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Shoppers Stop: Experimenting with Smart Mirrors, Interactive Kiosks

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Launched in 1991, , India’s leading fashion retailer, introduced the Indian consumer to a world-class shopping experience from its flagship store in Andheri (Mumbai). Since its inception, has revolutionised the way India shops and has become the highest benchmark for the Indian retail industry. The company, which is planning to invest Rs 120 crore on expansion and renovation in 2019, is planning to open 12 beauty and five department stores and will be focusing more on new brands, CEO & MD , , told IMAGES Retail in an exclusive interview…

Shoppers Stop: Experimenting with Smart Mirrors, Interactive Kiosks
Shoppers Stop was the first departmental store to introduce e-commerce, and the increasing adoption of online shopping has allowed this channel to grow to the size of an average Shoppers Stop store

Let’s start with a brief history and profile of Shoppers . How has the brand evolved?

Shoppers Stop was launched as an exclusive men’s wear store in 1991. Soon thereafter, in 1992 and 1993, we introduced ladies’ wear, kids’ wear and non-apparel categories making us India’s first ever multi-brand department store. In 1994, we launched a first-of-its-kind loyalty program, ‘First Citizen’ offering the Indian consumer a host of exclusive benefits and privileges. Today, the First Citizen loyalty program is one of the most successful programs with over 5 million+ customers driving 75 percent of sales.

Shoppers Stop has over the years, made many breakthroughs in the Indian retail industry enabling it to become one of the most customer-centric, respected and profitable retailers in the country. It is a one-stop shop for products across multiple categories including apparel, cosmetics, fragrances, artificial and fine jewellery, footwear, personal accessories such as watches, sunglasses, handbags, wallets and belts, kids wear, toys, home decor and much more. We offer more than 400 of the finest international and national brands across categories and we’re the only Indian member of IGDS (Intercontinental Group of Departmental stores) along with other experienced retailers from all over the world.
Some of the driving factors behind our success are the strong loyalty base, superior brand assortment of nearly 400+ Indian and international brands, exclusive brand partnerships (, , , , ), unparalleled customer service and strong focus on building iconic private brands (Stop, Life, , and ).

Today, we have 83 stores spread across 38 cities in India. Where physical stores are not present, we cater to millions of customers across the length and breadth of the country through our newly revamped online store, www. shoppersstop.com.

Shoppers Stop has always been known for introducing new technology in the retail sector in India. What tech innovations have you introduced in store over the last few years?

At Shoppers Stop, it is our constant endeavour to experiment and deploy new technology solutions to create better shopping experience for customers. Some of the recent initiatives that are offered to our customers are Click-n-Collect and Ship from their nearest store brought the multi-channel experience into our stores. In order to provide a more personalised engagement, the Personal Shopper program is offered at the stores, wherein the associates are empowered through mobile devices for customer interaction. Also, the customers are encouraged to use the in-store Wi-Fi for browse and buy experience.

How has technology helped Shoppers Stop in enhancing consumer experience? Have you seen any growth in sales revenue and footfalls due to in-store technology? Please elaborate with examples/ case studies.

Some of our recent technology investment have been in the areas to improve online presence, CRM, logistics and fulfilment capabilities, which are essential for delivering an improved shopping experience to customers. For stores, we are presently focused on the Personal Shopper program and already see a significant contribution in sales through this program. While the drop-in footfall remains as a challenge, initiatives such as Personal Shopper have helped us improve the store conversion considerably through better in-store engagement. We continue to build and invest in solutions around this to drive personalisation.

Recently, we upgraded our IT systems with implementation of iWAN solutions across its stores that improves operations for seamless customer experience, saves billing time by up to 25 percent for customers, increases application availability, reduces costs, enhanced employee productivity and efficiency and create realtime engagement opportunity with our customers by offering them customised deals based on their preferences.

What new technology are you planning to introduce in the next few years?

We feel there is a lot of scope to improve in-store shopping experience for our customers with the introduction of digital influence. We are experimenting the AR based smart mirrors and interactive kiosk solutions for customer convenience. We are revamping the key in-store touchpoints for customers to introduce latest POS solution. There are also initiatives towards delivering real-time and contextual promotions while the customer is inside the store. We are also investing in IOT and location technology to help us better understand the customers path to purchase and dwell time through heat-maps. These insights should help us take business decisions on various aspects of customer experience.

Please walk us through your customer loyalty programme.

The First Citizen Loyalty Program since its inception in 1994, has grown to more than 5 million+ loyal members as on date who contribute to over 75 percent of sales for us. Today, it is one of the most successful customer relationship and loyalty programs in the industry. Apart from being a Tiered program (Classic Moments, Silver Edge and Golden Glow), we also have a Co-branded Credit/ Debit card programme with Citibank which gives our First Citizens an option to add on a credit card to their existing loyalty cards, giving our First Citizens a credit line advantage.

The objective of the First Citizen Loyalty Program is to ensure customer delight and enhance customer satisfaction. With an in-house, robust analytics team we ensure that the engagement with our First Citizens are constantly driven by insights making them relevant and therefore well received. Some of our key areas of impact being:
– Customer level analytics to manage customer life cycle
– Product level analytics
– Transaction level analytics
– Data insights andpromotions.
– Store level analytics

How big is the market for products of Shoppers Stop in India and what is the y-o-y growth rate?

Organised retail market in India today is about US $60 billion. Shoppers Stop plans to achieve 10 percent market share in the catchments where it has its presence and through the product categories it retails in its department stores. Growth rate of the market is about 10 percent per annum.

How many private labels do you have currently? How much do they contribute to your overall revenue? Do you have plans to introduce more anytime soon?

