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Consumer Centric Commerce: Future of Retailing

Brick and Mortar and E-commerce of today will become Click and Mortar in Consumer Centric Commerce Commerce. Retailers will realize that to stay ahead the digital and physical spaces have to complement each other to reduce costs, increase sales and deliver the kind of personalization unheard of today.

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E-commerce is redefining online shopping to Indian consumers. How many of you reading this have not purchased anything online in the last 12 months? Brick and Mortar retailers are bearing the brunt of this seismic change in the way you shop today. So what does 2016 and beyond look like? Well, it will be Click and Mortar in the new era of what I would call C2 Commerce - Yes "Consumer Centric Commerce". Technology the biggest disruptor of retail today will become the biggest enabler of retail tomorrow!

What is Consumer Centric Commerce?
Imagine shopping just the day before proceeding for a long vacation. You browse through the internet on various websites, check trends on Facebook sitting in your office the previous evening and zero in on a few dresses. You then launch a video conference with the sales person from the shop where you bought a dress last time. He shows you your chosen dresses superimposing them on your image in 3D using augmented realty and you choose a few dresses. You now toggle across to research customer reviews, send your photos in the new dress to a few friends over social media and get their views and check prices. You find the same dress cheaper in another store and order them for pickup not from the store your ordered just now but a pick up option from a branch of the same store enroute back home.

As you enter this pickup store enroute back home, the sales associate armed with an IPad greets you by name and walks you to the dressing room stocked with your online purchases. The sales associate has your purchase history from another branch store where you shopped one year back and has got an idea of your preferences from your social media and shows you some matching additional accessories, you send videos to a few friends and select 2 of these items. You scan the bar codes on your mobile and find that one of them is available at a cheaper price in another store. The other one you would prefer a size smaller. The sales associate quickly matches price for the first item and promises home delivery for the second item in correct size in 2 hours.

You reach home and decide one of the items out of 5 items you picked up; you want to change your mind. You drop in at one of the 5000 drop off points set up by this retailer in local stores next day early morning while proceeding on your holiday and within hours your get the refund on your digital wallet.

Click and Mortar - The Future
Sounds too futuristic? May not be too far away. Yes, in the Consumer Centric Commerce, Brick and Mortar and E-commerce of today will become Click and Mortar. Retailers will realize that to stay ahead the digital and physical spaces have to complement each other to reduce costs, increase sales and deliver the kind of personalization unheard of today.

Retailers tomorrow will have to catch you (prospective customers), follow you as you move from one channel to another and from one device to another across all 5 stages (Research, Selection, Transaction, Delivery and Customer Care) of your purchase cycle to give you a seamless shopping experience. Retailers will have to continuously measure your online and offline movement behavior and enable you to purchase, offering lots of localized information. Is this going to be easy? Absolutely Not! But retailers who understand this disruptive innovation early enough, prepare for this frequently enough and implement these innovations broadly enough will stay ahead of the race.

Some International Examples?
Would you like to know what's happening around the world in this space? Let us first look at some International examples.

Crate and Barrel, a US retail chain specializing in houseware, furniture and homeware has understood cross device behavior and has enabled saving information of your purchase in their App across web, smartphone and tablet so that you can access information across multiple devices and browsers and pick up from where ever you left in your purchase process on the previous device.

Oasis a UK fashion retailer has enabled their sales staff across showrooms with an IPad to give you instant information on product and availability and when an item is out of stock, place online orders on your behalf there and then. Similarly if your are purchasing online from your home and find an item out of stock, you can use Oasis "Seek and Send" service. The retailer searches all their stores and ships your product from the store where it is available and gives you option for pick up as well. They have also set up a network of over 6000 drop off points in local stores including grocery and convenient stores where you can return items you purchased but no longer want.

Nordstrom, the US fashion retailer allows you to instantly buy items featured in Instagram. Their store staff constantly monitors social media trends and items popular there are constantly given more prominence in their showrooms. Their "kerb side collect" feature allows you to remotely order any product online and is available for you to collect outside the store one hour later and with mobile checkout, you don't need to stand in queues.

What is happening in India?

There can be many more examples of global developments but let us look at some developments in India.

Snapdeal has tied up with The Mobile Store and when you order a mobile phone using this service, the mobile gets delivered to your home from the nearest TMS store within 2 hours with the person delivering it doing the installation, demonstration and activation. You can even return at the nearest TMS store. They are in the process of tying up with many more chains like Michelin for automobile tyres, Luminous for inverters and batteries, Shoppers Stop for fashion products as well as brands like Nike, Fab India and Metro. They recently launched a platform called "Janus "which will allow you to discover products online and order with faster local fulfillment executed by offline retailers.

