WHY IN-STORE EXPERIENCE MATTERS MORE THAN EVER
“If physical retail is really in trouble then why is e-commerce giant Amazon working on opening its second brick-and-mortar store? Why have other previously online-only brands such as Birchbox and Warby Parker made the jump to offline? The world’s most recognisable brands offer a feeling and an experience. Although Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are making great strides in digital retail, so far nothing can compare to the real-life experience of shopping in a store.”
Today, in the age of online shopping, flash sales and convenience apps, some retailers believe that digital strategy is their ‘silver bullet.’ Yet with all this newness and buzz, what sets truly innovative marketers apart is a single, counter intuitive insight: The in-store shopping experience matters now, more than ever.
Broadly, three factors are driving the importance of the modern in-store brand experience.
Inherent limit of e-commerce experience: People still want to see, touch and feel products, and share with others – ideally in a community of the brand loyal. Only a store can deliver that full experience.
Shoppers are shopping less, but still they want their experiences to provide more. Brands merging online and real-world experiences with the help of the mobile phone as a bridge are seeing the benefit in their bottom lines.
The best stores create a brand experience that is completely unique and unforgettable for the customer. These are spaces that customers want to spend time in, that they look forward to visiting and know will always have something new for them to discover.
The challenge, then, for top companies is clear: How do you leverage the in-store experience to ensure brands grow and thrive? Retail leaders from different formats met to discuss: ‘Why Instore Experience Matters More Than Ever’ at the IMAGES Retail Editorial Meet organised during India Retail Forum 2017 in Mumbai. The roundtable was powered by Philips Lighting.
The esteemed panel included Jitender Verma,
Chief Technology Officer at Inox Leisure Ltd.; Kiran Komatla, Head IT, Burger King; Sukanto Aich, Director and Head of Professional Sales, Philips Lighting; Vikram Idnani, Head
IT, Reliance Retail; Anil Menon,head IT at Trent Hypermarket Ltd; Sandeep Mistry,head IT, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd; Kunal Mehta, Head IT, Raymond Lifestyle Business. The roundtable was moderated by Ameesha Prabhu, CEO, TRRAIN.
Ameesha Prabhu, CEO, TRRAIN, kickstarted the discussion by saying that the idea of the dialog was to figure out what a customer needed in-store, how should physical retailers enhance consumer experience in the age of e-commerce, Omnichannel and the online marketplace. She said the focus of the debate should be on how in-store customer experience was going to be the difference that would make a retailer
– his stores and his brand – stand out.
PERSONALISATION, DIGITISATION & CUSTOMER CONNECT
Vikram Idnani, Head IT, Reliance Retail, said when a customer walked into a store, s/he typically didn’t know whether they were there to buy something or just browse. Once they enter the store, they encounter various touchpoints – the product, the assistant, support staff, check-out counter. “A lot of physical interaction points are getting digitized. The customer can use digital touchpoints to see where products are placed, what sizes and colours are available and get information about the fabric, design and stitching along with other parameters of the product etc. Retailers should improve digital interaction, without losing the personal touch.”
Jitender Verma, Chief Technology Officer at Inox Leisure Ltd. agreed saying that although it was great that retail touchpoints were being digitised, retailers still needed to tap into consumer information, connect with a customer in-store, clone their mobile phones to know their browser history and more. “Let the customer be selfenabled. Shift power into his hands, but ensure that you tap all information for a better experience.”
Kunal Mehta, Head IT, Raymond Lifestyle Business said that he believed today’s consumer had evolved tremendously. “Today’s consumer wants information and hence we have to train our retail staff accordingly. For eg: an employee should be able to scan a bar code and give the consumer the entire history of a particular product,” he stated.
STAFFING, PRODUCT ASSORTMENT& PRICING
Kiran Komatla, Head IT, Burger King said that in the restaurant business, the touchpoint with the customer was not even two minutes. “We have to check out more than 1000-2000 customers in the worst of scenarios, so if you are unable to communicate everything about your product to the customer, you’ve lost the game even if you have a fantastic product and a great digital experience,” he explained.
According to him, employees must know everything about the product because customers in India have a ‘suggest to us’ mentality and hence, staff training was extremely important, albeit a tough task because of geography, cultural differences and differences in food habits.
Anil Menon,head IT at Trent Hypermarket Ltd shared his experiences saying that the Millennial consumer was very well-informed and health conscious. “They buy things which they have read up on, which they think will have health benefits.
This is the kind of customer information I want at my fingertips, so I can tap into it and give them the best experience possible – online or offline. Also, if a consumer can’t find something in store, he should be able to order it online and we should be able to provide it to him at his doorstep. If I can give my consumers these things, they will come back to my website and to my store.”
He said the way to do this was to look at information through a bar code. The scanned bar code can give you a lot of information about a consumer – what he likes to buy and how often he buys it.
