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Imbibing digitization to omnichannel strategy

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From offering a seamless shopping experience to embracing the revolution set by digitization, omni-channel in retail has been witnessing a consistent momentum. Digitization is bringing in fresh features at a lightning speed but having said that, retailers need to keep in mind that each step of their still need to be dominated by the age old adage – customer is the King.

Setting the context for understanding the essence of omnichannel, Neeraj Manoria, assistant vice-president and head, Digital Strategy, Bangalore International Airport rightly emphasises that technology is disrupting the fashion industry very rapidly. Technology that is relevant today may not be relevant next year. Customers are more demanding, supply chain is shrinking, delivery is expected to be almost instant where the customers expect their orders to be delivered today or maximum tomorrow. They don’t want to wait. He shares, “Omni-channel retail is a major shift in the mindset, it needs time, investment and omnichannel dynamics are changing very rapidly.”

The above truly explains the soul of what omnichannel entails. It is simply more than just offering the customer a seamless experience. Omni-channel in its truest form is offering the customer what she wants, in a way she wants and when she wants. As Manoria rightly puts it across, “One size approach does not work – what does that mean – that we cannot put customers in a segment, we need to have customer specific offering wherever we do.”

The most obvious questions then arises is that in such a complex environment how do we create an omni-channel strategy? “It starts with brilliant basics. But what do we mean by that? As I said digital transformation is a huge investment so if you start getting into every line of business – like you get into omni-channel, you get into social channel, you get into every other thing, that is when the focus shifts. What needs to be remembered is that we have to keep things simple. We start with the basic product and start building on top of it, instead of just having it at one go. Consistency is the key. We need to have a very seamless and consistent experience when it comes to the customer’s shopping journey,” shares Manoria. 

To accentuate this, Manoria talks about a company called OSS Fashion which is a notch above others when it comes to offering an envious customer service. Elaborating on this, he shares, “They blend their mobile app, commerce site and brick and mortar store in such a beautiful way that it gives a wonderful experience for their customers. What do they do? So their store associates are equipped with tabs and the tab has the entire history of the customers and they know each and every detail of the customer that they have been browsing on the platform, what products they have added to the cart etc. When they come to the shop floor, they interact with the customers in their own language. They help them provide all the necessary information that they have been looking for and that tab also becomes a cash register so they can close the sale then and there and that is the experience we have to give to the customer when we talk about omnichannel.” Manoria stresses that it becomes critical that it is a cohesive journey and not a string of loosely assembled features. 

To add to the above example, he further talks about the experience Disney extends to their patrons once they book their trip to Disneyland. The Disney Experience App allows the visitor to pre-plan his Disney trip – from accessing fast tag passes to narrowing down on where to shop, eat and other attractions while at Disneyland. The entire navigation is presented to him and this keeps him hooked on the app while he is there. The app also facilitates payments for wherever he eats or shops. “It is like a one-stop shop for everything. You are just so hooked to this app that when you are in Disneyland you will not get out of this,” shares Manoria.

Customer will always be the king

Each and every retailer will vouch for the fact that no matter what, a customer is always to be kept on top of all the strategies being planned. Most important among all would be being attentive to customer feedback. Manoria advises, “You have to listen to customer feedback and you have to capture that at every point. These feedbacks help you in refining your product, making the product better. A great example of that is how Apple has used NPS (net promoter score) surveys. They have made an additional revenue of around $25 million by using the NPS survey. What they have done is that they have taken the NPS data and all the deterrents or people who have given negative feedback and they have started interacting with those customers. First, they were able to convey those detractors to Apple users and second, wherever they could not, they have actually started taking the feedback and started building the feedback received into the product. This has given them a great experience in the long run.”

Where there is no denying that technology is the key to everything in retail but as Manoria accurately suggests, it is more imperative to remaining focus on customer journeys and not technology, “so technology should not define my customer journey but my customer journey should define my technology.” To emphasize on this, he shared the example of that Shein, the Chinese online fast fashion retailer. 

