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Indian Customers and the Multi-channel Shopping Experience Despite it being an established fact that the customers today prefer a multi-channel shopping and brand experience, it is not guaranteed that every multi-channel retailer is bound to succeed

By Azmat Sahaaf

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The Indian retail market is the tempting pie that everyone wants a piece of. Retail in India is set to cross the $1 trillion mark by 2020. India is not only the fastest growing economy in the world, but also the fastest-growing e-commerce market in Asia. The Indian market is growing at a CAGR of 44per cent which is much higher than the regional CAGR of 28per cent. The e-commerce turnover in India is expected to cross $70 billion in 2019 and would constitute about 30per cent of the total organized retail in India.

Multi-channel Retail

The retail industry is a constantly-on-the-move domain with each generation of buyers and sellers ushering in a lot of new age practices and trends. The good old days of retail being an exclusively "in-shop' business are long gone. Today, we have multiple retail avenues like traditional brick and mortar stores, e-commerce websites, tele-shopping, app-based shopping, drop-shipping, etc. With increasing dependence upon digital technology, the shift from traditional to multi-channel shopping is evident.

While each generation of customers has its own preferences related to shopping, the common thing about majority of the customers today is that they indulge in multi-channel shopping experience. Online shoppers expect to find their desired products on multiple e-commerce websites.

Let's say a customer wants to buy a Samsung smart phone after seeing its TV commercial. The typical process for a contemporary customer would be to search for details about the product and its features. It will be followed by product reviews by other customers on the retailer's website and ecommerce websites such as Amazon. Then the customer might proceed to compare it with other similarly placed products and make a well-informed product choice.

After having looked at the product on those multiple channels, the customer might eventually visit an official Samsung store and buy the product from there. A major Indian retailer (name withheld) has a unique hybrid of online and offline sales channels. It offers a fantastic multi-channel experience to its customers by giving them option to buy from its website or the retail outlets. The retailer understands the multi-channel trends and understands that every person interested in buying a mobile phone might not buy it online.

What this retail giant did is that it has created a seamless integration between both channels. When a user searches for a product online, the website's AI-based algorithm locates the store nearest to the user's location that has the product in stock.

It then offers the user the option of going ahead and purchasing the product online via a standard online purchase or to order the product from the store and get it delivered at home within a few hours. Alternatively, it also provides an option for the customer to put the item in the cart for a specific duration and schedule a store visit to pick up the product physically.

This advent of multi-channel shopping has not been driven by either the ecommerce players or the traditional retailers. Rather, it is a demand of the new age customer. The customers today are not only tech savvy, but, also very particular about what kind of product and services they expect. They are well-versed with the various options that technology offers and give value to retailers that offer the option to shop the way they want from the desired POS.

There are going to be customers who will search for a product's information online and then make the purchase in a physical store. At the same time, there are customers who will prefer getting a look and feel of the product in a physical store and then buy it from an app or a website depending upon where they get the better deal and shopping experience.

Multi-channel is Not a Guarantee of Success

Despite it being an established fact that the customers today prefer a multi-channel shopping and brand experience, it is not guaranteed that every multi-channel retailer is bound to succeed. The success of a multi-channel retail strategy is for it to be consumer-centric. The reason why a user wants a multi-channel experience is to get a superb, hassle-free and best deal experience. It is of little consequence as to how the customer interacted with your brand.

The CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillon had famously stated, "I want us to stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they are two separate things. The customer doesn't think of it that way and we can't either.

In Conclusion

The consumer shopping patterns in India are changing rapidly. During a survey conducted by Forrester Research, it was revealed that the customers buy or order products and services online, at a frequency of at least once a month and almost 22per cent respondents stated that they buy products on a weekly basis. Companies are rapidly leveraging multi-channel marketing and branding to deliver a seamless customer experience that makes their brands stand tall among the crowd.

Azmat Sahaaf

Co- Founder of Bigly Technologies Pvt Ltd

Azmat Sahaaf is the Co-Founder of Bigly Technologies Pvt Ltd., A company creating an ecosystem for Individuals to be a part of retailing and help Indian SME’s to connect with the untapped buyers to provide personalized and regional experiences. His brainchild has grown from strength to strength ever since its establishment in 2016
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