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!

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