Revo­lu­tion­is­ing Re­tail, InNjuenc­ing Con­sump­tion & Driv­ing the Change To­gether

Images Retail - - FRONT PAGE - – By San­deep Ku­mar & Charu Lamba

While re­plac­ing man­power with tech­nol­ogy is not new in re­tail, the hu­man touch of the busi­ness can­not be ig­nored. Peo­ple have al­ways been the ap­peal of the re­tail in­dus­try. While shop­pers en­joy tech­nol­ogy, they want to talk to re­tail as­so­ci­ates who are at­ten­tive and wellinformed about the prod­uct, while help­ing them choose what suits their re­quire­ments the most…

Tech­nol­ogy has rev­o­lu­tionised re­tail in the last decade or so. It is in­flu­enc­ing re­tail con­sump­tion like never be­fore and is driv­ing the change to make the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence faster, more con­ve­nient, trans­par­ent and re­li­able. Hu­manoid In­tel­li­gence, Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, Bots, Cloud, Data, Magic Mir­rors, Bea­cons … ev­ery day there are ad­di­tions to the list of new tech­nolo­gies in the re­tail in­dus­try. Phy­gi­tal and Om­nichan­nel re­tail, dig­i­tal al­ter­ations, cash­less self-check-outs are all mak­ing life eas­ier at shop­ping malls and stores. In this tech­no­log­i­cal era, brands which are not pay­ing at­ten­tion and keep­ing up with the lat­est in tech are los­ing pop­u­lar­ity, busi­ness and con­sumers ev­ery day.

Re­tail­ers are in­vest­ing huge amounts of cap­i­tal in de­vel­op­ing and im­ple­ment­ing IT so­lu­tions and soft­ware to in­flu­ence cus­tomers’ buy­ing be­hav­iour. Some brands are glob­ally trans­form­ing them­selves into nearly hu­man-less stores.

The first su­per­mar­ket self-check­out sys­tem was in­stalled in 1992 in the Price Chop­per Su­per­mar­ket in New York by the man who in­vented the sys­tem, Dr. Howard Sch­nei­der. Ama­zon’s new fu­tur­is­tic con­ve­nience store– Ama­zon Go – has no lines, no wait­ing time and lit­tle-to-no hu­man in­ter­ac­tion and is the new talk­ing point of the re­tail in­dus­try.

The Hu­man Touch

While re­plac­ing man­power with tech­nol­ogy is not a new con­cept in re­tail, the hu­man touch of the busi­ness can­not be com­pletely ig­nored. Peo­ple have al­ways been the ap­peal of the re­tail in­dus­try. Ev­ery shop­per wants a spe­cial treat­ment in a store. They want to talk to re­tail as­so­ci­ates who are at­ten­tive and well-in­formed about the prod­uct, while help­ing them choose what suits their re­quire­ments the most. Re­tail staff – apart from pro­vid­ing cus­tomers with a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence – also plays a vi­tal role in ad­vis­ing on de­liv­ery op­tions or even in help­ing them use tablets in-store to or­der out-of-stock items. They are trained to of­fer the high­est level of sup­port, along ev­ery step of the cus­tomer jour­ney.

A re­port ti­tled Re­tail Per­cep­tions by In­ter­ac­tions, the re­tail so­lu­tions and ex­pe­ri­en­tial mar­ket­ing unit of re­tail brand­ing and sourc­ing firm Day­mon, sur­veyed more than 1,000 adult shop­pers, and found that while 84 per­cent ex­pect re­tail­ers to use tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, 62 per­cent pre­fer to be greeted in-store by a real per­son.

“We, at Danube Home, know and be­lieve that suc­cess is never bought from out­side, it must be home grown. That is why we pri­or­i­tize the well­be­ing and work sat­is­fac­tion of our em­ploy­ees and along with that, we in­vest our best time and ef­fort in en­cour­ag­ing, sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing the so­cial needs and as­pi­ra­tions of our peo­ple. We fa­cil­i­tate max­i­mum in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween em­ploy­ees and man­age­ment and en­cour­age a very open feed­back-based work cul­ture. Danube Home’s work­place en­vi­ron­ment is friendly and wel­com­ing, and we lend an ear to ev­ery em­ployee who can add value to our ex­ist­ing pool of knowl­edge. Our in­ter­ac­tions are both for­mal and in­for­mal, so much so that, our peo­ple feel at home, be­cause we be­lieve, in or­der to win the hearts of cus­tomers, we must first build a home in the hearts of our em­ploy­ees,” says Shub­ho­jit Ma­ha­lanobis, Gen­eral Man­ager, Danube Home.

