The Brick & Click Handshake
We are in an age where the world is taken by a storm of digital innovations. Tagged as convenience, a digital revolution crawls into all facets of our lives. In such a scenario, the retail industry, one of the fastest growing industries in India, is taking measured steps into the digital world to deliver superior customer satisfaction. When we talk of the retail platform, all stories converge at the point of customer engagement. VM&RD digs deeper to gauge the impact of bricks and clicks shaking hands.
Across global markets, new technologies are permeating the multi-layered retail industries. In sync with these developments, VM and instore experiences are being increasingly monitored with digital innovations. For instance, Kate Spade ran a 1-month long pop-up store across four locations in New York which let customers purchase from the window 24x7. The purchases were delivered to the customers’ address. When it comes to digitised VM, the Indian retail industry is still at a nascent stage. Lot of brands are now seen to be using video relays of their fashion shows on screens instore to give a feel of the ensembles created by the brand. United Colors of Benetton has installed life-size screens at few of their stores which give the customers a feel of the product and at same time an expression of the brand. “While not many retailers are venturing into digitised VM due to the costs involved in creating the infrastructure and using the software, digital is where the future is. Physical and digital VM will be complimentary tools for creating a better association with the customer,” says Animesh Ikshit, VM Head, United Colors of Benetton, India. On the same subject, Rohit Nagpal, VM Head, Swatch India, says, “We have to envisage the future by keeping in mind the sociological and cultural horizons. I believe technology will take us to the next level and we would be developing various models based on the mere concept of technology where visual thinking and merchandising would lead the future of retail. This tribe, the visual merchandisers, should be ready to grasp these changes. Animation in surface retail application would be an important tool.” More recently, augmented reality has come to assert its presence in the retail industry. Shops across UK have tested the potential of using a virtual mirror where a digital screen works as a mirror and customers can see for themselves what clothes suit them. It frees the customer from the hassle of trying on different clothes. This is not yet a part of the Indian retail scene, but it might be so in the foreseeable future. Adstuck Consulting, based out of Bangalore, has a product called FitYour, a virtual fitting room. It can be installed on the store window itself and works like a virtual mirror. “We have installed FitYour at a few stores in the UK and Middle East but it is yet to come to India. We are implementing it for adidas in India and it should be in stores after two months,” says Abhishek Shankar, CEO AdStuck Consulting. Looking at a different model in the same space, Shopsense, a start-up focusing on customer engagement in retail stores through technological innovations, eases the offline retail experiences with an infusion of the online convenience. Shopsense boasts of Being Human, Satyapaul, Diesel and many more brands in the pipeline to its client portfolio. To understand their product ‘Match’, let us look at Being Human as an example. A customer can walk into the store, browse
through merchandise and then using a digital screen can scroll through the merchandise selection and check it out on a virtual Salman Khan, the brand ambassador. You can save time by trying only what you like the most. You can also email your choice to a friend for
his/her opinion. “We have linked the software to the store as well as the brand directory. One can shop directly from the screen itself or ask for the product in store. We are also integrating Whatsapp soon so that the images can be sent more easily. The idea was to create an experiential model which would make the customer want to spend more time in the store,” says Harsh Shah, Co-founder,
Shopsense. As a feedback, Kunal Mehta, VP Marketing and Business Development, Being Human, says,
“We are proud to be a part of digital innovations in retail when it is at its incipient stage in this country. Apart from adding to the brand value, we have seen a 7-10% increase in our revenues. This investment is more in terms of a marketing tool and a branding exercise which will gradually drive up the numbers .” On similar lines, Bangalore-based VU Technologies has come up with screens which integrate a brand’s e-commerce website and can be installed in-store for customers to browse through.
“We are still in the pilot stage and have launched it at few Croma and Shopper’s Stop stores. Customers will want online and offline as buying methods, one will not cannibalise the other. VU bridges that gap,”
says Devita Saraf, CEO & Design Head, VU Technologies. To look at a model of digitally powered store designs, the Asian Paints experience centres in Mumbai and Delhi are ideal examples. They reposition the brand from being an industrial paint manufacturer to a consumer
brand assisting people in their home decor. “The Colour experience store does not sell any paint; instead, they create a personalized inspirational and educational colour experience. Firstly, they step into the‘colour cloud’, a dramatic light installation, which helps them switch off their anxiety and relax into the process; then they move through a series of inspirational room-sets, collecting their favourite ideas on an RFID card. Thirdly, their ideas are collated into a personal magazine, which is shared online and printed to take home or to the dealer stores,”
says Darren Watson, Project Design Lead, FITCH. The customer can choose a shade from an array of 3D colour cubes and also see hoe it would look in a virtual room. ‘ Inspiration dashboards’, located within each room set, allow shoppers to play and learn how colour can transform space, and how light affects colour. The entire store experience is carried in a card which uses simple RFID technology to store data, and by tapping it at key points that punctuate the store, shoppers are able to collect their choices that help them move to the next stage of decision-making. With brands wanting to create a digitized experience and technological brainiacs striving to create that, we can envision an omni-channel world of retail where the line between online and offline retail experience will gradually fade out. The concepts of showrooming and reverse showrooming seem to be going neck-to-neck with each other indicating the demand for both online and offline retail. It only makes sense to bring the two to a single destination. Hold your breaths, a digital future awaits!