Imagine walking into a store, choosing a product, standing in a long line to pay and then getting into an argument with a cashier.
Now, imagine walking into a store and getting personalised attention, choosing products that are customised to your needs and finally no queues while checking yourself out in a frictionless environment. Which one would you visit again? The answer is obvious.
There is a world of opportunity for brands to cash in on, expanding on the information they have and potentially changing the entire experience for shoppers. While e-commerce retailers are working towards seamless payment gateways complete with last minute customised offers, there is an even bigger opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers here.
Though offline stores are still far ahead in terms of generating revenue as compared to e-commerce, online sales are growing at a much faster rate than sales in physical stores. In USA, the online sale still accounts for 11.1 percent of the total sales, whereas in India the percentage is even lower. With the majority of online growth driven by pure-play e-commerce brands, most retailers still rely more on in-store purchases than online sales. Services like self-checkout and cashier-less payment systems then make a huge impact here. Couple this technology – the buzzword for today’s Millennial shopper – with loyalty programs and traditional retailers have a winning system.
Determining Consumer Needs
Brick-and-mortar has to be fully focused on engaging and entertaining customers or lose them to competition, either offline or online. The business of retail today is all about gauging what the customer expects from a brand. In-store services and communication play a very significant role in increasing footfalls in stores. With the aid of technology, retailers are implementing and adding so much to their service quotient – self/ cashier-less checkout systems, PoS innovations, VR and AR solutions, loyalty programs, Cash on Delivery, Card on Delivery, same day delivery and expanding mobile payments to customer loyalty programs are some trends that have picked up recently and are being used extensively by reputed brands.
Also, since the future of retail includes a combination of online and offline, it’s not enough to deliver generic customer experiences. Retailers need to strive hard to meet consumer expectations with relevant and personalised solutions. Winning their business means understanding their unique preferences and behaviors and shaping marketing messages and offers to these preferences.
Research & Impact
A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that retail spend at frictionless payment stores like Amazon Go will grow from an estimated US$ 253 million in 2018 to over US$ 45 billion by 2023. Juniper expects most of these transactions to be in convenience and general stores, with an average transaction value around US$ 30 per visit throughout the forecast period.
The new report, Future In-Store Retail Technologies: Adoption, Implementation & Strategy 2018-2023, also found that selfscanning apps, an alternative to ‘Just Walk Out’ technologies, will be used by over 32 million shoppers by 2023; driving higher engagement.
In a recent study titled ‘11th Annual Global Shopper Study’, Zebra Technologies Corporation identified diverging expectations on the impact of automation between retailers and store associates.
According to the study, nearly 80 percent of retail decision-makers – compared to 49 percent of store associates – agree that staff checkout areas are becoming less necessary due to new technologies that can automate checkout. It further stated that more than one-half of retail decision makers (52 percent) are converting points-of-sale i.e. their POS space to self-checkout and 62 percent are transforming it for online order pickup.
Another report by Global Market Insights, Inc. states that self-checkoutsystems market size is set to exceed US $ 4 billion by 2024. Growing supermarket penetration is driving the self-checkout systems market growth. The industry growth can be attributed to the presence of a large number of supermarkets, department stores, hypermarkets, homeimprovement stores, and other retail chains in North America and Europe. Several large retail chains are constantly upgrading and leveraging self-checkout technology to best meet customer needs. For example, McDonalds updated over 500 restaurants in 2016 with mobile payment options, self-order kiosks, and an updated interior design and table service. In the U.S., the retail self-checkout market is highly competitive with vendors focusing on providing differentiated and innovative products along with top-notch after-sales services.
The self-checkout systems market has seen a shift from traditional kiosks to cashless systems, leading to the evolution of unstaff ed store concepts. In China, several consumers have been using mobile payment apps, such as WeChat Pay (Tencent) and AliPay, which are the two most popular and prominent mobile payment services in the country. According to the People’s Bank of China, in 2016, mobile payment transactions totaled 25.7 billion, with a transaction volume of about US $ 20 trillion. Themobile payment market in China is essentially a duopoly with Tencent and Alibaba holding almost 90 percent of the mobile payment market share, followed by Chinese card network UnionPay.
Manufacturers in the industry are working toward creating unique solutions to meet the needs of the Chinese market such as mobile payments and scan & go concepts. The intensifying price competition in the region can be attributed to the presence of a large number of suppliers in China.
While Wi-Fi will continue to remain the biggest engagement point for customers, Juniper expects smart checkout apps to act as gateways to technologies like Bluetooth beacons and augmented reality. The development of virtualized beacons, where an antenna array simulates the presence of multiple beacons, will increase revenues for beacon manufacturers. These revenues will grow at an average annual growth of 49 percent, reaching over US$ 1.5 billion by 2023; beacon shipments will only grow at 21.5 percent per annum.
Why Experiential Retail?
