To stay ahead in the Sell­ing Game!

Giv­ing in­sights into the strate­gies that off­line stores can adopt to com­bat the on­line surge

Apparel - - Contents December 2014 -

THE ‘CLICK’ CHAL­LENGE

Tra­di­tional brick and mor­tar stores are fac­ing quite a few chal­lenges from con­tem­po­rary on­line stores, which, to­day, have tempt­ing of­fers, bet­ter prod­uct views, easy re­turns, shipping fa­cil­i­ties, etc. The ac­cep­tance of on­line re­tail is the big­gest threat to the off­line re­tail mar­ket. Con­sumer pref­er­ences are shift­ing largely to the con­cept of ‘show­room­ing,’ wherein peo­ple try prod­ucts at malls and make their pur­chases from on­line re­tail por­tals which of­fer heavy dis­counts. “Off­line re­tail­ers have shown con­cern as their business is get­ting af­fected and there is a fear amongst the brands that their im­age can get af­fected if the prices are too low. The foot­falls have been im­pacted as the sales have been shift­ing on­line. The boom in the e-com­merce space has par­tic­u­larly caused the mar­gins to di­min­ish and it has be­come im­pos­si­ble to com­pete with the preda­tory pric­ing of on­line re­tail­ers. Hence, in­stead of feel­ing threat­ened, as a com­pet­i­tive brand, we have set-up our own on­line business ex­pand­ing our ex­ist­ing net­work so that we don’t ig­nore the rel­e­vance of this plat­form,” says An­imesh Ma­hesh­wari, Vice Pres­i­dent, Riot, Re­tail Ven­ture of Su­diti In­dus­tries Ltd. Another big chal­lenge for off­line stores is that on­line stores have an edge when it comes to dis­tri­bu­tion of prod­ucts across bound­aries as well as the clien­tele they ap­proach.

STRATE­GIES & MORE

In this dig­i­tal age, a tra­di­tional mar­ket player has to be­come tech-savvy to com­pete with those who have al­ready carved a niche in the mul­ti­chan­nel re­tail seg­ments or with the es­tab­lished e-stores. Ac­cord­ing to De­signer Paresh Lamba, “Ex­clu­sive time to clients for cus­tomi­sa­tion is some­thing that only an off­line store can of­fer. Al­ter­ing the styles, fab­rics and de­tails ac­cord­ing

IN THIS DIG­I­TAL AGE, A TRA­DI­TIONAL MAR­KET PLAYER HAS TO BE­COME TECH SAVVY TO COM­PETE WITH THOSE WHO HAVE AL­READY CARVED A NICHE WITH ES­TAB­LISHED E-STORES.

to their taste and per­sona al­ways helps to please clients much more than get­ting a ready gar­ment de­liv­ered at their door step.” Off­line stores come in handy for cus­tomers who might not be able to vi­su­alise an on­line gar­ment or if they are par­tic­u­lar about their styling. Brick and Mor­tar stores pro­vide a huge range of prod­ucts and pos­si­bil­i­ties. Ritesh Hin­go­rani, Man­ager, Al­ter­nate Sales, Spykar Life­styles Pvt. Ltd. adds, “Free home de­liv­ery and ex­change pol­icy as well as hav­ing ded­i­cated days in the week or month wherein some promo/event can be done will help ‘store re­call.’ Some malls have ‘Spe­cial Tues­days’ and this can be a good strat­egy to at­tract cus­tomers to off­line stores.” Fur­ther­more, de­signer, Sou­nia Go­hil, ex­plains, “Off­line stores also ben­e­fit from the fact that in the ap­parel in­dus­try, ‘feel­ing is be­liev­ing.’ Con­sumers will al­ways pre­fer tra­di­tional stores where they are able to see and feel the fab­ric and try the dresses on, rather than see­ing prod­ucts on a screen. Even re­cent tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in the on­line shop­ping space in prod­uct vi­su­al­i­sa­tion have not been able to budge con­sumers.”

