Taking the Digital Offline
The eCommerce boom has taken India by storm. The Indian E-commerce market is expected to cross USD 17 billion in 2018, and eight million SMEs (out of 13 million SMEs). It is also expected that 200 million individuals will transact online.With the recent surge in the number of citizens that are connected to the Internet, and the next wave of Internet growth expected from rural India, the eCommerce market is well poised to present immense options and opportunities, for both, the buyers and the sellers.
However, as more options emerge for online shopping, they are threatened by the possibility of domain overcrowding. Businesses must ensure that audiences are able to recognize and appreciate a clear distinction between their offerings and that of their competitors. In a recently released report by Inc. 42 listing 500 Indian startups that had to shut down in the last 20 months, Foodtech, Hyperlocal Delivery, Grocery and eCommerce cumulatively form 55% of the chart. The stiff competition in vying for customer attention and mindshare amidst the crowded digital space, and the emergence of eCommerce giants such as Flipkart, Amazon and Alibaba, make it an uphill task for online-only retailers to get noticed, much less to stand out from their competitors. This has also forced heavy market consolidation in the Indian eCommerce space.
The Future: ‘Bricks and Clicks’
In creating unique brand experiences amidst the online competition, omni-channel strategies are gaining traction in modern online retail business – this involves the integrated cross-use of multiple channels, from virtual to physical, in order to exploit synergy benefits. This also bodes well in a country like India, where buyers are keen to ‘touch and feel’ products before purchasing. Many eCommerce companies, like Pepperfry.com and Lenskart.com, are trying to capitalize on this behavioral insight, and establishing offline presence. Myntra recently launched a ‘try and buy’ feature on similar lines, to allow consumers to experience their products. As the digital offerings for consumers increase, companies will have to relook at their strategies to ensure that they are able to retain market share and consumer loyalty.
Creating a seamless, highly customized shopping experience across channels as such allows businesses to optimize:
- Shopper engagement – Consumers are looking for ease in transacting. The more frictionless the transaction, the more likely a consumer will make a purchase. The advent of social media and easily available reviews, also affects favorability towards brands and purchase decisions of customers
- Store operations – Retailers can also benefit by the adoption of a back-end operations and pricing consistencies to ensure that user experience remains consistent across channels
- Shopper loyalty – Through multiple channels and interactions, retailers can better understand shoppers’ behavior, and tailor marketing strategies to meet the needs of consumer in real time. Studies have also shown that shoppers who shop via multi-channels tend to be more loyal than those who shop using one channel
#GenMobile millennials – the digitally native millennials - will continue to drive this movement of multi-channel shopping. India is expected to become the youngest country by 2021, with 64% of its population in the working age group of 20-35, according to the 2013-14 Economic Survey. The millennials are also expected to possess higher spending power than previous generations. This however, increases the pressure on today’s retailers to cater to the demands of the #GenMobile shoppers, as they are one of the most diverse, informed and digitally connected generations, with unique attitudes and motivations. They expect a rich, and personalized anytime, anywhere shopping experience, across the multiple devices that they carry.
Leveraging IoT and mobility to power hybrid shopping experiences
For online retailers, integrating ‘brick-and-mortar’ should move beyond just about opening a physical store. The aim should be to physically deliver a unique brand impression that allows customers a seamless, personalized and intuitive in-store experience. The connected revolution in India, presents itself at a perfect time for citizens and retailers alike. It has handed retailers an unprecedented opportunity to bridge the digital and physical experience, and redefine their omni-channel strategies.
With the help of analytics, the possibility of a personal pocket concierge that understands shoppers and knows how to engage them, exists today. Retailers can understand consumer interests and preferences, gauge their requirements, and leverage this data to deliver enticing offers and promotions. Retailers could deliver interactions with the products available for sale, by giving real-time information on price, reviews and availability, in order to enhance shopping experiences. Through insights into consumer profile and behavior, retailers can proactively recommend products aligned to available information and preferences, such as clothing size, and online buying history.
This, we believe, is the future of #GenMobile retail. With the advent of IoT and mobility technology, it is now closer than ever, allowing retailers to deliver tailor-made experiences to each individual customer. A three-pronged mobile-first, IoT-driven approach can help businesses make their omni-channel strategies a reality:
- Reliable and highly scalable wireless infrastructure - Wi-Fi based analytics tools, helps drive data into actionable business intelligence that can be used to gain insights into customers’ profile, enabling rich and personalized shopping journeys
- Mobile app and location services – Through the use of beacons and IoT sensors, retailers can transform the shopping experience by delivering relevant context sensitive information to shoppers’ mobile phones based on their real-time location, and allowing wayfinding through dedicated mobile apps
- Centralized management tools – In order to efficiently manage the big data and devices that retailers will have access to, they would need a smart and simple platform that makes sense of analytics, manages networks and devices, and monitors and troubleshoots issues that could potentially jeopardize the business
Studies about customer behavior show that consumers are now shopping across channels more than ever. This proves that going forward, an online-only or physical-only approach will put businesses at a disadvantage in the modern competitive retail world. The thin line that separates omni-channel and multichannel lies in integration; and a well-defined omni-channel strategy where the physical and digital work in tandem, merging into a seamless, value-added shopping journey is the need of the hour. Captivating #GenMobile audiences and keeping them engaged, should be high on the retailers’ priorities, to ensure the longevity of their business.
Santanu Ghose is Director Networking at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, a position he has held since 2014. In his role Mr. Ghose is responsible for leading the networking business unit for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Mr Ghose and his team is accountable for understanding customer needs and requirements and translating that to tangible business outcomes.
Mr. Ghose previously managed the Unix, Nonstop and High End Server Business unit driving exponential growth and increased market share. Prior to that he pioneered development of Cloud Solution business and market adoption of Converge Infrastructure concepts and solution at Hewlett Packard Company.
A highflier sales leader, Mr. Ghose has more than 25 years of experience and has held various sales, marketing and business development positions in the industry. Mr Ghose holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering with specialization in Industrial Engineering.