A lot has been spoken about customer experience and it still continues to generate interest for both consumers and retailers. As needs and demands vary from customer to customer, there cannot be a standard definition for CX. Retailers who expect shoppers to continue chasing the quickest queue or undertake the frenzied race of packing to keep up with the cashier’s pace, will fail to meet the growing expectations of the in-store experience and will push them to find alternatives.
With a focus on enabling superior shopper experiences, retailers reimagine the store as the heart of the retail experience, helping in-store shopping remain a relevant and meaningful part of the overall business strategy. One of the first things that comes to mind regarding store transformation is the self-checkout. And while a robust self-checkout solution is certainly a solid foundation from which to start building an optimal front-end, it’s only the beginning of the journey.
Anil Menon, General Manager- IT, Tata Starbucks explains, “Modern-day customers prefer multiple options for shopping. They may walk-in to stores or simply order online. Giving them an option of click and collect will be adding to their shopping experience. The customers can shop online and drop in at the store to collect products at a time convenient to them. Once again, we are aiming to provide a quick and seamless checkout process.”
Being Human has a strong offline presence across the country. The brand has ensured it has a common POS across its stores including their franchise stores. Manish Mandhana, Managing Director, Mandhana Industries says, “As and when we have updates from our partner (POS service provider), we make sure that those updates are implemented across all Being Human Clothing stores. Currently, we are working on the mobile POS concept and the same is scheduled to be rolled out soon. Planning and mapping play a key role to ensure that the entire checkout process is swift. At Being Human Clothing, we ensure that checkout processes are done within a minute.”
Alisha Malik, Vice President, e-Commerce, Metro Brands Limited adds, “We have an ETP POS system across all our stores. This is in the process of being upgraded to get a near to real-time view of store inventory. It involves faster updates and the ability to fulfill Omnichannel orders without toggling between screens.”
But the transition wasn’t an easy one. To hear it from Malik, “When we first transitioned from our legacy POS to an enterprise POS we did face certain challenges. However, this was primarily due to a gap in our understanding of the capabilities of the POS versus our expectations of what features we would like a POS to have. Currently, thanks to our excellent IT team, we seem to be progressing smoothly on this journey.”
Revealing the salient features of the POS in their retail stores, Dhiraj Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Campus Sutra shares, “It’s most important feature is providing auto-queuing – that is when a piece is sold, information is sent to the warehouse. Dispatch and replenishment are done the very next day since it is integrated with our warehouse inventory. The POS also off ers integration with our Omnichannel systems.
Nikhil Gupta, Founder & Director, All In Stores explains, “We have easy-to-use POS system and it was never a challenge to train the staff . It is user-friendly, fast billing point of sale software, and it also provides friendly customer support. Recently we got ‘Best Quality Customer Service Enabler Award’ for their excellent services. We keep on introducing new features in every two or three months to improve the experience. With these features, on an average, the checkout procedure takes a minute, but it also depends on a number of items purchased by the customer. We realise the importance expedient checkout process and to address this we have to express lane to shorten wait times. Effective barcode reader and saving customer information for future to save time are some of the steps that are taken to make check-out process smooth and quick.
Despite having user interface problems, there are more benefits associated with the self-checkout systems, the top one being that they are preferred by Millennials and tech-savvy shoppers. There are shorter queues, no cashier to haggle with, an easy touchscreen process and so people overlook the challenges and prefer to use self-checkout lanes. Some of the main benefits of using them are:
Quick and Convenient: Self-checkout is a fast and quick service and saves a lot of time. This is the most prominent benefit of cashier-less and Self-Checkout service.
No Queue: There is no queue at all. Compared to the regular checkout lanes, the self-checkout line is usually very short or nonexistent.
Efficient: For new beginners and first time users, it may be a time consuming process but once familiar, the self-checkout process is efficient and can be less of a hassle. It also eliminates manual errors. Control: One can decide whether or not to scan or return an item without the fear of annoying the cashier through your indecisiveness.
Privacy: Self-Checkout processes help the consumer to shop and leave without being judged or interrupted. No one can judge the buyer by the purchase he or she makes.
Reduce Staff Stress: Customers handling payment relieve store executives of handling cash while freeing them up to focus on other tasks like bagging purchased products and paying more attention to consumers.
However, there are some customers who deliberately avoid the self-service checkout method, opting for a more traditional shopping experience, complete with human interaction. The key reasons are:
Price Discrepancies: There are certain cases, when the price mentioned on the product, is not the same as the price listed in the system. There are cases of outdated prices which need to be checked manually. In this case, one has to either call a store associate to make the correction or continue the checkout process, or then take your receipt to customer service for a refund.
Some Items won’t Scan: There are ways to manually enter a bar code for an item that isn’t able to be scanned, but many users either don’t know how or don’t have access to this method. If an item doesn’t scan, often the only answer is to call for help. This means waiting for an associate to come and enter the bar code for you, which causes a delay for you and those waiting in line behind you.