“From its in­cep­tion, Easy­buy has been an or­gan­i­sa­tion that was fo­cused on its peo­ple. Easy­buy has adopted es­tab­lished HR prac­tices of its par­ent com­pany, Land­mark Group, and adapted them to its fast­paced, agile and fran­chise­based busi­ness model. A tes­ti­mony to the im­por­tance that Easy­buy places on its peo­ple is ev­i­dent from the fact that ev­ery em­ployee – whether in self-owned or fran­chised stores – is a part of the same en­gage­ment pro­gram and get the same ben­e­fits and HR ini­tia­tives,” says Anand Aiyer, SVP & Busi­ness Head – Easy­buy (Max Re­tail Divi­sion).

“To build a strong cor­po­rate brand, you need brand am­bas­sadors – em­ploy­ees who are thor­oughly en­gaged, con­nected and com­mit­ted. It is our con­stant en­deavor to em­power each of our

1,395 em­ploy­ees to take strate­gic busi­ness de­ci­sions. We be­lieve that when our em­ploy­ees are at their ‘au­then­tic best selves’ in the work­place, pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­ten­tion in­crease. We help our em­ploy­ees un­earth their great­est strengths

Danube Home’s work­place en­vi­ron­ment is friendly and wel­com­ing, and we lend an ear to ev­ery em­ployee who can add value to our ex­ist­ing pool of knowl­edge. – Shub­ho­jit Ma­ha­lanobis

Easy­buy has adopted es­tab­lished HR prac­tices of its par­ent com­pany, Land­mark Group, and adapted them to its fast­paced, agile and fran­chise-based busi­ness model. – Anand Aiyer

We help our em­ploy­ees un­earth their great­est strengths and in­te­grate them into every­thing they do as we be­lieve that this is es­sen­tial to our suc­cess and the suc­cess of our team. – Neha Shah

We have a driven, am­bi­tious and ded­i­cated team of em­ploy­ees who align them­selves to the com­pany’s vi­sion and be­come an in­te­gral part of the brands suc­cess. – San­deep Goenka

We are work­ing to­wards build­ing a cul­ture of open­ness and ser­vice ex­cel­lence, with our phi­los­o­phy of ‘Vic­tory’ at the core of every­thing we do. – Sameer Singh

and in­te­grate them into every­thing they do as we be­lieve that this is es­sen­tial to our suc­cess and the suc­cess of our team,” ex­plains Neha Shah, As­sis­tant Gen­eral Man­ager-mar­ket­ing- Pepe Jeans In­dia.

“The most cru­cial as­pect of any busi­ness is its peo­ple. They are the driv­ing force that keeps the wheel churn­ing. Hu­mans are the most im­por­tant, yet the most com­plex, facet of any or­gan­i­sa­tion and this also lies true for our com­pany. We have a driven, am­bi­tious and ded­i­cated team of em­ploy­ees who align them­selves to the com­pany’s vi­sion and be­come an in­te­gral part of the brands suc­cess,” says San­deep Goenka, Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Bag­zone Life­styles Pvt Ltd.

“At LOTS Whole­sale So­lu­tions, we be­lieve the hu­man el­e­ment is a crit­i­cal fac­tor in ex­e­cut­ing our busi­ness ideas and strat­egy. We are work­ing to­wards build­ing a cul­ture of open­ness and ser­vice ex­cel­lence, with our phi­los­o­phy of ‘Vic­tory’ at the core of every­thing we do. Vic­tory stands for seven key val­ues - Vi­sion, In­tegrity, Chal­lenge, Team­work, Own­er­ship, Re­sul­to­ri­en­ta­tion and be­liev­ing

Yes we can. These val­ues not only de­fine the or­gan­i­sa­tion but our em­ploy­ees and their in­ter­ac­tions with the con­sumers. Our pur­pose also in­spires us to en­hance peo­ple’s lives by work­ing closely with sup­pli­ers and farm­ers to pro­duce en­vi­ron­ment-friendly prod­ucts and to im­prove food safety sup­plies. One of the key pil­lars of Makro Ca­pa­bil­i­ties En­gine for sus­tain­able mu­tual growth is local love, which em­pow­ers us to source a large ma­jor­ity of as­sort­ments lo­cally and help our part­ners grow,” adds Sameer Singh, Di­rec­tor -Op­er­a­tions, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment & Ex­pan­sion, LOTS Whole­sale So­lu­tions.

