What’s in store for stores

Ushasri Tirumala | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on November 19, 2015

Blend of the best: The customer wants both the shop and the shopping experience. NMEDIA/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Digital devices are changing the way customers shop. Retailers must adapt, to remain part of the shopping experience

It’s no secret that in-store shopping is changing.

The rise of e-commerce, mobile buying and omni-channel technology are reshaping the retail landscape, and though stores will never go away, we’re already seeing them change form. The retail industry has reached a full circle, with pure online retailers and e-commerce shops foraying into brick-and-mortar stores, and physical stores expanding their presence online. The year 2015 is set to be a milestone year in omnichannel retailing, with the likes of retail stalwarts such as Unilever, Reliance, Tata and Walmart committed to going big on e-commerce — and online brand e-commerce companies such as Lenskart, Firstcry and Pepperfry expanding into retail points to increase their presence and acquire more customers.

According to a study by the Retailers Association of India (RAI), nearly 74 per cent of Indian consumers shop across all channels — local retailers, modern retail outlets and online. Modern trade is growing fast, with about 40 per cent of urban shoppers using it regularly, almost twice what it was in 2012.

The digital influence

The influence of digital devices on the shopping journey is also setting new digital expectations of retailers on how they help their customers gather pertinent information to make shopping decisions and purchases. Concepts such as showrooming and webrooming are being increasingly adopted by shoppers, with almost 96 per cent customers looking for product information before shopping, out of which 76 per cent is online. As more customers embrace new technologies, the shopping experience has become increasingly sophisticated and enables new ways for retailers to reach their audience. The integration and alignment of all channels brought about by omnichannel retailing provides a flexible and seamless shopping experience to customers.

Digital devices are expected to influence the in-store purchases of consumers with the growing adoption of smartphones and greater number of internet users in the nation. As per the report, “Navigating the New Digital Divide,” close to 21 per cent of the total shopping in India, or ₹60,000 crore of in-store retail purchase, was influenced by digital devices including desktop computers, laptops and smartphones.

Mobile imperative

With the current number of smartphone owners expected to rise from 140 million to 500 million by 2020, and internet users from 300 million to 600 million, it’s safe to say that digital has become a preferred medium for research. In fact, 71 per cent of shoppers use their digital devices pre-purchase and 47 per cent during the purchase!

To this end, the role of the sales associate is changing as well. The new associate needs to learn more about customers — their wants and how to assist them — and how to create a personalised experience. With customer expectations rising, personalisation is becoming more important.

Mobile is affecting the point-of-sale space as well, and it’s about more than just payment. There’s ample opportunity to engage with customers throughout the entire store experience, before the payment phase, and mobile is leading the charge. In fact, , mobile presents a great opportunity to enable an over-the-top experience for in-store shoppers.

It’s clear that consumer expectations are increasing. With the rise of digital technology and the “always connected” mentality that comes with mobile, the legacy store in its current form struggles to produce a good experience in today’s hi-tech world. That said, the brick-and-mortar store will always be a part of the shopping experience. Like most things, it will simply adapt.

Ushasri Tirumala is Senior Vice-President & General Manager, Manhattan Associates, India

Published on November 19, 2015
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