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By Kunal Mehta, Head- IT, Trent Hypermarket Ltd, a Tata and Tesco Enterprise
In the good old days, retail experience was purely brick & mortar. The shopping experience was uni-channel and there were no other touch points with a retailer except visiting the retail store.
However, in the last few years online retail has started growing at a fast pace providing a comfort and convenience that it is making it a mainstream retail channel hugely supported with proliferation of the mobile internet connected devices and social media transforming the entire shopping experience.
Today’s consumer can interact with the retailer using multiple channels for any retail transaction. He/she can walk into the store with a smart phone, collaborate the store associates advice by looking up product reviews, compare prices across retailer’s, call up customer service, use social media to tweet, all while physically browsing the store during a purchase transaction. This growth in the number of channels has added tremendous pressure on retailers.
Hence, it is pertinent for grocery retailers in executing their multichannel strategies and in harnessing the true potential of customer need fulfillment.
Retailers can leverage this multi channel trend and use it to their advantage if they are able to create a true cross-channel experience that helps increase consistency in messaging, pricing and also cross-sell / up-sell through an endless aisle.
A significant customer segment of online grocery is the ‘The young mother at home’. The online grocery channel enables her to save time, reduce hassle and allows her to spend more quality time with her family.
To begin with, customers used the online channel to order packaged foods and other household goods such as electrical appliances and health & beauty products.
To increase customer interest in the online grocery channel and influence the well established grocery purchasing habits, retailers have launched services combining the grocery website and brick & mortar grocery stores. A customer can place an order online after searching for the best available prices and then pick up the order from the grocery store of the retailer. This service is being preferred by time-pressed customers who see significant value in ordering grocery online and picking it up on the way back from work. The ‘Click and Collect’ offering is being rapidly embraced by established retailers as their fulfillment model for providing superior service to their existing store customers.
Making Online Grocery Shopping an Interactive Experience Grocery shopping is a routine but nevertheless a critical activity of a customer’s life. Therefore personalized tools in the online channel can help provide opportunities to a retailer to engage with its customers in a closer manner. The online grocers have started looking at ‘personalization’ of products, promotions /prices, ‘customer interaction touch points’ and ‘customer centric analytical capabilities to make the entire shopping experience easier, faster and more relevant.
The emergence of mobile applications has the potential to create a perfect fusion of the online and offline experience. While there are risks in opening online public forums that can invite bouquets as well as brickbats the long term benefits of interacting with customers via social media tools far outweigh such concerns. This has created new challenges for multi-channel retailers who are trying to drive foot-traffic to their stores and improve loyalty.
Recent innovations in wireless technology have enabled the retailers to keep track of real-time sales and inventory data in their systems for the customers to be able to achieve high levels of fulfillment. Futuristic technologies such as touch screens and robotics will further improve the self service capabilities and make them more amenable to customers. Grocers are looking at a sea change in customer shopping habits, customer demand in shopping experience and options in services that are on offer.
Today, we are poised at the cusp of several revolutions and evolutions – the ongoing retail revolution, the initial steps of the e-commerce revolution, the rapidly changing Indian consumer and the ongoing changes in digital communication. As retailers, they have the opportunity to embrace all of them. The convergence of screens, improving access to the internet, the increasing role of social media and community marketing, and the ability to more accurately target and retain individual customers will usher in significant changes in the traditional retail model. Digital technology will be an enabler and a game changer. Those who leverage its capability will differentiate themselves from the rest. And for that, retailers will have to “Futurescape” these technologies and understand its impact on their business models and customers, and re-engineer their efforts to adapt to the significant changes you should expect.