“At Shin­gora, we value our em­ploy­ees. To trans­form the lives and to pro­vide qual­ity

ed­u­ca­tion to un­der­priv­i­leged girl chil­dren of eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies, Shin­gora– which prides it­self on not only ad­her­ing to all so­cial and em­ployee rules – runs a foun­da­tion called the ‘Shin­gora Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.’ This foun­da­tion ad­vo­cates for and ed­u­cates the un­der­priv­i­leged girl child. At present, the foun­da­tion pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion to over 50 girls,” says Amit Jain, Manag­ing Di­rec­tor, Shin­gora.

“We be­lieve that we need to do our bit in con­tribut­ing to the ul­ti­mate well-be­ing of the so­ci­ety in large and con­nect to ev­ery in­di­vid­ual within the or­gan­i­sa­tion with the same mes­sage. There­fore we treat our em­ploy­ees as im­por­tant pil­lars of the busi­ness and even Sud­hakar Pai, CMD, Kurl-on hap­pily in­volves him­self in ev­ery prob­lem re­lated to the staff mak­ing Kurl-on one of the most pop­u­lar and loved brands in In­dia,” states Ashutosh Vaidya, Chief Mar­ket­ing Of­fi­cer, Kurl-on.

“At Soch, our be­lief is ‘happy em­ploy­ees lead to happy cus­tomers.’ More than 32 per­cent of our em­ploy­ees have been with us for more than three years. Other than salary and in­cen­tives, em­ployee ben­e­fits at Soch in­clude pay­ing school fees, con­tribut­ing to big per­sonal mile­stones like mar­riage, term and med­i­cal in­sur­ance, leave pol­icy etc. We strongly be­lieve in groom­ing in­ter­nal tal­ent and giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to peo­ple in the com­pany. Many of our store man­agers and area man­agers joined us as CCAS and have grown with Soch though per­for­mance and learn­ing,” ex­plains Vi­nay Chat­lani, Di­rec­tor and CEO, Soch In­dia.

To trans­form the lives and to pro­vide qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion to un­der­priv­i­leged girl chil­dren of eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies, Shin­gora runs a foun­da­tion called the ‘Shin­gora Fam­ily Foun­da­tion’. – Amit Jain

We be­lieve that we need to do our bit in con­tribut­ing to the ul­ti­mate well-be­ing of the so­ci­ety in large and con­nect to ev­ery in­di­vid­ual within the or­gan­i­sa­tion. – Ashutosh Vaidya

At Soch, our be­lief is ‘happy em­ploy­ees lead to happy cus­tomers’. More than 32 per­cent of our em­ploy­ees have been with us for more than three years. – Vi­nay Chat­lani

We mo­ti­vate stalj with gifts and in­cen­tives so that they can achieve the com­pany’s tar­gets as well as their per­sonal goals. – Ravi Prakash Singh