Split Payments: In a cashier-controlled lane, it’s easy to split the payment – for example, part cash and part card. This option often isn’t available in self-service lanes, which require a single payment for the entire order.
Omnichannel: The Middle Path
The Indian retail scenario has been the stage for many innovative tactics – as brick-and-mortar retailers, across a gamut of categories, strive to stay relevant while online retailers struggle to outlive the ‘valuation euphoria’ to actually drive business value. Yes, the verdict is clear – retailers, both offline and online have to adapt or perish and not responding is not an option, but the key is to tap into consumer needs and behaviours which transcend the online/ offline platform debate.
Linking the data helps marketers analyze how consumers move through the funnel and reach them on their preferred channels and devices. Multi-touch attribution can also provide insight into which granular level tactics, such as publisher, placement,creative and keyword, drive online and offline sales. Since this insight is produced in near-real-time, retailers can capitalize on opportunities to drive engagement and influence purchase decisions at each stage in the consumer journey.
Ultimately, success will depend on retailers’ ability to create optimal customer experiences. It’s not a question of online or offline, but how a brand can best combine and leverage both mediums to meet the ever-changing needs of the modern consumer. With a true understanding of their customer and the tactics that influence their decision to buy, marketers can deliver a successful Omnichannel experience that wins over new customers and keeps existing ones coming back for more.
NATIONAL: RETAIL WITH SELF CHECK OUTS AND BEYOND
The new 3,000 sq ft. the Decathlon store in Noida has redefined the way people buy sportswear through it’s highly involving and experience-centred stores. At its newly launched store in a DLF Mall, Noida, the brand banks upon digital services such as self-checkout counter, scan and pay app for billing to improve the buying experience.
“With Decathlon Scan & Go, customers can simply scan and pay for items using their smartphone, automatically disabling the RFID security tag to leave them free to exit the store without any need to queue or wait at the checkout,” explains Sylvain Deschamps, City Sports Leader, Decathlon Noida.
Eliminating the need for queuing has been one of the key competitive advantages driving the success of online retail over the last decade. The store has dedicated sections for women, men, children and teenagers. Its dedicated space for fitness aficionados adds another dimension to this outlet, while the community space provides customers an opportunity to practice their favourite fitness activities – be it augmented reality golf, simulator zone or skating rink. It is nothing less than a sportsman’s paradise offering 50 sports and more than 5,000 sports products under one roof.
Apart from the self check out services, the store also has:
Digital Screens: The digital screens highlight the sporty story of the employees of Decathlon. The brand hires only sportsperson as its employees.
Augmented Reality Golf: The brand has brought the fun of playing golf inside its store by introducing augmented reality golf. It gives the same pleasure of playing golf as in the golf course.
Activity Areas: The store has dedicated areas for various sports activities like Basketball, Cricket and even an elevated bridge to check the grip of trekking shoes.
Community Area: The consumers can get engaged in various discussions related to sports along with participating in activities like Zumba, Hula Hoop, Football Freestyle and Rep wars to name a few.
Product Story: Highlights the technicality of the products, its usage and durability along with the price.
Currently, it has already been operating around 12 outlets in NCR and 70 outlets across India.
SPAR has always been to be a hypermarket that is known for value and differentiation. SPAR Hypermarkets’ customers are family consumption groups with both value as well as aspirational needs. They range from the affluent segments to the pure value-seeking segments. The majority of customers belong to the 25+ age group. There is a healthy mix of demographics and age groups that visit the stores.
SPAR India has been at the forefront of innovation. SPAR’s true innovation has been the Digital Kiosk which has been installed in one of the biggest technology parks – Manyata Tech Park in Bengaluru and has been successful in delivering a unique and easy shopping experience. The Digital Kiosk has a simple and easy to use shopping touch screens through which a customer can access the complete virtual hypermarket and order and get same day delivery. Located in one of the largest tech parks in Bangalore, the first digital kiosk has been a great hit.
Apart from that the brand has introduced:
Self-assist Kiosks: Installed at key locations in-store to help customers find products with ease.
Self-Checkout Kiosks: Where customers can pay their own bills without hassle. Design Your Home Studio: Customers can mix and match home décor products virtually and visualize how it would look in their home.
Kids’ Pad: Entertains kids with interesting games and interactive displays. Energy Management: SPAR monitors and tracks electricity consumption of equipment with a tracking system. Shop Floor Assistance Mobility App: Provides easy and quick information on stock availability.
With technological advancements, shopping experience has greatly evolved and Lifestyle, as a progressive retailer, has embraced many of these progressions to further enhance customer experience.
The fashion retailer, which is known for offering men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel, footwear, handbags, fashion accessories, beauty products and much more, all under the same roof, has added features such as ‘Self-Checkout Kiosk’, ‘Mobile POS’, Fitting Room Assistance’, etc., to augment its in-store experience.
