Omnichannelisation is the need of the hour, but understanding the use of technology in the right context is very important for brands to strategise their moves in the digitalisation led COVID era.
Vinay Chatlani, Executive Director & CEO, Soch Apparels Private Ltd. states that in the last two years, retail has been all about digitalisation as it has got huge potential in taking the brand journey forward in a progressive way.
“Although we were slow to move into e-commerce, we have definitely made up for lost time over the last year or so. We had realised the potential of digital touch point sales even before the first lockdown event. We’ve brought on board a very competent team of people across multiple functions to enable us to ramp up quickly. Probably the largest initiative outside of Omnichannel commerce has been the implantation of our Business Intelligence (BI) tool and the roll out of our planning and buying solution,” he says.
“A single source of truth with respect to data and actionable insights using the right algorithms have not just improved efficiencies in our concept to shelf process, but also aligned everyone to look at data the same way,” he adds further.
According to Chatlani, digitalisation moves at Soch include:
ï To build and expand agile teams to respond to the fluidity of consumer needs.
ï To judiciously use marketing spends and understand measurement and impact at each stage of the campaign funnel
ï Bringing in experienced/networked leaders in the e-commerce, IT and marketing teams to lead the e-commerce mandate
“The right use of technology is going to become very important. Just understanding shopping behaviour today and watching it from afar is not going to be enough. What is important is to use technology to understand the change in consumer journeys and make an impact on the business,” explains Chatlani.
Store initiatives: Soch digitised their communication by way of LED screens almost six years ago and it helped them in improving their product visibility along with the experience. They further rolled out their Omnichannel initiative three years back and so far have connected all their stock points to enable endless aisle and save the sale features.
“In the next few months, our stock will also be exposed to our e-commerce site and all marketplace partners. We see the solution leading to a much leaner stock holding, and much quicker delivery times which goes a long way with customer gratification,” says Chatlani.
The in-store app is currently under development and promises to be much more than just the e-commerce site on a tab. The user interface, immersive experience and discovery journeys will be made to assist and engage the customer, and also aid the customer service representatives.
“We are extremely excited about this as it would also integrate with other digital initiatives in the pipeline like live commerce, virtual shopping and some very interesting content driven by NFC technology,” adds Chatlani.
E- commerce: The e-commerce platform is under a complete overhaul, and the brand is expecting the new website to be live and functional in the coming 4-5 months.
“Our focus on marketplaces has increased multifold. To our pleasant surprise our full price sales are much higher than the industry average. We only recently on–boarded Ajio and Nykaa and have seen very promising numbers. We are confident that over the next 12 months we would be able to hit a10X revenue if compared to FY 18-19,” he further adds.
Merchandising: Data Oriented
· Invested in data binding technologies that ensures consolidated and integrated data availability to the right folks in a timely manner
· Importantly, the data integration process has very stringent levels of accuracy, so that reliability is never a question
· Implementation of BI platform that provides incisive analysis and easy-to-use “Root Cause Analysis” techniques
· Striking feature of the BI tool is the auto-detection of EXCEPTIONS, and alerting to the appropriate stakeholder whenever certain business rules are violated
· Rolling out AI/ML driven Planning, Buying and Merchandising tool, which provides smart recommendations
· IMO, the importance of decision-making on “real time data” is over-exaggerated. There are very few Use Cases where Sales/Inventory data of the last 1 hour would prompt our decisions. One such use case definitely is during times of EOSS, when we keep a keener eye on stock levels of fast-moving merchandise
· To integrate a “Personalized Product recommendation” engine, driven on AI/ML algorithms at the point of purchase, offline and online. This engine, once implemented, will pop up recommendations on the cashier’s screen, based on the identified customer’s past trends and preferences, and will also factor in current items in the cart, to recommend the best possible merchandise to upsell to the customer.
· As a next step, Soch is considering deploying geo-tagging functionality to push personalised curations, even to non-transacting customers, eg, loyalty customers having the Soch App on their mobile, and being in the same mall.
Payment: For easy payments, the brand is encouraging contact less payments, where consumers can pay either on Phone pay, Gpay, Paytm. For high bill value, consumers can also avail EMI option, where e-invoices are sent to them instead of hard copy invoice.
New Areas to Explore
Soch currently is working on the following services for better consumer experience and convenience:
● Live commerce
● Virtual shopping
● Social commerce
● A holistic Omnichannel platform
● A tightly integrated digital marketing plan that is in constant touch with the merchandise offerings and consumers
● The store app may morph into a brand app for consumers too
● Build a single data lake/warehouse of all customer-related data systems (POS, e-commerce, CRM-Loyalty, Customer Service channel)
● Make available critical information/inference about the customer at each customer touch-point — cashier, e-commerce, customer service channels.