Tech­nol­ogy vs Hu­mans

Even as tech­nol­ogy has started play­ing a larger role in day-to-day re­tail op­er­a­tions, the most suc­cess­ful re­tail­ers un­der­stand that em­ploy­ees are the con­nect­ing tis­sue in re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence. The risk of not get­ting the hu­man el­e­ment right is sig­nif­i­cant. As per Price­wa­ter­house Cooper’s CIS sur­vey, 56 per­cent of shop­pers will turn away from their fa­vorite prod­ucts or brands af­ter bad ex­pe­ri­ences with brands, and 32 per­cent will walk out from the store with just one bad ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Tech­nol­ogy has rev­o­lu­tion­ized re­tail in the last decade or so. Stay­ing up-to­date with tech­nol­ogy in the re­tail in­dus­try is es­sen­tial to stay ahead of the curve. Re­tail op­er­a­tions are in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy but con­tinue to re­quire the ‘hu­man touch.’ Dig­i­tal track­ing, in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and im­me­di­acy are im­por­tant tools, but phys­i­cal re­tail re­mains the lynch­pin of a brand’s ex­pe­ri­ence and its re­la­tion­ship with its cus­tomers. These days, in­no­va­tions such as smart screens, magic mir­rors and ipads en­abled with prod­uct in­for­ma­tion are the new­est of­fer­ings are specif­i­cally made to get the cus­tomers’ at­ten­tion. They of­fer per­son­alised con­tent to shop­pers. How­ever when it comes to fash­ion re­tail, cus­tomers con­tinue to seek ad­vice and as­sis­tance from re­tail store as­so­ci­ates. We be­lieve that hu­mans em­pow­ered by tech­nol­ogy can ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions at ev­ery point of the cus­tomer ser­vice model; both on­line and off­line. Tech­nol­ogy alone can­not con­sis­tently pro­vide good cus­tomer ser­vice, but tech­nol­ogy de­signed to en­hance hu­man ex­pe­ri­ences can ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions con­sis­tently,” says Neha Shah.

“Tech­nol­ogy is used to upgrade the work flow and bring ad­vance­ment, but the hu­man touch is some­thing that makes sell­ing per­sonal and be­liev­able, ap­proach­able and there is a trust fac­tor,”states Amit Jain.

“Tech­nol­ogy has its role to play in re­tail. How­ever, hu­mans are so­cial an­i­mals too and they look for emo­tional well-be­ing more than mo­men­tary trans­ac­tional hap­pi­ness. So, while we use tech­nol­ogy, we should not for­get softer as­pects which we feel will drive growth in fu­ture,” adds Ashutosh Vaidya.

“Ev­ery coin has two sides. We can’t deny the fact that tech­nol­ogy has be­come a ma­jor ne­ces­sity for re­tail op­er­a­tions at stores, but this doesn’t mean that the hu­man touch is los­ing its charm and im­por­tance. I per­son­ally be­lieve that hu­mans and tech­nol­ogy are par­al­lel for suc­cess­ful busi­ness op­er­a­tions,” says Ravi Prakash Singh, Gen­eral Man­ager- Re­tail Op­er­a­tions, Ci­tykart Pri­vate Lim­ited.

“Dig­i­tal tools en­able re­tail­ers to pro­vide the right in­for­ma­tion to rel­e­vant cus­tomers. They help us col­lect im­por­tant data which can en­hance cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, and these tools make the billing ex­pe­ri­ence smoother and faster. Dig­i­tal tools are more mo­bile driven which help to tar­get the right cus­tomers. Though peo­ple may get elim­i­nated at a few stages of the re­tail shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, the store team is re­quired as they are a key hu­man link to cus­tomers. In off­line shop­ping, cus­tomers ac­tively seek out the hu­man touch and the sat­is­fac­tion from hu­man in­volve­ment is higher. The com­plex­i­ties of hu­man na­ture can be stud­ied and un­der­stood by a trained store staff which pro­vides in­sights that tech­nol­ogy can miss out,” adds San­deep Goenka.

What Re­tail­ers Need to Do

There is no use of im­ple­ment­ing tech­nolo­gies in re­tail stores just for the sake of it. Tech­nol­ogy is a ne­ces­sity, but it de­pends en­tirely on the busi­ness and the brand. Re­tail­ers musk ask them­selves some im­por­tant ques­tions be­fore mak­ing the big move to­wards in­vest­ing in tech sup­port one of them be­ing – Is the tech­nol­ogy you want to work with em­brac­ing those

val­ues that your brand stands for or is it just over­shad­ow­ing them?

The most im­por­tant thing in build­ing and pre­serv­ing strong cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships is trust. If cus­tomers do not recog­nise your brand value any­more you will lose their trust and loy­alty.