Many online retailers have rolled out offline stores to provide seamless customer experience. Lenskart has over 110 stores and plans to increase this to 1000 stores in next 5 years, Firstcry has 100+ stores and plans to increase to 400 by 2017, CarTrade has 50 stores and plans to increase to over 100 in next one year, BharatMatrimony has rolled out 180 stores, CaratLane has rolled out 10 experiential lounges, Flipkart has tied up with Spice Hotspot centers and has rolled out over 30 offline stores and the list goes on with many more online players tying up with offline retail chains as you read this.

Similarly most of the big players in the tradition "Brick & Mortar" have realized the future is E-Commerce is redefining online shopping to Indian consumers. How many of you reading this have not purchased anything online in the last 12 months? Brick and Mortar retailers are bearing the brunt of this seismic change in the way you shop today. So what does 2016 and beyond look like? Well, it will be Click and Mortar in the new era of what I would call C2 Commerce - Yes "Consumer Centric Commerce". Technology the biggest disruptor of retail today will become the biggest enabler of retail tomorrow!

What is Consumer Centric Commerce?
Imagine shopping just the day before proceeding for a long vacation. You browse through the internet on various websites, check trends on Facebook sitting in your office the previous evening and zero in on a few dresses. You then launch a video conference with the sales person from the shop where you bought a dress last time. He shows you your chosen dresses superimposing them on your image in 3D using augmented realty and you choose a few dresses. You now toggle across to research customer reviews, send your photos in the new dress to a few friends over social media and get their views and check prices. You find the same dress cheaper in another store and order them for pickup not from the store your ordered just now but a pick up option from a branch of the same store enroute back home.

As you enter this pickup store enroute back home, the sales associate armed with an IPad greets you by name and walks you to the dressing room stocked with your online purchases. The sales associate has your purchase history from another branch store where you shopped one year back and has got an idea of your preferences from your social media and shows you some matching additional accessories, you send videos to a few friends and select 2 of these items. You scan the bar codes on your mobile and find that one of them is available at a cheaper price in another store. The other one you would prefer a size smaller. The sales associate quickly matches price for the first item and promises home delivery for the second item in correct size in 2 hours.

You reach home and decide one of the items out of 5 items you picked up; you want to change your mind. You drop in at one of the 5000 drop off points set up by this retailer in local stores next day early morning while proceeding on your holiday and within hours your get the refund on your digital wallet.

Click and Mortar - The Future
Sounds too futuristic? May not be too far away. Yes, in the Consumer Centric Commerce, Brick and Mortar and E-commerce of today will become Click and Mortar. Retailers will realize that to stay ahead the digital and physical spaces have to complement each other to reduce costs, increase sales and deliver the kind of personalization unheard of today.

Retailers tomorrow will have to catch you (prospective customers), follow you as you move from one channel to another and from one device to another across all 5 stages (Research, Selection, Transaction, Delivery and Customer Care) of your purchase cycle to give you a seamless shopping experience. Retailers will have to continuously measure your online and offline movement behavior and enable you to purchase, offering lots of localized information. Is this going to be easy? Absolutely Not! But retailers who understand this disruptive innovation early enough, prepare for this frequently enough and implement these innovations broadly enough will stay ahead of the race.

Some International Examples?
Would you like to know what's happening around the world in this space? Let us first look at some International examples.

Crate and Barrel, a US retail chain specializing in houseware, furniture and homeware has understood cross device behavior and has enabled saving information of your purchase in their App across web, smartphone and tablet so that you can access information across multiple devices and browsers and pick up from where ever you left in your purchase process on the previous device.

Oasis a UK fashion retailer has enabled their sales staff across showrooms with an IPad to give you instant information on product and availability and when an item is out of stock, place online orders on your behalf there and then. Similarly if your are purchasing online from your home and find an item out of stock, you can use Oasis "Seek and Send" service. The retailer searches all their stores and ships your product from the store where it is available and gives you option for pick up as well. They have also set up a network of over 6000 drop off points in local stores including grocery and convenient stores where you can return items you purchased but no longer want.

Nordstrom, the US fashion retailer allows you to instantly buy items featured in Instagram. Their store staff constantly monitors social media trends and items popular there are constantly given more prominence in their showrooms. Their "kerb side collect" feature allows you to remotely order any product online and is available for you to collect outside the store one hour later and with mobile checkout, you don't need to stand in queues.

