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AI, ML will unlock capabilities in omnichannel retailing: Ramneek Khurana of Lenskart

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Eyewear retail chain Lenskart’s co-founder Ramneek Khurana on the company’s omnichannel journey and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to optimise an enhanced experience

Bengaluru: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are poised to unlock significant capabilities in omnichannel retailing according to Ramneek Khurana, co-founder of Lenskart, a multinational optical prescription eyewear retail chain.

Speaking about the chain’s breakthrough using the technology, he said, “The initial breakthrough with AI and ML was leveraging existing CCTV footage seamlessly without altering any store cameras. Layering machine learning on top enabled us to extract valuable insights, mirroring the convergence funnel seen in online platforms”.

It helped Lenskart understand the demographics, behaviours, and preferences of visitors, optimizing their in-store experience. The idea was to streamline and enhance the process and minimise friction for customers as much as possible.

Khurana was speaking at a fireside chat titled “Enabling customer engagement across touchpoints through a robust omnichannel strategy” which was part of the IMAGES Group’s Internet Commerce Summit 2023 held in Bengaluru recently.

Ashish Dhir, executive vice president of 1Lattice, a technology-enabled decision support organization, took on the role of the moderator for the interactive session.

Going omnichannel

Speaking about Lenskart’s decision to embark on an omnichannel journey, Khurana shared that the eyewear retailer initially chose online for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, consumer studies based on its app use revealed that consumers were facing difficulties in making purchases. “Many were uncertain about how glasses would fit or look on them. Additionally, a significant hurdle was the lack of knowledge about their current eye test prescription and where to obtain an updated one. In response, we strategically began opening physical stores to address these concerns,” he said.

He explained that the company found it illogical to limit purchases in a physical store to what’s available in it. This prevents people from trying or buying products not in stock at the outlet. Similarly, it was impractical to make customers physically return products purchased at a store. Customers should have the convenience of returning or refunding products from the comfort of their homes, as is common in online e-commerce.

“To address these issues, we began developing a system that eventually led to the implementation of omnichannel solutions for returns and refunds,” added Khurana.

Lenskart Advantages

Discussing the company’s infrastructure, Khurana said that the secret to its success is its high level of vertical integration, managing everything from frame and lens production to manufacturing, along with the development of supply chain, manufacturing, and store operations software by a dedicated team.

Lenskart too encountered all the challenges related to consumer hesitancy in making confident online purchases. “When a customer visits a store and later shops online, we strive to replicate the same level of confidence they experienced offline. The eye checkup they underwent in-store is seamlessly accessible online, facilitating a smooth and confident purchasing experience for their subsequent transactions,” he explained.

For the company, its omnichannel strategy offers advantages throughout the entire consumer journey, beginning from the consideration phase. Whether triggered by a TV ad, Instagram, or a friend’s recommendation, potential customers can instantly download the app, try on glasses virtually, and make immediate decisions. As they progress in their journey and shortlist products, Lenskart addresses the potential drop-off by encouraging a visit to an offline store for a comprehensive eye test. Post-purchase, the app seamlessly handles order tracking, returns, and refunds, ensuring a smooth end-to-end customer experience.

Advice to startups

Offering advice to startups venturing into omnichannel, Khurana suggests, “Don’t approach omnichannel backwards. Instead, focus on understanding the customer’s perspective and solving the relevant problems specific to your business. Avoid merely following a checklist for being channel-activated.”

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