The over­all re­ac­tion to tech­nol­ogy in re­tail is pos­i­tive from the cus­tomer’s side with plenty of cus­tomers al­ready fa­mil­iar with tech­nolo­gies like AI or VR. Even though a huge part of cus­tomers still can­not call these tech­nolo­gies by name, the ex­pec­ta­tion of VR and AR as­sist­ing them when they en­ter the stor­eis grow­ing con­tin­u­ously. Para­dox­i­cally, it seems like more the tech­nol­ogy in­vades an in­dus­try, the higher the pre­mium on main­tain­ing a per­sonal touch in deal­ing with cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees. It’s wise to find a bal­ance be­tween tech­nol­ogy and hu­mans and let them work along­side each other.

The hu­man touch can make a big dif­fer­ence in the cur­rent re­tail en­vi­ron­ment that has be­come too trans­ac­tional, pro­mo­tional, and ro­botic. Think of ways in which an in­spired sales team can put a real smile on your cus­tomer’s face. That is still the best in­di­ca­tor of a job well done.

Build­ing a Fu­ture To­gether

Tech­nol­ogy and hu­man touch have a fu­ture to­gether – the word that fits here is Phy­gi­tal. Phy­gi­tal refers to a re­tail en­vi­ron­ment in which phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences merge to­gether seam­lessly and com­ple­ment each other in or­der to of­fer the con­sumer a single, pos­i­tive, in­te­grated ex­pe­ri­ence. While mod­ern con­sumers are ac­tively look­ing for Om­nichan­nel ex­pe­ri­ences, off­line shop­ping re­mains im­por­tant for a large num­ber of them – es­pe­cially fam­i­lies. Some like to hit stores out of habit, while oth­ers shop off­line sim­ply be­cause they en­joy the ac­tiv­ity.

“We strongly agree with this state­ment as one can make pro­cesses faster. Shin­gora has in­tro­duced tech­nol­ogy like Zen­trade,

TAB Billing and Slack etc. to bring in that ad­vance­ment. We have also in­tro­duced so­cial me­dia plat­forms, web­site main­te­nance, flex, ban­ners and touch­screens to show­case the look of the prod­uct re­ally give an edge to make brand lan­guage clear and easy to con­vey. Shin­gora fo­cuses on hir­ing in­tel­li­gent staff at all store lo­ca­tions with proper train­ing ses­sions be­ing pro­vided on reg­u­lar ba­sis to bring in the faith in the brand. It makes sell­ing easy and spon­ta­neous due to di­rect con­ver­sa­tions that re­ally help cus­tomers un­der­stand the brand lan­guage eas­ily,” states Amit Jain.

“Tech­nol­ogy to­day is help­ing re­tail­ers pre­dict cus­tomer pref­er­ences, aug­mented re­al­ity en­ables cus­tomers to try on clothes, but even as tech­nol­ogy has en­hanced the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, con­sumers of­ten look for­ward to the hu­man el­e­ment in their shop­ping/ re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence. As in­no­va­tive tools start to gain sig­nif­i­cance in the in­store space, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand that em­ploy­ees will con­tinue play the role of con­nect­ing the brand to the con­sumer. Tech­nol­ogy will remain cen­tral to the re­tail­ers’


abil­ity to un­der­stand and pre­dict cus­tomer be­hav­ior. But none of these high-tech ca­pa­bil­i­ties would be pos­si­ble with­out peo­ple. Whether on the front lines or be­hind the scenes, it takes an army of spe­cialised staff – floor as­so­ci­ates, prod­uct de­sign­ers, sup­ply chain spe­cial­ists, dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter work­ers, and more, all op­er­at­ing with the help of tech­nol­ogy – to de­light cus­tomers with prod­ucts and ser­vices,” adds Neha Shah.

“Tech­nol­ogy has an im­pact on ev­ery busi­ness these days and the re­tail in­dus­try has also come a long way with the im­ple­men­ta­tion of dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy. We be­lieve that great cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence comes from blend­ing tech­nol­ogy with a per­son­alised touch. Cre­ativ­ity, per­son­al­i­sa­tion, and emo­tional con­nec­tion are unique hu­man skills that en­sure cus­tomer loy­alty, a crit­i­cal re­quire­ment for any busi­ness to suc­ceed. While ma­chines are mak­ing life sim­pler, there are many sit­u­a­tions which are best han­dled man­u­ally. Hav­ing said that, it is in­evitable for tech­nol­ogy and hu­man touch to rec­on­cile and co­ex­ist in the fast-chang­ing world,” says Sameer Singh.