Started in 2008, the company clocked in a revenue of 30 billion dollars in 2022. The brand has kept it very simple. Their concept is to understand the target segment and having that deť ned – i.e. mainly teenagers and youngsters, they knew that this set was looking at fast fashion but value clothing. The company identified that their target audience remained highly influenced by social media – namely Instagram and TikTok. Shein went ahead to create a team of influencers who would rapidly churn out videos with merchandise from the brand and push sales eventually.

Manoria adds, “So taking inspiration from the example of Shien, you need to identify your target segment, you need to make your technology investment for that target segment instead of just trying to expand into everything.” 

Time to hyper-personalise

Again, the one size ť ts all approach no longer remains relevant in the ever changing dynamics of retail. Today, the most important thing is that of hyper-personalization. “We used to have an era where we used to segment customers into certain buckets but that does not work anymore. Now every customer of ours needs very personalized offerings, they need offers and promotions and products curated for them and not for mass,” explains Manoria.

To explain on this further, he shared the strategy in place by fashion brand Stitch Fix which is an online personal styling in the US and UK. The brand uses recommendation algorithms and data science to personalize clothing items based on size, budget and style. The brand today has around 3 million active customers on their platform and their success rate is almost 70 per cent. Another interesting example is that of the innovation being brought out by adidas Futurecraft wherein they are getting into shoes speciť c to each customers feet. Fashion is truly getting democratised with the concept of 3D avatars that you a customer have of herself before buying an outfit. 

This helps in choosing the outfit that best suits you. Manoria further elaborates on how luxury brands too are making a mark for themselves in this technological revolution, “What Gucci is doing in the metaverse is they are churning out virtual merchandise and these merchandise can be brought by customers. In fact they have tied up with Roblox where Roblox fans are buying Gucci merchandise and putting it on their avatar and this is becoming a craze amongst Roblox fans and there are some bags that have been sold for $2500.”

The significance of retail metrics

Retail metrics remain the ultimate test of the success of all the strategies put in place. Manoria points out, when we make huge digital investment we also need to understand that whether we are getting optimum returns on our investment, “There are certain metrics you definitely have to follow – what is my return on my digital investment. What percentage of sales am I getting from AI driven algorithms, what are my customer success metrics, what are my NPS etc. Some of these metrics are very prominent and we have to keep track of these otherwise we tend to get into wrong trajectory.”

The omnichannel experience at the Bangalore International Airport

Accumulating the customer sentiments and the technological revolution taking place, Manoria and his team have gone ahead to create a truly omnichannel experience for their passengers.

To hear it in his words, “I come from the airport and at the airport we are transforming to become extended malls. So how are we transforming our passengers experience at Bangalore international airport? Our vision is to create customer experience by designing and digitizing our journeys. There are ť ve pillars we work on very actively – transforming the business which implies continuous innovation of product and services. We are in silicon valley of India so we need to have innovative products so we are churning it out fast. The second pillar is that of embracing the digital – we know that mobile is the way forward so every product we think of, it is a mobile first approach. Thirdly, improve operational efficiency – any digital product if you take too much time to create that product – you lose the term. So you need to churn it our fast.

Then, we are trying to reduce the turn-around time and mostly we are successful in that. Fifth – meaningful data driven decision making. We are moving from design driven to design led – we are using data very extensively and with greater collaboration. We have multiple partners working with us and we are bringing products together. So this is our omni-channel journey. We are building products for gamiť cation like Argo. We are also working on metaverse, we have launched our metaverse platform as well. A fantastic digital experience cannot be completed without true omni-channel payments, so we working on our omni-channel payment experience where we are providing single payment across all channels – be it physical or digital. It also provides instant earn and burn by just providing the phone number of a passenger at the time of purchase which is the most important time because that is the time when customer makes a decision on which card to use what offers are available etc. We push relevant offers and promotion contextual to that person, the coupons which are available with them etc.”

 

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