PRICE WARS

While dis­count­ing is al­ways a pri­mary strat­egy, off­line stores know that this strat­egy can­not be re­lied upon as on­line stores can eas­ily beat them in it. How­ever, the at­trac­tive and cre­ative am­bi­ence of the store can­not be im­i­tated by an e-com­merce por­tal which gives the brick and mor­tar store an ad­van­tage. Ma­hesh­wari elu­ci­dates, “A con­nec­tion with the tar­get is needed. We have adopted a strat­egy to ini­ti­ate ac­tiv­i­ties that con­nect with our tar­get au­di­ence on both plat­forms.” Right now, it’s a tug of war sit­u­a­tion be­tween on­line and off­line stores, with clear ad­van­tages for on­line stores. De­signer duo Kapil & Mmonika opine, “Dis­count­ing can also be of­fered in dif­fer­ent slabs, so you can com­pel the shop­per to buy more rather than one sin­gle gar­ment.” A very im­por­tant as­pect of any shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence is try­ing to save as much money as pos­si­ble. “One rea­son that peo­ple en­joy shop­ping on­line is that you can of­ten find the same prod­uct cheaper than you can in stores. How­ever, there are also shipping costs, more of­ten than not, and th­ese can make up for the money you save at nor­mal stores. Again, shipping means that the prod­uct ar­rives late so off­line stores have an ad­van­tage that the prod­uct is with you as soon as you buy it,” ex­plains Aan­chal Jaggi from Aakar­shan. Ac­cord­ing to Nirzar Jain, VP, Oberoi Mall, it is not just about dis­counts any­more. “The unique mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties are crit­i­cal in a brand’s per­for­mance. Sea­son’s col­lec­tions, con­sumer en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties and the feel-and-touch of a prod­uct al­ways give an up­per hand to the off­line stores in the re­tail business. The ma­jor fo­cus is on the con­sumer en­gage­ment ac­tiv­i­ties be­cause that’s ex­actly where we can en­hance

the con­sumers’ shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Also, even in de­vel­oped mar­kets, off­line stores still ac­count for 90 per cent of sales. Another im­por­tant fac­tor is ‘we­b­room­ing,’ i.e. cus­tomers go on­line and then buy off­line in 85 per cent of cases for fash­ion prod­ucts. Most im­por­tantly, from the brand’s point of view, loy­alty can’t be built on dis­counts as cus­tomers who want dis­counts are look­ing for best deals and not best prod­ucts or mer­chan­dises.”

CRE­AT­ING THE DIF­FER­ENCE

Off­line stores need to have a good mer­chan­dis­ing strat­egy. “The store must try of­fer­ing ex­clu­sive gar­ments that are not avail­able on­line. Also, the as­sort­ment of gar­ments must ap­peal to the cus­tomers. Most of the re­tail­ers do not invest in the store ex­pe­ri­ence, which is again, an im­por­tant as­pect in re­tail. The win­dows need to have a pull fac­tor and the staff needs to be well groomed and po­lite with good in­ter­per­sonal and sell­ing skills. Off­line stores need to build a per­sonal touch with the cus­tomers, which is miss­ing in the on­line space, ex­plains Narinder Singh, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Numero Uno Cloth­ing Ltd. Again, off­line stores to­day be­lieve in go­ing all out to en­sure that they are able to reach cus­tomers. “The amal­ga­ma­tion of a few tra­di­tions with con­tem­po­rary strate­gies works won­ders in win­ning the hearts of the tar­get au­di­ence. We, at Ch­habra 555 try to de­velop and im­ple­ment all those cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion strate­gies that sa­ti­ate con­sumer needs and de­mands. We have in­sti­tuted sev­eral in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nisms to bring ef­fec­tive­ness and ef­fi­ciency in all those chan­nels that bring har­mony be­tween a cus­tomer and an en­tre­pre­neur,” says Asheeta Ch­habra, Business Head, Ch­habra 555. Ac­cord­ing to Akhil Jain, Cre­ative Di­rec­tor, Madame, “An ex­clu­sive CRM is the most im­por­tant op­tion left with brick and mor­tar stores to com­bat vir­tual re­tail­ing.” On­line shop­ping is price sen­si­tive, but when it comes to buy­ing high priced prod­ucts, most peo­ple pre­fer see­ing the prod­uct be­fore in­vest­ing in it. The touch and feel el­e­ment of shop­ping can only be pro­vided by off­line stores, and this can be made into a whole­some ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers. “Per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion and un­di­vided at­ten­tion to cus­tomers, with wishes sent on an­niver­saries and birthdays en­sure their con­tin­u­ous pa­tron­age.