“We lever­age tech­nol­ogy in our busi­ness to pre­dict cus­tomer pref­er­ences through their pur­chase pat­tern, this helps our team serve them bet­ter. We use geo-tag­ging tech­nol­ogy for cus­tomers to un­der­stand their re­quire­ments and buy­ing pat­terns in a par­tic­u­lar catch­ment area. The com­bi­na­tion of both and evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy can bring a rev­o­lu­tion in the in­dus­try in near fu­ture,” he adds.

“Dig­i­tal tools are not the ul­ti­mate goal. They are the means to help achieve ul­ti­mate con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion. Brands need to move from be­ing su­per trans­ac­tional and ad­dress these needs. Tech­nol­ogy is the means and not the goal. Hu­mans will con­tinue to dream, and tech­nol­ogy would help us achieve those dreams,” says Ashutosh Vaidya.

“The motto of Danube HOME is ‘Change is the

Only Con­stant.’ We need to be ready to adapt to any new change the in­dus­try un­der­goes. To remain a lead­ing re­tailer, we need to con­tin­u­ously hone our in­ter­nal skills and learn about newer tech­nolo­gies to stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion. We be­lieve in the need to change the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for the bet­ter through in­cor­po­rat­ing lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments. We are liv­ing in a fast-paced world where ev­ery sec­ond day a new tech­nol­ogy is break­ing the sta­tus quo. We can­not remain im­mune to what is hap­pen­ing out­side. There­fore, we be­lieve in cre­at­ing a crit­i­cal bal­ance be­tween tech­nolo­gies or au­to­ma­tion of pro­cesses and per­sonal hu­man touch that ul­ti­mately helps us to achieve higher lev­els of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion,” says Shub­ho­jit Ma­ha­lanobis.

“We be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy should be looked at as an en­abler that im­proves the ef­fi­ciency and reach­a­bil­ity for an HR func­tion. For a busi­ness like Easy­buy, it isn’t vi­able to have an HR rep­re­sen­ta­tive at each store since stores are spread across the coun­try. In such a sce­nario, tech­nol­ogy bridges the gap and en­ables a healthy com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween stores and cor­po­rate of­fices. We be­lieve that av­enues should be avail­able to em­ploy­ees to reach out to us, and at Easy­buy through var­i­ous chan­nels such as the use of Face­book Work­place, we en­sure that em­ploy­ees feel en­gaged and con­nected to the com­pany, wher­ever they work from. Easy­buy lever­ages on tech­nol­ogy greatly in the learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment func­tion as train­ing is an on-go­ing process,” ex­plains Anand Aiyer.

“For us at Soch, tech­nol­ogy is an en­abler. We use it to aid our store teams to re­solve cus­tomer is­sues, and also de­light them. We have launched video cat­a­logs which help our store teams show­case in-store mer­chan­dise bet­ter, aid­ing con­ver­sion. We have also launched Om­nichan­nel re­tail­ing – with the ca­pa­bil­ity to de­liver sizes and styles not lim­ited by the store’s phys­i­cal

in­ven­tory. This has helped en­sure bet­ter con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion and min­i­mize sales loss. It is our store staff that brings in the hu­man touch and en­sures cus­tomer de­light. The fu­ture store is a com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy with hu­man touch. In fact, we are pre­par­ing to take this to the next level at our stores, by equip­ping all our staff with hand held de­vices which en­able and help them to solve con­sumer is­sues in stores quicker and more ef­fi­ciently,” says Manohar Chat­lani.

“The In­dian re­tail in­dus­try is still lag­ging be­hind in adapt­ing to tech­no­log­i­cal trends. To bring change, the store team will have to be re­cep­tive to trans­for­ma­tion as their role will be­come very dy­namic. With the tech­nol­ogy chang­ing at such a fast pace, there will al­ways be a cer­tain set of cus­tomers who would not be com­fort­able us­ing it. It def­i­nitely takes hu­man ef­fort to ex­plain the sys­tem or a new tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion to a first-time user,” says San­deep Goenka.

