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    Conversational commerce helping retail stores get back on track in the ‘new normal’

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    Feedback Advisory, an end-to-end Market Research and Advisory firm, has recently conducted a survey on the impact of COVID on the Indian Retail industry, with a focus on practices that retailers are adapting to accelerate their path to recovery post lockdown.

    40+ leading retail brands were interviewed for the survey and different solutions probed, including , , , and others. The key findings have shed light on ‘’ being the ‘Go to Market’ aide to get customers back to stores and offer phygital, contactless shopping experiences. Brands are now adapting ‘Back to Store’ practices as well as are trying to meet their customers where they are.

    The retail industry has traditionally depended on ‘Walk-in’ Customers, however, the current COVID crisis has created a complete breakdown of its sales cycle.

    The industry, which is one of the key pillars of the Indian economy and contributes 10 percent to the GDP, is estimated to be around US$ 600 billion. India is considered to be one of the top 5 retail markets in the world powered by its 1.3 billion population.

    The pandemic impacted Indian retailers in an unprecedented manner, and it has since become crucial to find and adjust to the new normal. Since the lockdown and the subsequent stage-wise opening up of the country, retailers across the spectrum were facing a multitude of critical challenges including even the traditionally resilient Food & Grocery retailers. In the fashion retail industry, high-end luxury brands were the worst-hit segment. The pandemic resulted in very poor revenues for a majority of fashion brands, who were then looking to sell their inventory, cutting down on discretionary spends and even laying off staff to stay afloat.

    Average Pre-Pandemic Store Footfalls: Across brands, footfalls were in excess of 100/ day.

    However, the post pandemic walk in numbers dropped considerably to as low as 50, across stores as customers were scared to venture into stores.       

    To meet this requirement, brands started looking for solutions to stay relevant in the business. One of the key steps was getting on to online/ e-commerce portals, and also setting up other digital initiatives to keep the customers engaged.

    The digital initiatives were extended to also accommodate and keep store sales relevant and meaningful, going forward, post pandemic. This is where the concept of ‘Conversational Commerce’ became crucial and critical for stores to adopt and adapt.

    Meanwhile, select brands had started adopting means and measures to divert traffic ‘Back to the Stores’. Some of these measures that proved effective were:

    Taking a cue from these small successes, the importance of having meaningful and deliberate tools, to affect the sales, came into being.

    Leveraging digital technologies are imperative to filling the void and complement evolving consumer needs via their preferred channels (where), contactless experience (how) and 360-degree convenience (when).

    So, the new trends emerging in the market, enabling better customer engagement are “Phygital stores”, appointment based scheduled shopping, contactless payments etc.

    It was noted that out of few Conversational Commerce toolkits available in the market, by Easyrewardz is 1.5X-3X more preferred than competition in facilitating sales via WhatsApp/WebBot, schedule store visits and accept digital payments.

    While there are a few players in the market, Shopster, from Easyrewardz, has cast its net wider. It has established itself as a forefront runner toolkit, helping stores advance their ‘In-store’ business.

    “Conversational Commerce has not only helped stores get back their customers, it has also been instrumental for stores to drive meaningful & personalised engagement with their customers. It has provided customers a unique experience of Phygital Stores, combining the physical and the digital delights of shopping. Conversational Commerce brings in a unique value proposition to stores and has the potential to boost in-store sales,” said Prakashchandra Kotian, Principal Consultant, Feedback Advisory Services.

    The survey results highlighted that to stay afloat and relevant in the business, retail brands have moved to online/ e-commerce portals and have amped up their digital initiatives. The new normal for present-day Indian retailers comprises of creating safe and conducive in-store environment to drive traffic and pushing for sales through home shopping with new-age retail tech like Conversational Commerce.

    The need to better engage with customers, and increase ‘In-store’ sale has created an environment in which companies can, potentially, personalize their messages, develop a connection with their audience, and simplify the shopping experience. Intuitively, it makes sense for shoppers and sellers, as well as the intermediary.

    The companies that reap the rewards of this approach will take an honest appraisal of their audience’s preferences, with an empathy that extends beyond the brand bubble. Focus on allowing the audience to customize the interaction, rather than going for presumptuous personalization based on data the stores didn’t even know, they had.

    While the usage of Conversational Commerce is still in early stages, and growing, it is yet to be leveraged to its fullest potential.