Explaining the innovations that the brand has introduced for billing, Vasanth Kumar, Executive Director, Lifestyle says, “The Self-Checkout kiosk is a facility that allows customers to bill their merchandise and complete the payment transaction in a few simple steps on their own. The Mobile POS which we have introduced is for billing some of our products such as watches, fragrances or cosmetics.”
“The other innovations that we have introduced include our Fitting Room Assistance program that has emerged from our insights into our customer shopping behaviour, allows for size retrieval with the help of technology. For our e-commerce business, we have introduced visual search and enabled voice-based search on our apps which has helped creating a more personalised and convenient shopping experience,” he adds.
Innovation, today, is the tool that allows brands to ensure a frictionless journey from discovery to purchase for the customer. And Lifestyle is no far behind.
“We have introduced ‘Click & Collect’ – an Omnichannel initiative that allows customers to order online and collect merchandise from a Lifestyle store of their choice. Our in-store Endless-Aisle initiative helps a customer to find her missing size on our online channel,” he further elaborates.
Several of initiatives that the brand has taken are technological solutions to real customer problems which they discovered through their interaction with customers as well as staff . Using this feedback, they have created simple yet impactful solutions leveraging technology. These have led to positive impact on their overall customer experience and helped increase engagement with the brand.
“We are continuously evolving our stores with new technologies. To fully enable our customers to enjoy these new introductions, it is important for our sales personnel to understand, communicate and comfortably operate all new innovations. Before implementing any new technology or introducing product innovation, our entire store team goes through an extensive knowledge session, which enables them to understand the product/technology being introduced,” says Kumar.
Lifestyle regularly tracks consumer satisfaction through NPS (Net Promoter Score) in store, by the virtue of offering, staff interactions, store ambience and consistently deliver an overall delightful shopping experience thereby winning customer trust and loyalty.
“We have also launched ‘Lifestyle Edge’, an exclusive program for our premium customers in Chennai and Pune and soon we will be expanding this to other cities,” says Kumar.
Supermarket chain HyperCity has unveiled a brand new type of retail store in India – self check-out, cashier-less stores. These two stores are located in Infosys’ Hyderabad campuses. While the stores are not fully unmanned – some customer support and fulfilment staff are on the premises – customers are expected to check out themselves, shortening their shopping time since they don’t have to stand in queues to be billed.
The checkout process is automated via the Perpule 1Pay app. Customers can scan barcodes on products as they shop, generate an invoice and pay, and leave. Payment options include debit/credit cards, net banking, mobile wallets and even UPI.
Also, as of now, following payment one needs to take the items bought over to a weighing machine, which has a camera fixed to it to verify that the customer is only taking the items paid for. However, this works only if the number of items are five or less. For larger purchases, a staff member does a physical verification.
The app supports multiple digital payment gateways and cards for selfcheckout, including debit card, net banking, e-wallets and UPI systems.
Myntra successfully launched a new store for Roadster – one of the most popular and leading outdoor lifestyle brands in the country. Called ‘Roadster Go’, the offl ine store is located at Vega City Mall in Bengaluru and inherits the legacy of brand Roadster’s hi-tech fashion Omnichannel experience, which is the fi rst of its kind in the country.
The first ever ‘Roadster Go’ store has been launched at Mantri Mall in Malleshwaram in 2018, introducing visitors to a slew of technological innovations to enhance customers shopping experience and bringing online and offline experiences under one roof. Spread across an area of 3,200 sq. ft., the store is the brand’s biggest yet. As a 100 percent RFID (Radio-frequency identifi cation) enabled store, shoppers can pick up their favourite products without any assistance, discover real time online prices and do a self-checkout in 30 seconds, making it smarter, faster and seamless.
The RFID enabled digital screens at the store offer shoppers detailed information about a particular product when held up against it; shoppers discover all the product features on models wearing them (studio images) including fabric, washes, suitability to body type, color matching, availability of size and more. Customers buy all the products at real time online prices which they discover on the digital screen when they hold the product up against it. They also initiate a 30-second self-checkout by placing all the products in the RFID tray which captures product details and display the bill on the screen, which is paid using a debit/ credit card, upon confirmation, eliminating the need for scanning individual products or removing security tags from each garment. Shoppers experience all these functions and more, requiring no intervention from staff at the outlet, unless requested for.
“Roadster has shown how fashion and technology, when integrated, create unique experiences that take offline shopping to a new level. As a pioneer in Omnichannel fashion, Myntra is committed to strengthening its offline presence through a franchise model and off er new experiences to engage customers and make shopping fast and seamless through technology,” Amar Nagaram, Head, Myntra Jabong, says.
Metro Shoes has been delighting customers with its footwear range, but it also needs to be complimented for the way the check-outs are taken care of where the wait time is not only negligible, but it offers a fantastic human touch with the goodness of technology seamlessly weaved in. Metro Shoes has ETP POS system across all our stores. This is in the process of being upgraded to get a near to real time view of store inventory. It involves faster updates and the ability to fulfill Omnichannel orders without toggling between screens.