What is happening in India?
There can be many more examples of global developments but let us look at some developments in India.

Snapdeal has tied up with The Mobile Store and when you order a mobile phone using this service, the mobile gets delivered to your home from the nearest TMS store within 2 hours with the person delivering it doing the installation, demonstration and activation. You can even return at the nearest TMS store. They are in the process of tying up with many more chains like Michelin for automobile tyres, Luminous for inverters and batteries, Shoppers Stop for fashion products as well as brands like Nike, Fab India and Metro. They recently launched a platform called "Janus "which will allow you to discover products online and order with faster local fulfillment executed by offline retailers.

Many online retailers have rolled out offline stores to provide seamless customer experience. Lenskart has over 110 stores and plans to increase this to 1000 stores in next 5 years, Firstcry has 100+ stores and plans to increase to 400 by 2017, CarTrade has 50 stores and plans to increase to over 100 in next one year, BharatMatrimony has rolled out 180 stores, CaratLane has rolled out 10 experiential lounges, Flipkart has tied up with Spice Hotspot centers and has rolled out over 30 offline stores and the list goes on with many more online players tying up with offline retail chains as you read this.

Similarly most of the big players in the tradition "Brick & Mortar" have realized the future is C2 commerce and have planned big investments in Omni Channel experience for the Customer Centric Commerce. Future Group is enabling you to have a single view of its many brands across physical and digital channels and has recently announced a tie up with Hybris technology for Omni channel experience. Croma has started delivering orders placed online upto 2 pm on the same day through its nearest Croma store across 16 cities. Madura garments is enabling store pickup and return for orders placed online at its e commerce site trendin.com. Shopper's stop is gearing up for Consumer Centric Commerce enabling you for a seamless experience across neighborhood Shoppers Stop, online purchase through its e commerce site, seeing trends through Facebook page, viewing tutorials through its YouTube channel, shopping at airport etc.

Personally, I think with this digital wave all around us, we are not far away from the Consumer Centric Commerce when Omni Channel experience is available in some form across all brands and store sizes. Even the smallest of companies will be able to engage with customers directly, no matters where you are, what you are doing or what device you are using.

Future is all about Engage, Experience and Enable. I would like to leave you with a few questions which will enable you to initiate some deliberations in your circles on this issue and hopefully enable solutions before it is too late.

1.    How quickly will traditional retailers be able to change their thinking to the radical customer experience of "Always Open", "Right Now" and "Everywhere"?
2.    How quickly will leaders and HR experts be able to evolve innovative organization structures that deliver Omni Channel experience to consumers from current silos around Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Logistics etc.?
3.    How quickly organizations will realize that investments to deliver Omni channel experience are no longer a matter of choice but a demand for survival? commerce and have planned big investments in Omni Channel experience for the Customer Centric Commerce. Future Group is enabling you to have a single view of its many brands across physical and digital channels and has recently announced a tie up with Hybris technology for Omni channel experience. Croma has started delivering orders placed online upto 2 pm on the same day through its nearest Croma store across 16 cities. Madura garments is enabling store pickup and return for orders placed online at its e commerce site trendin.com. Shopper's stop is gearing up for Consumer Centric Commerce enabling you for a seamless experience across neighborhood Shoppers Stop, online purchase through its e commerce site, seeing trends through Facebook page, viewing tutorials through its YouTube channel, shopping at airport etc.

Personally, I think with this digital wave all around us, we are not far away from the Consumer Centric Commerce when Omni Channel experience is available in some form across all brands and store sizes. Even the smallest of companies will be able to engage with customers directly, no matters where you are, what you are doing or what device you are using.

Future is all about Engage, Experience and Enable. I would like to leave you with a few questions which will enable you to initiate some deliberations in your circles on this issue and hopefully enable solutions before it is too late.

1. How quickly will traditional retailers be able to change their thinking to the radical customer experience of "Always Open", "Right Now" and "Everywhere"?
2. How quickly will leaders and HR experts be able to evolve innovative organization structures that deliver Omni Channel experience to consumers from current silos around Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Logistics etc.?
3. How quickly organizations will realize that investments to deliver Omni channel experience are no longer a matter of choice but a demand for survival?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Tags assigned to this article:
e-commerce online shopping Consumer Centric Commerce

Rupak Agarwal

Rupak Agarwal is a guest writer with BW Businessworld and is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore. He currently works as a Business Head with Godrej Properties Ltd and is a turnaround specialist with multi industry expertise across technology, consumer, media, telecom and real estate. You can reach him at www.rupakagarwal.com and connect with him on twitter at @rupakagarwal

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