The journey of organized retail in India since the last two decades has been rather quick – from offering convenience to the shopper in a posh brick and mortar format to giving him an option to shop online and then making things available through multi-channel retail; the latest buzz word is Omni – Channel Retail.
Decoding this concept was the objective of the panel discussion on – Engaging the Empowered Customer – Omni Channel Retailing. Panelists for the session included – D. Baskaramoorthy, Vice President Sales, Posiflex Technology; Kashyap Mehta, Head – ecommerce, Infiniti Retail Ltd.; Manoj Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, edabba.com; S Natrajan, Country Business Manager, Embedded Markets, Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd.; Vikran Potdar, Head – IT, Big Cinemas and Siju Narayan, Smarter Commerce Lead, IBM.
Kashyap, “Providing a single source of truth to the customer constitutes Omni Channel retail. It is not about providing an alternative channel to your customer to shop but it is about building and integrating the entire ecosystem of the various channels available.”
Kumar went on to add, “It is all about putting the customer at the centre and serving him through whatever channels he chooses to shop with. The final agenda is to give him an experience of shopping from a single ‘company / brand.”
The panelists were unanimous in their views – that offering an omni channel retailing experience was where all the retailers aspired to be. But there are several many inter-relating factors to achieve this. One of the major factor rested with having a seamless internet penetration in the country and once this would be resolved, India could be at par with other evolved Western / developed countries which had majority of their shoppers integrating the online and offline medium to shop.
Touching upon the subject of customer loyalty, Potdar’s view was that the Entertainment industry was different from Retail. In retail, having a loyalty program was almost a matter of “hygiene” with most customers expecting a “standard” bouquet of rewards. In the entertainment industry – loyalty was driven by geography – customers are usually not willing to venture to single screen theaters unless they are within a convenient travel radius.
Another interesting point of discussion revolved around the changing shopping habits of consumers and whether access to organized retail has created a greater number of impulse purchases. Kumar felt that with ecommerce, purchases were moving to an ‘aspirational’ or ‘dream’ purchase plane. He said, “Exposure in various forms is increasing consumption today!”
Narayan attributed the advent and influence of social media in shaping purchase behavior. Internationally 74 percent shoppers accept recommendations from their social network for upcoming purchase.
The panel concluded by discussing the role of technology in winning customer loyalty. Potdar highlighted the importance internal customer satisfaction being of prime importance as according to him, an empowered front end staff is in a better position to ensure that customer in turn is empowered.
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