EVEN IN DE­VEL­OPED MAR­KETS, OFF­LINE STORES STILL AC­COUNT FOR 90 PER CENT OF SALES.

Also, fea­tures li­kee valet park­ing, car washes, and chil­dren’s play fa­cil­i­ties, along with bet­ter food and en­ter­tain­ment choices, al­low con­sumers to con­tinue to fit the plea­sure of real-world shop­ping into their in­creas­ingly busy lives. This en­vi­ron­ment also leads to im­pul­sive shop­ping by non-se­ri­ous shop­pers, who are oth­er­wise out to just spend some qual­ity time with their fam­ily and friends. Also, ex­cel­lent knowl­edge of prod­ucts by the sales staff gives more con­fi­dence to con­sumers while mak­ing a pur­chase, since on­line shop­ping of­fers lit­tle in terms of com­plete knowl­edge of a prod­uct,” says Joseph Muthaiyan, CEO, Blumerq.

THET DI­WALI FI­ASCO

AsA an­tic­i­pated, this year’s Di­wali sales were a bitb of a damp­ener for off­line stores. “The Di­wali sea­sons was a dis­ap­point­ment, not only for NumeroN Uno, but for all the brands in the ap­parel seg­ment.s Many cus­tomers pre­ferred shop­ping forfo elec­tron­ics and con­sumer durables rather thanth gar­ments. Heavy dis­counts of­fered by most on­li­neo shop­ping sites were also the rea­son for theth de­cline in sales,” says Singh. Although heavy on­li­neo dis­counts did lower sales for off­line re­tail­ers in ap­parel, some cat­e­gories like elec­tron­ics were af­fecteda more than oth­ers. “The charm of be­ing ono beau­ti­fully lighted streets with fam­ily and friendsfr dur­ing Di­wali en­sured steady foot­falls in stores and most re­tail­ers of­fered amaz­ing dis­countsd to el­e­vate sales,” says Muthaiyan.

The cur­rent trends see many on­line ap­parel brandsb and other brands plan­ning to launch their of­fli­neo stores; at the same time, off­line re­tail­ers are also lever­ag­ing the dig­i­tal space and con­nect­ing with cus­tomers through on­line space. Rachna Ag­gar­wal, CEO, In­dus League adds, “As a brand mar­keter, we see the way for­ward as be­ing about Omni-Chan­nel, where the ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the off­line and the on­line merges seam­lessly.” As the on­line plat­form is mak­ing big bucks, as a brand we need to sus­tain and learn to adapt to the new com­pet­i­tive mar­kets. Cre­at­ing rel­e­vance by cater­ing to on­line as well as off­line cus­tomers is a must. A strat­egy that caters to both the plat­forms will al­low sur­vival in this re­tail mar­ket.

THE CUR­RENT TREND SEES MANY ON­LINE AP­PAREL BRANDS AND OTHER BRANDS PLAN­NING TO LAUNCHH THEIR OFF­LINE STORES. S. AT THE SAME TIME, OFF­LINE RE­TAIL­ERS ARE RE ALSO LEVER­AG­ING THE E DIG­I­TAL SPACE.

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