Images Retail - - THOUGHT LEADERSHIP - – By IM­AGES Re­tail Bu­reau

“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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

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