How to Pre­pare Your Stalj

The ex­pec­ta­tion from fron­tend re­tail staff is huge, so it is nec­es­sary to keep them fully pre­pared and trained. A trained em­ployee is as valu­able as a dig­i­tal and tech­ni­cal medium. To en­sure that the em­ploy­ees are fully trained and ready, re­tail­ers must en­sure:

Re­tail as­so­ci­ates have ac­cess to the same tech­nolo­gies as cus­tomers, such as tablets

Re­tail staff has in­stant ac­cess to com­plete re­al­time in­ven­tory and prod­uct in­for­ma­tion

They are al­lowed to ac­cess cus­tomer in­for­ma­tion that en­ables them to pro­vide per­son­alised ser­vice Hold­ing reg­u­lar train­ing ses­sions re­gard­ing new prod­ucts, in-store tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices (in­clud­ing those that are only avail­able on­line) Pro­vid­ing staff across board – front-end and back-end – with sim­i­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties and train­ing


En­abling re­tail staff to com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers dig­i­tally – for ex­am­ple, via live chat or text mes­sages

“We hold a train­ing ses­sion for our em­ploy­ees ev­ery quar­ter by a qual­i­fied trainer. The fo­cus is on qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive as­pects of re­tail such as how to in­crease foot­fall, cus­tomer en­roll­ment, sales num­bers, ASP, ABV and bas­ket size. Also, we mo­ti­vate staff with gifts and in­cen­tives so that they can achieve the com­pany’s tar­gets as well as their per­sonal goals. In ad­di­tion to this our re­tail teams and store man­agers are al­ways avail­able to help and guide them. As a re­sult, af­ter a few days of train­ing, we see pos­i­tive changes in op­er­a­tions,” says Ravi Prakash Singh.

“At Pepe Jeans, the phi­los­o­phy has al­ways been to keep the end cus­tomer at the fore­front; it’s about giv­ing the con­sumer a com­plete shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. These days, the model wherein store as­so­ci­ates only serve as sales­peo­ple just won’t cut it any­more. As re­tail­ers we need to of­fer some­thing more than just the abil­ity to pur­chase mer­chan­dise. In an age of more and more con­nec­tiv­ity through the use of the In­ter­net, what the cus­tomer craves for is some­thing real. When the cus­tomer has an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with the brand, it fa­cil­i­tates an emo­tional con­nec­tion that in most cases leads to loy­alty, high re­ten­tion and high re­fer­ral rates. Be­fore the launch of a new col­lec­tion ev­ery sea­son, our store staff is thor­oughly trained to iden­tify key styles for dif­fer­ent body types, and then de­liver a unique and per­sonal el­e­ment to the cus­tomers’ shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. They are also en­cour­aged to ex­er­cise cre­ativ­ity with trends, ac­ces­sories, and dif­fer­ent fab­rics to have fun with the cus­tomer and be flex­i­ble in their ap­proach,” ex­plains Neha Shah.

“Easy­buy op­er­ates in a start-up cul­ture and be­ing a unique busi­ness for­mat, it is im­per­a­tive for new em­ploy­ees who come from var­ied or­gan­i­sa­tional back­grounds to align to the brand’s vi­sion, its key com­po­nents of work cul­ture thought pro­cesses and ways of work­ing.

In-store train­ing fo­cuses on 5 core as­pects that drive busi­ness:



De­vel­op­ment of Self Cus­tomer Ser­vice


Class Room Train­ing (CRT) and On-job Train­ing (OJT) are con­ducted, with an em­pha­sis on a prac­ti­cal and holis­tic

ap­proach to en­sure that the train­ing pro­gram pro­vides clear ex­pec­ta­tions and is ef­fec­tive. It en­com­passes video-based train­ing, pre­sen­ta­tions, team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, role plays, etc. A re­fresher train­ing pro­gram is planned within three months to fur­ther re­in­force the learn­ings of the core as­pects. To add as as­pi­ra­tion value to the roles, the train­ing also in­cludes dis­cus­sions with role mod­els and an ori­en­ta­tion on ca­reer pro­gres­sion in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. Fur­ther ob­jec­tive assess­ments are done be­fore and af­ter the train­ing pro­gram to mea­sure the train­ing ef­fec­tive­ness,” says Anand Aiyer.