At any given point of time, the salesman accompanies the shopper to the cash counter and the person behind the till effortlessly bills the customer without bombarding him with plethora of options and information on loyalty points and other reward programs. And considering the brand launched itself much before the advent of internet in India, it has not failed to keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of technology.
GLOBAL: RETAIL WITH SELF CHECK OUTS AND BEYOND
AMAZON GO: REVOLUTIONIZING CHECKOUT
Adding more to cashier-less and self check outs, Amazon has gone one step ahead than the rest. Amazon Go is a new retail concept store with no cashiers. Launched in Amazon’s hometown, Seattle, customers can fi ll their shopping carts in Amazon Go and walk out – with the costs tallied up and billed on their accounts with the US online giant.
Customers use an app called ‘Go’ to enter the store. Then Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart.
When consumers are done shopping, they can just leave the store. Shortly after, the company will charge the consumer’s Amazon account and send them a receipt. According to Amazon Go’s webpage, the app uses the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. All one needs to use the store is an Amazon account, a supported smartphone, and the free Amazon Go app.
In a move that could revolutionise the way we buy groceries, Amazon opens its first supermarket without checkouts — human or self-service — to shoppers.
Amazon Go, in Seattle in the US, uses an array of ceiling-mounted cameras to identify each customer and track what items they select, eliminating the need for billing. Purchases are billed to customers’ credit cards when they leave the store.
Before entering, shoppers must scan the Amazon Go smartphone app. Sensors on the shelves add items to the bill as customers pick them up – and deletes any they put back.
Auchan, one of France’s leading retail groups, has opened several shops without checkout counters in China. “The operation of Auchan Minute is very simple and intuitive. To enter, the customer uses the application WeChat. At the entrance, it scans a code that opens him the doors of this automated shop and identifies it,” Xinhua news agency quoted Auchan as saying in a statement.
After scanning the products, they are automatically added to a virtual cart. The customer takes the products after paying them via Wechat Pay or AliPay and validating them by the mobile, the company added.
Auchan is set to introduce self-checkout at seven locations in Hungary this year, with the rest of stores to follow in 2020. A self-checkout system at the Óbuda Auchan started operations in July. The company says it will make shopping more convenient as well as faster. Selfcheckout was first introduced at the Budakalász Auchan, with the Óbuda outlet following suit after a one-month test period. By the end of 2019, the stores in Budaörs, Dunakeszi, Maglód, Soroksár, and Albertfalva will also receive the new self-checkout system.
Zara introduced self-checkout kiosks in the store to ease the pain of standing in long queues for billing. Customers can checkout on their own and make the payment just by following a few simple steps.
Zara’s new two-storey shop, at Westfield Stratford City is one major example of it. The store has a dedicated area for the purchase and collection of online orders on the first floor, in addition to the usual sections for women’s, men’s and kids’ lines. This online area features two automated online order collection points, serviced by a concealed area that can handle 2,400 orders simultaneously.
Shoppers scan QR or PIN codes they receive when they place orders online. Behind the pick-up point, a robotic arm collects trays and organises the packages optimally according to their size, and delivers orders in seconds.
There is a self-checkout area with a system that automatically identifies products being purchased. Zara staff with iPads will also be able to accept payments. The store has a fully open entrance on the ground floor, with no glass.
Walmart InHome Delivery is a new service designed to help customers save time and off er yet another convenient choice for grocery shopping. The service does so by delivering groceries even when customers can’t be home. Here’s how it works: Customers place a grocery order and then select InHome Delivery and a delivery day at checkout
– Customers can then go about their days while a Walmart associate takes care of their grocery shopping for them – from food aisle to fridge
– At the time of delivery, associates will use smart entry technology and a proprietary, wearable camera to access the customer’s home – allowing customers to control access into their homes and giving them the ability to watch the deliveries remotely
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: OFFLINE STORES
Loyalty programs are structured marketing strategies designed by merchants to encourage customers to continue to shop at or use the services associated and provided by them in each and every category. These programs exist covering most types of commerce, each one having varying features and rewards-schemes.
Brands with Unique Loyalty Programs and Retail Store Experiences:-
fabindia Experience Centres house a FabCafé and an Interior Design Studio, in addition to its signature offerings that includes daily wear and occasion wear for women, men and kids, accessories, home and lifestyle products, personal care and organic foods.
Speaking about fabCafé, Viney Singh, Managing Director, fabindia, says, “It primarily focuses on bringing a nutritious menu highlighting India’s diverse cuisine with a wide array of dishes representing various parts of the country.” Extending the focus on health and well-being, the Experience Centre has a designated space for Organic India’s wellness store.
The wellness centre allows customers to interact with trained consultants on various aspects of health, lifestyle and well-being, he said. The Interior Design Studio provides a range of services such as consultancy on layouts, mapping spaces, product customisation and colour scheme coordination, among other things.
