perspective of Omnichannel and how it created the best experience to meet customer needs and demands.

The esteemed panel included Govind Shrikhande, Chairman, IRF’17 and CCA and MD, Shoppers Stop; Sumit Sharma, COO, Lacoste India; Vikas Gupta, Chief Executive – Lifestyle Retailing, ITC Ltd; Abel Correa, Head IT Strategy & Governance, Arvind Limited; Anil Shankar, CCA & VP, Shoppers Stop; Kunal Mehta, GM IT – Lifestyle Business, Raymond; Kashyap Mehta, Head E-Commerce, Tata CLiQ; Meheriar Patel, Chief Technology Officer, The Mobile Store; Prachi Mohapatra, CMO, Fbb, Future Group; Sandeep Jabbal, IT Head, Marks & Spencer; Sandeep Mistry, IT-Head, Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail, Pantaloons; Sauvik Banerjjee, CTO, TataCLiQ, Vice President – Tata Industries- Digital Initiatives, Advisory to Group Cos; and Saravana C, Head Applications, Spar.

The session was moderated by Sam Alkharrat, Global COO, SAP Hybris.

Kashyap Mehta, Head E-Commerce, Tata CLiQ, briefly talked about the global perspective of Omnichannel and how his brand has inculcated it. “We have built a platform that can actually sync 10 million records of inventory in fifteen minutes flat. The key to succeed at Omnichannel is primarily based on two things. One is real-time visibility of inventory and the second thing is how your backhand data warehouse is going to power analytics, resulting in customer experience becoming seamless,” he said.

When asked about how TataCLiQ takes care of the supply chain of the retailers, Mehta elaborated, “We do everything end-to-end for a retailer, also helping them with the logistics. If the retailers demand more, we provide them with different models.”

He said that the biggest pain point in the e-commerce industry is the challenge of streamline the return and exchange of products.

“TataCLIQ’s journey can be classified into acquisition, activation, and activity. At the Acquisition level, we are still in the phase of acquiring brands and marketing the platforms for the promotion of the brands. At the Activation level, we majorly focus on the quadrants that we have developed. The Activity phase is when we see the volume rise, from an Omnichannel order point of view, we see 40 percent of such transactions taking place,” he added.

“A lot depends on the retailer, his infrastructure and the type of PoS technology deployed by them. PoS terminals used by a number of retailers are offline, but to counter these challenges in real-time web PoS terminals are becoming a necessity. Since building an Omnichannel model is complex work, retailers must adopt technology, which makes their processes flexible, their platforms agile,” he stated.

Sandeep Jabbal, IT Head, Mark & Spencer, agreed with Mehta, saying: “Our challenges are typical ones. Whether a customer buys our product from Amazon or Myntra, they are still our customers. These people sometimes want to return products they have bought online in stores, and this is pain point for us – since our invoices don’t match with those of Amazon and Myntra. Then there is the fact that consumers want similar loyalty points notwithstanding the platform they are using to make a purchase. Technology needs to be brought in here to ensure that the consumer gets what he needs – returns at physical stores, same loyalty points. Technology needs to be adopted which can handle cross-platform issues.”

Sandeep Mistry, IT-Head, Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail, Pantaloons said: “We are focused on our 8 million customer base and our own loyalty program. We don’t want any markets or customers from outside. If Omnichannel can provide the same experience for consumers both offline (connecting all our stores in all cities) and online – same promotions, pricing, quality and styling – then, Omnichannel is the way ahead for us.”

Saravana C, Head Applications, SPAR also highlighted some of the major challenges that his company is dealing with, saying: “The major challenge that we are facing at SPAR is the offline promotion engine that we have. The promotion options are endless. We come out with different ideas to promote a particular brand, but there is no straight fitment to catalogue. On the other hand, in brick-and-mortar there is a fitment where we can run more than 25 engines. When we talk of Omnichannel, we should mean the fitment between online and offline marketing.”

Prachi Mohapatra, CMO, Fbb, Future Group emphasized on the importance of applying technology to forward loyalty-based programs for an increased consumer base. She said this was her focus area to bring in more consumers.

Meanwhile, Kunal Mehta, GM IT – Lifestyle Business, Raymond said that his company had a very unique issue.

“From the Raymond perspective, the dilemma is that we have so many brands, but the same set of customers is going to all these brands. We need to map same customer through different journeys across different formats and channels. We also have an online marketplace and we need to work to increase the sale around it. Giving the customer the same experience across all platforms is the key to success for a company like ours,” he said.

Abel Correa, Head IT Strategy & Governance, Arvind Limited highlighted the areas where Omnichannel strategy has not delivered successful results. “We also had Omnichannel and we haven’t seen the success.  We developed our own platform around and tools we choose it didn’t work out for us. And one of the major challenge challenges that we faced in this was promotion. And the bigger problem is that the loyalty points are being valued by the customer along with the promotion campaign cost. We were able to generate only 10 percent of the target from this platform.”

Vikas Gupta, Chief Executive – Lifestyle Retailing, ITC Ltd, supported Correa’s comments saying: “We need to get real about the business and find out what would strike a trade-off out of it that is actually going to benefit the financials. My conclusion is any technology is a good selling job than a good buying job. But nothing is getting us done on our priorities apart from commercial trading. I am trying to seek that answer.”

The panelists relatively agreed and concluded on the note that it’s the customers’ approach that unleashes the need of Omnichannel. Probably marketing doesn’t have a platform to unify it and that it is time to bring in technology partners to take the idea of Omnichannel further. Some of the ways to move towards Omnichannel are segmentation, offering, connecting different age groups, creating a bridge between heavy and light users, offering attachments to the mobile category. If these challenges are fulfilled by a technology platform, then it becomes easier for the business to function.

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