To stay ahead in the Selling Game!
Giving insights into the strategies that offline stores can adopt to combat the online surge
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.”
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.