To combat the competition from other players in the same category including brands like Nike, Puma, adidas and Under Armour, hummel offers a unique store experiences to its customers in India.
“Our mono-store has to create a customer experience. It has to offer something else that customers cannot get online or at MBOs. It has to be a destination that attracts and excites the customers,” says Henrik Svenning, Chief Commercial Officer, hummel.
The brand’s Amritsar store has an anti-gravity photo-booth where customers can get themselves clicked and take the 3D prints of the photographs.
In Chennai, the brand has a dedicated yoga zone where a local yoga trainer gives free of cost yoga classes to customers over weekends.
The Bengaluru store, which houses the premium collection hummel HIVE, boasts of a Chill Zone comprising of bean bags, boombox, library and a lot more.
“As hummel is a relatively new brand in India, we want our stores to speak out loud about what we are offering and what is our positioning. We have plans to create an engagement zone in every store. In India, our positioning is as a sports lifestyle brand and we want all this to be communicated in our visual merchandising when customers enter the store. We are planning to marry tech with the stores and offer 3D and AR solutions,” he states.
To hummel, creating retail in a way that expresses the brand’s identity and ethics, is extremely important.
‘Fit and comfort’ of the product is considered to be the biggest USP of Wacoal. The brand has its own manufacturing units all over the world where it produces over 80 percent of their designs. It achieves high quality and high performance with the balanced mix of their own production units and research undertaken by Wacoal’s Human Science Research Centre. This is their biggest strength that differentiates them from other brands. Instead of pursuing glamor, it pursues excellent supportability with unique materials and designs based on the research and development.
“We are all set to develop exclusive merchandise for the Indian market and plan to expand this in the coming years,” says Tomoyasu Ito, Representative Director, President and Corporate Officer of Wacoal Corp.
“Apart from this, in Japan, we are in the process of placing 3D high-tech machines which will help women understand the exact sizes that they should buy. And if the experiment goes successful then we will be soon launching this technology in all our stores,” he adds.
Tanishq has taken one step further to be more accessible to its customers by launching into the Augmented Reality experience at the Bengaluru and Delhi airports. For the first time in India, a jewellery brand has done an Augmented Reality/ Hybrid Reality (combination of physical space Augmented Reality) campaign at an airport to engage with a large audience at a completely new level. With this technological advancement, customers had the option of ‘Try and Buy’; trying out the jewellery virtually looking at the AR screen.
Tanishq implemented Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to let consumers virtually try on the jewellery in real time, without actually having to wear them.
Sharing her thoughts on the launch of AR experience, Deepika Tewari, Associate Vice President, Marketing, Jewellery Division at Titan Company Limited says, “Tanishq has always aimed at providing the best for our customers and this fascinating initiative is one such approach in achieving the objective.
Consumers had the option of browsing through multiple jewellery pieces virtually with just one click. The real-time customer experience strengthened the retail connection between the brand and our esteemed consumers; a transformative step on how India will shop and purchase jewellery in the near future.”
With all kinds of innovation and technology already taking over the fashion industry, we almost forgot there is always something new coming this way. And now, we have been off ered a range of colour changing t-shirts by a new entrant in the market, Girggit. Standing true to its name, Girggit (meaning, chameleon, in English) t-shirts change its design and colour in sunlight. The same t-shirt looks diff erent in design and colour if worn indoors, and changes form when one steps out. These men’s t-shirts are made from super fine-combed cotton and are available in extra small, small, medium and large sizes on all the leading e-commerce portals.
Talking about the innovations involved in the making of these, Himanshu Thakur, Founder, Girggit says, “Based on solar active technology, colour-changing inks and dyes are engineered for application on Girggit t-shirts. Much like a flower that blooms in the sun’s rays, the hidden colours found in Girggit’s exclusive prints unfold into vibrant colour upon exposure to sunlight, then returning to their original state without sunlight.”
In India, Shoppers Stop installed Magic Mirrors at their Malad store in Mumbai in November 2015.
Helping them in this endeavour was Textronics with their AR based virtual dressing room solution – TryON. Known as Magic Mirror at Shoppers Stop, TryONis a virtual dressing room.
It took Shoppers Stop approximately one month to roll out the Magic Mirror. The store at Malad was narrowed down upon keeping in mind its sheer size which happens to be one of their largest stores. In all, there are five Magic Mirrors installed at the store.
In terms of customer education, the retailer has ensured that the floor staff is trained well to respond to customer queries on how best the Magic Mirror can be used. Besides, there are well articulated instructions placed near the Magic Mirror to navigate customers. Moreover, the Magic Mirror itself is an interactive kiosk that provides step-by-step instructions on its usage. A routine check is carried out every day to ensure its smooth functioning.
Anil Shankar, VP – Solutions and Technology, Shoppers Stop Ltd., says, “The Magic Mirror is a huge opportunity in terms of digitizing the store and providing endless options for the customers to try virtually. In future, we plan to integrate the Magic Mirror with other store solutions to improve customer engagement, as well as further enhancing the experience. Customers would be able to ‘try’, click and share images to their social media accounts.”
