Catalyst

Rewiring the shopping experience

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla | Updated on June 14, 2018 Published on June 14, 2018

Never lose sight of the customer   -  HstrongART

It’s crucial to stay with the customer along every step of the journey

 

With retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart and Starbucks rapidly transform the industry through technology advancements, other brands are turning to augmented reality, facial recognition and virtual apps to boost their marketing.

“This is an age of the ‘always on’’ consumer, who is changing faster than ever. They expect connected and seamless experiences that makes their lives easier,” says Aneesh Reddy, Co-Founder and CEO, Capillary Technologies, a Singapore-based technology firm that helps retailers and consumer-facing businesses retain customers.

“As consumers, we all live in what we like to call an ‘EasyVerse’ situation, where we want, what we want, when and where we want it,” Reddy adds.

Brands are attempting to build delightful consumer experiences by identifying and acting on shopper insights, and making engagement personal. A decade ago, Asian Paints began transforming from a largely brick-and-mortar product manufacturer into an agile and adaptive enterprise that provides value-added services to help customers make their homes beautiful.

Research showed that the largest segment “is a tech-savvy person who conducts a lot of online research and becomes loyal to the brand only after interacting and transacting with the firm. Another customer type is a wealthy person living in a tier-two city who tends to display his accomplishments by painting his home in a dazzling display of colours. This customer prefers to deal with consultants and requires human interaction.”

The company decided on an omnichannel strategy to cater not just to customers, but dealers and influencers too across physical, digital and human channels. Harish Lade, Vice-President of Information Technology and Systems at Asian Paints, says that initially, the data architecture could not fully support the required changes. So the company mapped the customer journey across channels and built a data architecture and IT platform powered by SAP, and bolstered it with Adobe’s Experience Management software to cover both the experience and transactions.

Consumer tracking

Networkbay Retail, a retail platform that combines design, technologies and services to transform retail experiences, recently partnered with electronic megastore Croma to develop its tech-centric premium format ‘Gadgets of Desire’. The first such store was recently launched in Green Park, Delhi.

Croma wanted Networkbay Retail to “showcase Croma’s omni-channel capabilities and extend its wider-than-store proposition,” says Hozefa Attari, Co-Founder, Networkbay Retail, which engaged two global retail specialists: a US-based global brand experience design company, Chute Gerdeman, to create the store experience, and a UK-based agency, Scoop Retail, to develop the in-store technology.

The key highlight of the ‘Gadgets of Desire’ store are the ‘wider-than-store’ feature, the immersive demo experience in the sound category, and an exclusive IoT experience zone, says Ritesh Ghosal, CMO, Croma. The sound space enables music enthusiasts to experience more than 90 speakers just by touching an interactive screen.

As physical stores become lively, immersive environments, relying on sensors to capture and analyse data in real time, marketers say all boundaries between online and offline have blurred. Recently, Motorola partnered with Reliance Retail to bring the Moto Hub experience to over 150 Reliance Digital and MyJio stores. Moto Hub houses the entire Motorola product portfolio under one roof.

V Mallikarjuna Rao, Regional General Manager, Motorola Mobility India, says they are “highly focused on sharing meaningful experiences and engaging with customers in a more effective way.” Kaushal Nevrekar, CMO, Reliance Digital, says, “When it comes to shopping for electronics, we know the importance of touch, feel and try. It is only then that customers can know of the tangible features of the product, so that an informed decision can be made.”

Experience matters

Tech major Cognizant has 10 digital labs around the world that are helping clients with technologies dedicated to different stages of the consumers’ digital journey. Donna Tuths, Senior Vice-President and Global Head of Cognizant Interactive, says, “Our focus is on applied innovation to help companies address the challenge of creating and managing experiences across all parts of the enterprise.”

In its recent report on retail, Cognizant says emerging economic and revenue models are paving the way for a rewired retail experience, and that vast profits await retailers focusing on omnichannel/ unified commerce. “Instant gratification will be paramount, and integration will be the path to providing it,” the company adds.

Capillary Technologies’ Reddy insists consumer loyalty is key. “We have four key areas of focus: Insights, Engage, Anywhere Commerce and Loyalty,” he adds. The company has worked with over 300 brands including Walmart, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Madura Fashion and Puma.

Collaborate or die

Sanitarymaker Hindware was in search of a better experience for its consumers. The search led them to augmented reality, and the DreamBath system was developed, with help from Microsoft Azure. The solution shows how a product fits into consumers’ bathrooms.

Manish Bhatia, Chief Executive Officer (Retail division), and President, Building Products Division, Hindustan Sanitaryware and Industries Ltd, says that as today’s consumers are well travelled and aware of what they want, “their needs have shifted and they want their bathrooms to be not just functional, but aesthetic as well.”

As the DreamBath app extensively uses images, videos and 3D models, the company wanted a hosting platform, a repository for images and 3D media, and an enabled IT infrastructure that would allow easy scalability and ramp-up on temporary volume spurts during online or TV ad campaigns or at dealer outlets. Microsoft’s Azure Cloud came to the rescue.

Though retailers have been using data to smooth over pain points during consumers’ shopping experiences, FMCG major Marico was battling a heavy data problem. In the FMCG space, the volume of data generated fluctuates greatly during certain periods.

Girish Rao, Head-IT and Business Analytics at Marico, says the last five days of a month and the first five days of the next month are extremely important for FMCG businesses, as during those 10 days critical decisions are to be made.

Since the company wanted to gain control over the churn and speed of data, Marico moved it to Microsoft’s Azure SQL Data Warehouse, providing the company “the flexibility of controlling capacity on-demand and scale-up or scale-down as per requirement.”

Though the Internet is not about to replace brick-and-mortar stores just as yet, it is forcing retailers to reconsider how they run their stores. And since a consumer can discover in 30 seconds what used to require visiting three stores, brands need to take a cue from e-commerce and integrate data and emerging technologies to deliver richer in-store experiences.

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Published on June 14, 2018
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