We currently have six private brands and they contribute about 11 percent of our revenue. These six brands cater to consumer requirements across all categories sold at Shoppers Stop, leaving a few like watches and cosmetics. The decision of adding more private brands in future will be derivative of market conditions and customer requirement for niche products.

What are your same store sales growth numbers?

Currently, we are growing at 3 percent for like-to-like stores for year 2018-19.

What is your reach in terms of the total number of outlets and cities?

Shoppers Stop currently has 83 stores in 38 cities across the country.

What is the location strategy for Shoppers Stop – malls or high street and why?

We definitely prefer malls over high street, because:

– Malls offer a more family experience while a high street is more convenient for individual shopping. With cinemas, entertainment activities, F&B, events etc., malls have also become a place for family outing apart from shopping.

– Malls offer you the convenience of parking compared to High Street

– Impulse buying is higher in mall than in High Street

How focused are you on e-commerce and what is your e-commerce strategy? What percentage of Shopper Stop’s revenues comes from e-commerce currently, and what revenue targets do you have from e-commerce over the next few years?

Shoppers Stop was the first departmental store to introduce e-commerce, and the increasing adoption of online shopping has allowed this channel to grow to the size of an average Shoppers Stop store for us. Our online presence now has more customer visits than all our stores combined. Over the last year, we have upgraded our digital capabilities significantly through various technology and team investments and have introduced a host of customer-friendly Omnichannel features such as Ship from Store and Express Store Pickup. Our Android & iOS mobile Apps continue to gain in popularity with over a million downloads and now contribute to a third of our online sales.

We have adopted ourselves to the changing consumer buying behavior and are working together with the leading internet companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook to ensure that customers discover Shoppers Stop at an early stage of their buying journey. We have started tracking the impact of our online presence in driving customer store visits and sales, and the initial results are very encouraging.

Going forward, our digital strategy aims to unify our customer experience across their online and in-store engagements, thus bringing alive the romance of shopping in every interaction. The Personal Shoppers in our stores are equipped with digital tools that allow them to create personalised experiences for each customer, while helping customers purchase products that may not be available in that particular store through our website. In fact, this concept of unlimited selection in stores (commonly referred to as Endless Aisle) is being further enabled through the introduction of many brands and products on our website that have not traditionally been available in our stores. We intend to introduce customers to many new digitally enabled experiences and have already made First Citizen a card-less loyalty program, by enabling it through the website and mobile Apps.

We believe that over the next few years, Omnichannel initiatives will contribute in double digit of our revenues.

What are some of the Omnichannel trends you have been witnessing in your industry in India over the past few years?

From a consumer’s perspective, life has never been better. Retailers (both online and offline) are vying to get her attention, and towards this end, are putting in significant efforts in understanding the customer better, in creating experiences and journeys that meet and exceed the customer’s expectations and in going the extra mile in predicting future trends and needs to better serve the customer. To make this happen, every significant retailer is now working towards an Omnichannel capability. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have been making investments in creating digital touch-points in order to attract younger customers and to widen their reach to geographies beyond their store presence. Online players have employed various approaches to extend themselves into or to leverage the physical stores. Most large multi-category market places are typically achieving this through tie-ups and partnerships with the store chains, while category specialist online retailers have started rolling out their own retail stores. Regardless of the route chosen, the need for and efforts towards creating an integrated cross-channel experience has never been more evident. We expect this focus to continue over the next few years.

This Omnichannel growth will bring in its own set of trends such as enhanced customer analytics to understand cross-channel customer behaviour, significant improvements in the ability to attribute the impact of each touch point on the final sale, greater customer convenience such as voice and image-based searches, more personalised interactions through the use of Machine Learning and AI tools, and immersive experiences enabled by the creative but systematic use of Augmented and Virtual Reality.

What are your expansion plans for Shoppers Stop?

We plan to open 4-5 stores every year in key cities with million plus population and penetrating more in the cities we are already present. In addition, we will open 10-12 beauty stores.

What are the factors propelling the growth of Indian fashion industry as per you?

Fashion retail in India is estimated to be a Rs 3 lakh crore industry today and is projected to grow to 2.5X this size by 2026. This growth is being made possible by the virtuous cycle of increased demand, caused by improved awareness and availability of modern fashion trends and aspirational brands.

Amongst women’s apparel, we are seeing a shift from sarees to salwar kameez and western wear in the metros and Tier I and II cities and even amongst younger women in rural India. This is driven by an increase in the ratio of working women, availability of modern styles in smaller cities and shifting age profile of the population towards youth.

Similarly, the kids wear segment is being favourably impacted by the introduction of many national and international fashion brands over the last few years. The increased awareness about latest kids wear through the increased percolation of the electronic media has coupled with the Indian trait of parents living their dreams through the lives of their children, making this the fastest growing in the apparel categories.

Men’s wear is the largest category in Indian apparel, accounting for more than 40 percent. Changing trends in the workplace, with acceptance of smartcasuals as part of the dress code, has allowed the young professional Indians to upgrade their wardrobe with the latest t-shirts and denims, to add to the already robust growth of formal shirts and trousers.

The rise of the Indian youth has been an underlying factor for many of the recent evolutions in the Indian fashion industry. The increased adoption of social media and democratisation of access to Indian and international celebrities through digital media now results in a much greater awareness amongst these consumers. Indian youth is also much more conscious of health and fitness, creating a demand for active wear and athleisure.

Beauty, skincare, lingerie and personal fashion accessories are other segments that have benefitted from the creation of new choices for Indian consumers and the availability of a comfortable and convenient environment by departmental stores such as Shoppers Stop allowing customers to experience these products without the hustle of the neighbourhood shops and yet providing all the brands that the consumer could look for under one roof.