Broadcast Wearables Pvt Ltd., an AI based firm, is creating ripples across the globe with its blend of technology-infused fashion. It also is the parent holding of Sygnal, who has the distinction of producing the world’s fi rst programmable, touch-enabled t-shirt.
“We are an AI based wearables company on a mission to make everyday devices smart. We created the world’s first programmable LED clothing line and haven’t looked back ever since. We now specialise in the art, science, design and inouts of integrating electronics with fashion. Our market offerings now range from smart fitness tracking t-shirts that tracks fitness levels without using any additional device, glow LED clothing line for women, kids, smart accessories and many more,” says Sumil Shah, Co-Founder, Broadcast Wearables Pvt Ltd.
Samshék embedded the role of technology in its brand from the very beginning, by introducing the system of taking measurements digitally to make the fashion experience more realistic and accurate. It effectively combined the two mediums (fashion and technology) on the same platform to deliver excellence, accuracy and timely deliveries.
It was one of the first fashion brand to introduce and execute successfully the technology of 3D body scanner in India. 3D body scanner is a technology (machine) which requires a person to stand straight wearing a bodysuit, while it can take up to 150 measurements within a span of 5 seconds. This technology helps in contributing an accurate measurement analysis which is less possible by human methods.
“This technology works through an application in which, the person has to stand in front of the machine wearing a tight fitted bodysuit, holding the rails and standing still. Once the machinery has detected the measurements, it itself reflects on the application with the consumer’s detailed body measurements.
The reason behind incorporating this technology was to get a detailed analysis of all the human measurements and eliminate the problems faced by manual processes. This process helps in giving accurate results to the consumer as well as the industry,” states Samiksha Bajaj, Co-founder, Samshék.
“We enable customisation through our website as well as in store on touch screens. We tell individuals they can select from digital options and make changes in their garments accordingly. This includes modifying the necklines, sleeves, length of the garment, silhouette and even in some cases fabric. This process also eliminates the problem of in stock inventories since Samshék keeps all the inventories digitalised,” she adds.
Very soon, the brand will also be launching the technology where customers can be virtually styled. A virtual stylist will analyse their body and give them the detailed outfits required for any occasion.
Adoption of technology concepts like AI, VR & AR for a more seamless retail experience have been the mainstay of Bestseller. “One of our earliest implementations of AI-powered technology has been with Vero Moda, where we employed an AI-powered tool which interprets data collected across different digital platforms and aids in the prediction of trends. The trend prediction tool has greatly helped us in deciding various product based trends like colours, patterns, styles, etc. This has helped in narrowing consumer focused trends and thus tweak our product offering to include more products that are as per consumer preferences,” says Ranjan Sharma, CIO, Bestseller India.
“We will be launching Smart Mirrors at Vero Moda stores. These mirrors will work as personal shopping assistants for the customer and create an interactive fitting experience for them. Based on the product that the customer is trying out, the smart mirror will assist the customer by sharing tips on what type of product features are suiting them, suggestions on colours and prints and even advice on what other products can be paired with the one they are trying out. This concept aims to enhance the overall offline shopping experience for a customer by creating a personalised fitting experience for them which should lead to more in-store conversions and purchases,” he adds.
The brand is also in process of installing Virtual Reality Screens or Virtual Shopping Walls – which will enable consumers to browse through the entire product catalogue of the brand’s collection. Even if a particular size or colour is not available at the store, the customer can still make a selection and the store staff can check and have the required product delivered to the customer from another store or even order it online for the consumer. Currently, the brand has full inventory visibility available across a few stores and aim to implement it across all their brands for a more hassle free in-store shopping experience.
Mumbai-based Drinx Exchange has introduced electronic tech tables, where customers can interact with an electronic screen on the table they’re dining on. From watching live scores of sports, to receiving personalised offers, tracking their orders, paying their bill, and even singing along with the music in the bar, these tech tables will ensure consumers remain engaged through the time they’re in the restaurant.
The screen also keeps giving them live offers that are just right for what they drink. The electronic table also splits the bill among the number of diners on the table and the payment can be settled on the table itself by scanning a Paytm QR Code on the screen
Furthermore, the prices of drinks also fluctuate just like the stock exchange and customers can vote to crash the market price. Apart from this, the table also helps the customers in checking the status of their cab if they book it from Drinx Exchange app.
According to Rahul Dhingra and Dibyendu Bindal, Founders, Drinx Exchange, “The bar aims to ease the experience of ordering and makes it less stressful and more exciting for its millennial customers.”
THE BEER CAFÉ
The Beer Café has recently introduced ‘URBar’, a virtual bar which allows patrons to reserve and consume their favourite brands.