“The other important factor to keep in mind is pricing. Prices vary as per competitors and rivals in our industry. I need to make sure that when a consumer leaves my store, he should have the best and the most of everything possible in his budget. That’s the secret to successful pricing and to keep consumers rolling in,” he stated.
LIGHTING UP A STORE: IS THIS IMPORTANT ENOUGH?
Sukanto Aich, Director and Head of Professional Sales, Philips Lighting said, “We are serving the B2B customer and who is extremely well connected on his mobile phone. Today, this Millennial customer has the shopping list on his phone. To peek into the shopper’s mind Lulu mall in Kochi has developed an app for us. If you have this app, you walk into Lulu mall and you search for a product, our intelligent lights will quickly pick up that you are looking for that product
and guide you to where it is being sold.” “We are trying to lure new technology-oriented Millennials and giving them convenient buying solutions through lighting, so Lighting is a very exciting field right now,” he added.
Kunal Mehta, Head IT, Raymond Lifestyle Business said that from an experience perspective, lighting played a very important role in their stores. “When you sell apparel, you want clothes to look good, the colour and fabric to show up prominently. This is where lighting and ambience comes into play,” he said.
Inox’s Jitender Verma added,“lighting is part of the design from the time a store is conceptualised on the drawing board. From a cinema perspective, we really need to take care of the customer experience in terms of designing ambience and lighting. You are going to spend up to three hours with us in Inox. We need you to be away from the hustle bustle or the real world, be comfortable and happy in a soothing atmosphere– both for the eyes and the mind.”
Talking about his personal experience in the space of lighting, Sandeep Mistry, Head IT, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd said, “We opened a new store some months ago and we saw a 44 percent jump just after renovation. The result was overwhelming for this used to be one our most dull stores and it had completely turned around after the lighting and ambience was changed. Another store which we have opened in Bengaluru is looking so amazing with all the lighting that people are just being lured inside.”
Komal Komatla added, “Another part of lighting, which is extremely important, is digital experience– a larger display with HD and extra HD visuals showing how food is prepared. All of this makes for good customer connect.”
Sukanto Aich said, “There are other things to be careful of. Lighting which looks fantastic during the night wouldn’t look that great in the day. To overcome these challenges, we are providing new age lights. For example, to Raymond, we have given lighting options in the trial room so when a customer tries on a shirt, he can see how it will look when he wears it to work in the day, and then in a different light, can see what it would look like in the evening in party lighting.”
Ameesha Prabhu thought this concept of occasion lighting was very important in the cosmetic industry for makeup tends to look completely different in different lighting conditions.
CHALLENGES AT CHECKOUT POINT
The checkout experience in India is pretty sad– not just in terms of technological advancement, but also in terms of trained staff and updated POS machines.
Kiran Komatla said that to make sure that the last mile was seamless for customers, Burger King promises them a 2-minute checkout time – from the time they bill to the time they get the products in their hand.
Talking about Trent,
Anil Menon said: “One big challenge the grocery sector faces is that of multiple
MRPS floating in the market. A consumer picks up 45 products, out of which 40 are scanned but for five, the cashier has to run to the backend to ensure he has the correct price and enter the details manually, then chalk it up to bad consumer experience. Apart from this, our staff also needs to incorporate promotional work at the checkout points, which makes it complicated,” said Anil Menon of Trent.
Self-checkouts, the experts agreed were not in the near future for India.
Vikram Idnani of Reliance Retail said, “I have done a selfcheckout at a Walmart store in USA, but I had to weigh the groceries myself and had to make sure that I selected the right product code when I was weighing them. In India, consumers are used to getting assistance, so self-checkouts are a far cry. Retailers can do self-checkouts in the fashion and lifestyle arenas.”
He also said that the concept of a ‘constant moving queue’ was something retailers in India needed to apply. “Customers should get the feeling that the queue they are waiting in at the checkout is constantly moving and is organized. This is very important in multiple line scenario, for it’s human tendency to feel that the other line is moving faster, which in turn leads to a lot of queue jumping leading to chaos.”
WHAT’S NEXT IN INSTORE EXPERIENCES?
Inox’s Jitender Verma explained that for them, creating offline experiences inside cinema halls was very important. “People come with children, a very rich target audience for us. Families sometimes have to wait 20-25 minutes for a film to start once they buy tickets. This is the time for us to lure them into in-cinema playzones (in our lobbies). We have also used online to create offline digital experiences – for example we have LEDS with interactive digital displays where kids can explore and play with animals like dinosaurs and dolphins.
Once children are hooked, we hope they will come back to us the next time they think of going to watch a movie. We are also experimenting a lot with multiple food counters, a self-service option, a fastforward counter and have even installed food kiosks,” he concluded.
Kunal Mehta, Raymond Lifestyle Business
Vikram Idnani, Reliance Retail
Jitender Verma, Inox Leisure Ltd.
Ameesha Prabhu, TRRAIN
Kiran Komatla, Burger King
Anil Menon, Trent Hypermarket Ltd
Sukanto Aich, Philips Lighting
Sandeep Mistry, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd