SPAR is one of the leading hypermarkets in India with a presence of 20 stores spread across nine cities in India. To tap into new consumer groups and reach out to as many customers in a convenient way, the brand is working to sharpen its Omnichannel strategy.
It has launched several initiatives such as setting up its e-commerce shop ‘Spar Site’ encompassing product categories that include foods and vegetables, staples, household essentials and personal care products. To off er a ‘wow’ experience to its customers, the hypermarket has come up with yet another way to reach out to more number of customers through its initiative ‘Spar on wheels’. SPAR has collaborated with push-cart vendors of various localities in cities to make a success of its ‘click and collect’ business model, which helps SPAR customers get fresh fruits and vegetables right at one’s door step.
SPAR’s Omnichannel play offers the proposition of convenience in tandem with its unique value proposition along with the assurance of products’ freshness, superior services and various other customer-friendly options. All of these features have been designed to bring a delightful array of assortments and a virtual hypermarket near to the doorstep of the customer. According to Saravana C, Deputy General Manager, Business Applications, SPAR India, “Our Omnichannel play is all about reaching out seamlessly to our existing and potential customers with our rich assortment and about expanding our customer base further. Th rough our Omnichannel initiative, we are offering our customers a better service and delivery apart from taking our freshness proposition to a new level. Our innovative Omnichannel model is live and kicking and is getting a great response from the customers.”
Apart from launching its Spar Site, the hypermarket has also tied up with online retail giant Amazon. Its product assortment is already available on Amazon and this initiative too has played out well and drawn good customer response. To rev up its Omnichannel play a few notches more, SPAR has also launched its mobile applications thereby offering its customers not just another touch-point on its digital platform but one that customers can avail of to get an in-store experience and feel and also for interacting with the staff as well.
“What are the Omnichannel ways that we are we using and how we are using these channels to reach out to the customers? One is the SPAR India website and the other is the ‘SPAR on wheels’ initiative followed by the launch of our digital kiosk. The digital kiosk can work offline anywhere and everywhere outside the store; this is one of the mode where customers can place their orders and can get timely deliveries. We have also tied up with Amazon as our reach is only in nine cities,” points out Saravana.
He adds: “Ensuring customer service in a seamless manner is one of the major challenges that we are facing and we are constantly working toward improving the shopping experience. To overcome the challenges, we have started by creating the building blocks for a more convenient access to our stores and products, by enabling more touch points for the customers with one of them being on the Amazon app itself. So, SPAR is listed as one of the sellers on the Amazon marketplace where customers can place an order for groceries. Our store inventory, pricing, promotions and everything else is synced with SPAR but you can order the products from the Amazon app. We can tap any customer that is digitally present on the Amazon marketplace and that’s what we are looking at. Another benefit about the Amazon tie-up is that it has helped to raise our quality of customer experience in our offline stores through the assurance of two-hour timely delivery, which is what we get on Amazon now. The way it works is that the customer places an order on the Amazon app and the pick-up is done by the store team. So, the experience of shopping from SPAR on the Amazon app is something that is now available to the customers. This is one of our touch-points for Omnichannel. Further, on our website, all kinds of assortments are available and the customer can accordingly place an order for any product. We have a partner helping on the delivery front and the products get delivered to the customer’s doorstep directly. About 25,000 SKUs are currently listed on the website and we are taking the count up day by day.”
From analysing the cost involved in transforming the organization from a brick-and-mortar based hypermarket to an Omnichannel-ready e-commerce enterprise and to utilizing brick-and-mortar inventory for the online customers as well, SPAR had to go through various challenges. Some of these include:
- On-time cost effective last mile deliveries to customer considering one order may contain meat, non-meat, fresh, frozen, and chilled items
- Payment reconciliation and commercial SOPs
- Leverage the existing brick-and-mortar store operations for online order fulfi llment
- Complex and store specific business rules for promotions, prices, inventory, employee discounts, delivery slots etc.
- Return and refund management for complete and partial returns and no-show cases
- User location and its mapping to specific store for picking and delivery
- Comprehensive fraud check rules
- Complex pick and pack process enabled to pick meat, non-meat, fresh, frozen, and chilled items in most optimized way
- Short picks, fulfillment through IST (Inter Store Transfer), fulfillment through local purchase, MRP differences during picking
SPAR appointed HCL Technologies to come up with effective solutions for answering all the challenges involved in the digital universe and for bringing about a confluence between SPAR’s online and offline worlds. The IT major worked on ensuring end-to-end ownership of e-commerce system development, hosting and support to engaging with MAX Hypermarket’s third party systems’ vendors and making elaborate requirements and integrations. It was also responsible for hosting the solution on Azure cloud to ensure scalability and for ensuring ongoing infrastructure support. Besides, the HCL team evaluated the best-in-class e-commerce platforms ranging from Oracle, IBM, SAP and Magento and finally decided to use SAP Hybris as a platform for SPAR.