One can explore from a wide selection of alco-beverage, pre-pay and stock them in ‘URBar’. The latest ‘wallet for customer’s drinks’ initiative highlights the brand’s vision to redefine the alco-beverage space through technology differentiation and further strengthen its position as a pioneer.
The patrons can log in to The Beer Café’s app, and click on the URBar icon, reserve in the form of bottle (for spirits), keg (for draught beer), or case (for bottled beer) and start consuming.
This not only gives patrons the privilege to buy their favourite brands at a special price but also benefits in the form of one price across the nation. A consumer can choose any portion he/she wishes to consume at any Beer Café outlet spread across 12 cities and save the rest for their next outing. The bottle/ keg purchased stands as a prepaid instrument and stock diminishes as the consumer opts to consume. There are multiple convenientways of recharging the account. Customers can use an ‘online’ mobile wallet to add balance to their brew bucks – which is The Beer Café’s own currency. Or ‘pay at store’ by just walking into the closest The Beer Café outlet and the brew crew will be happy to assist the customers.
What’s more, it also gives patrons the option to spread the cheer around by gifting customisable amounts of their reserved stock to friends, family and colleagues.
Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO, The Beer Café says, “At The Beer Café, we believe that social drinking should first and foremost be about the experience. Our focus is to improve customer’s real world experience, their choices of brand and location. With the URBar feature, we are giving the users a chance to experience our differentiated proposition in the virtual realm. It is a delightful addition to the existing feature on The Beer Café mobile app. With this initiative we have raised the bar – quite literally!
TRAVEL FOOD SERVICES
Travel Food Services (TFS), travel food and retail company, has unveiled the latest in technology – Mitri, the robot, to make the experience of travellers interactive and fun.
Mitri engages with customers at TFS’s DilliStreat outlet at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, and is the first ever airport installation in the F&B segment.
Visitors to the DilliStreat outlet are greeted by Mitri, who facilitates activities and engages with them by providing menu details. It also off ers food recommendations. Mitri is a testament to Travel Food Service’s commitment of enhancing the travel experience in Indiaand presents a true example of how technology like Artificial Intelligence can help improve customer satisfaction, and drive productivity and sales.
Commenting on the latest technology, Gaurav Dewan, COO and Business Head, Travel Food Services said, “We are always on the lookout for latest innovative technologies that can enhance the experience and satisfaction of our customers. We are extremely excited to present Mitri at our DilliStreat outlet at the Delhi Airport. With Mitri being such an innovative and futuristic concept, and given her success, we are hopeful to bringing her to more outlets across India.”
Loyalty Programs: Online Retailers
Cash on Delivery or COD is one of the most popular loyalty programs which is very commonly used by the retailers, brands (online and offline) shopping mall currently. Customers who are too busy in their daily life are more found of this service than any Sale or discount offers.
As Riya Kalra – Co-founder, Candyskin explains, “Online platforms are majorly driven by discounts/offers/ cashbacks and online wallets. The millennial and individuals under 40 that shop online are more attracted towards online payments due to the cashbacks they are being provided with. A lot of times people who choose online payments are working individuals and do not have a lot of cash on them as they are on a fixed salary and get their salaries straight in their accounts. Also in the world of digitalisation, most individuals use plastic money like credit and debit cards rather than hard cash.”
“COD gives comfort and a sense of protection to a first-time online consumer. Especially now that the expansion to tier 1 and tier 2 cities is becoming crucial for the companies and the next layer of e-commerce growth is slated to come from these cities, COD is a great option to enhance comfort and security for the customer. As we have seen the trend towards prepaid payments in metros, we are beginning to see it with tier 1 and tier 2 also, that by the time the third or fourth purchase for the consumer rolls out, they typically tend to switch to a prepaid payment option,” Tanvi Malik & Shivani Poddar, Cofounder’s FabAlley.
The major challenges associated are: Skin in the game: Indians are quite skeptical because of fundamental cash behavior and concern regarding security. These mainly act as major bottlenecks on opting for other modes of payment. COD acts as a free lunch for customers and all the risks and costs are borne by the sellers.
Longer accounting times: Unlike payments online where the amounts are deposited seamlessly to the bank with all the necessary information of the order, with more hubs opening, managing Cash via COD options becomes slightly more challenging in terms of accounting and reconciliation.
Refunding: Could be a fraudulent order where the address is incorrect or the customer straight up deny’s that they placed any order online. The order could be approved but later not be accepted by the customer. Refunding money to a COD customer is always a challenge.
High RTO and returns: The biggest challenge with COD payment mode is high RTO and returns. This cascades into high operational cost and a wide gap between the top of the funnel and bottom of the funnel numbers. Also, if you are running digital campaigns, it creates a flaw in your system which is exploited by digital agencies to meet their net order targets. If there is an agency with which you are running a Cost per Sale campaign, to meet their numbers they place fake COD orders which eventually gets RTOed and you end up paying both marketing and operational cost for those orders and earning nothing out of it.