“At Kurl-on, we have a three-day in­duc­tion pro­gram which is must for ev­ery em­ployee at the time of join­ing. The em­ploy­ees are in­ducted on the job within 30 days of the train­ing pro­gram and then spend some time shad­ow­ing our trained team,” says Ashutosh Vaidya.

“We be­lieve in in-depth and com­pre­hen­sive train­ing of our em­ploy­ees in or­der to pro­vide the best cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence at the store. The en­tire staff is trained on di­verse top­ics for dif­fer­ent seg­ments. The hir­ing of the staff hap­pens three months be­fore open­ing a store. These three months are packed with rig­or­ous cross func­tional train­ings. In fact, to make the staff well versed in op­er­a­tions, man­agers and sec­tion man­agers are taken to Thai­land for a fort­night of train­ing at our par­ent com­pany, Siam Makro. Rest of the staff goes through a manda­tory train­ing of at least three weeks in In­dia where they train cross func­tion­ally re­gard­ing com­pli­ances, stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures (SOPS), prod­uct knowl­edge, be­hav­iour train­ing etc., to pro­vide a seam­less and flawless ex­pe­ri­ence to our cus­tomers. This train­ing is done be­fore open­ing of the store, as well as, as and when new changes are brought in, for in­stance, a new stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure, a new soft­ware or change of staff’s du­ties,” adds Sameer Singh.

“We value our em­ploy­ees’ pro­fes­sional and per­sonal de­vel­op­ment. We be­lieve in de­vel­op­ing team bond­ing and in­creas­ing the pos­i­tiv­ity quo­tient in In­di­vid­u­als and teams. We con­duct mul­ti­ple lev­els of team bond­ing, prod­uct, process and mo­ti­va­tional train­ings at Danube Home. In or­der to mo­ti­vate our em­ploy­ees to push them­selves for­ward and strive to de­velop new skills, we use a per­fect blend of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal train­ing pro­grams. At

Danube Home, we in­vite ex­ter­nal train­ers and coaches to bring in a whole other per­spec­tive and pro­vide new knowl­edge that would have oth­er­wise gone amiss and share it all with our em­ploy­ees at dif­fer­ent lev­els of man­age­ment. From the higher man­age­ment lev­els to the floor, we have de­signed and ap­plied dif­fer­ent train­ing and coach­ing pro­grams to en­sure the growth of our em­ploy­ees,” says Shub­ho­jit Ma­ha­lanobis.

“And we do not just fo­cus on our front-line em­ploy­ees; we also fo­cus on the train­ing and de­vel­op­ment needs of our back­end sup­port staff by chalk­ing out a ca­reer plan for them while im­part­ing suc­cess­ful and ca­reer chang­ing pro­grams like ‘Knock, Power sell­ers and Smile,’ he adds.

“We take train­ing very se­ri­ously while mak­ing it a fun and in­ter­ac­tive ses­sion for the em­ploy­ees at the store. The main fea­tures of the train­ing pro­gram are an ed­uca­tive ses­sion on how to read a cus­tomer, to un­der­stand their ba­sic re­quire­ment. It is about al­ready know­ing what is on the cus­tomer’s mind, his needs, his pur­pose of be­ing at the store and gaug­ing his be­hav­iour, in­tent and affin­ity to­wards the brand,” says San­deep Goenka.

“Our staff is also trained on how to at­tend to the cus­tomer to in­crease the level of sat­is­fac­tion and to deal with com­plaints. An­other key as­pect of train­ing is teach­ing how to cross sell and up sell by throw­ing light on the prod­ucts and its fea­tures.

The prod­uct team ex­plains the high­lights and unique sell­ing propo­si­tions to the store team. The fre­quency of train­ing from re­gional heads is on monthly ba­sis whereas train­ing from vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing and prod­uct team is re­ceived quar­terly. Cat­a­logues are pro­vided to the store team for ev­ery sea­son, cat­e­gory launch,” he con­cludes.


In an age, when prices can be com­pared, and or­ders can be placed via smart­phones, there are al­most an equal num­ber of cus­tomers who still want hu­man in­ter­ac­tions in-store. And this can­not be ig­nored.


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