A reputed industry leader hit nail on the head when he said that its time to take “e” out of the e-commerce. We might add “m” and “p” to that removal list too. In 2013, the Indian e-commerce market recorded a sequential growth of 88 percent, with transactions valued at $16 billion, according to a recent report by industry body, ASSOCHAM.
While e-commerce today may not contribute more than a fraction of a percentage point to the larger retail segment, yet it is THE story. The reason behind this may not be very difficult to understand. Internet changed the way we live, work and play while e – commerce changed the way we buy. It was a full blown democratization of the way we buy. No barriers and no hierarchies.
However, the next door shop still remains and thrives while the mall management might fidget a bit but they also agree that if the basics of the business are correct, then a mall, a high street, a neighbourhood store, an e commerce portal ie any form of retail can create exceptional experience for the consumer and hence lead the brand to an enviable position of aspiration and profits.
This is a retailer’s way of looking at business. How does the customer see it? She just sees it like a place and opportunity to buy. She has taken the “e” , “m” and all other alphabets out of her retail vocabulary long back. She sees it as common retail platform ie a place to buy. These are not silos for her but they are for the business. Let’s face it.
Omni channel is just another buzzword today, without much on ground support. Its high time that the fraction of a market joins the big belly of the market, to create a seamless experience which not only ensures business efficiency but more critically has the potential to discover that holy grail of exceptional customer experience.
A recent authoritative survey in US market says that 50% of the shoppers would look to buy online and pick up instore. 71% expect to view the in store inventory online. All this while only a third of retailers have third of retailer have operationalized even the basics such as store pick-ups, cross-channel inventory visibility and store based fulfilment. If this is the Mecca of retail, we can very well imagine what could be the status in our high streets and by lanes.
Amazon’s recent Kirana attempts in India and the follow up by the likes of Bigbasket ,with a 60 minute delivery offer through tie ups with the local cluster of Kirana shops, is just another manifestation of Omni Channel . It is all about drawing synergies from these so called separate channels/revenue streams for most retail corporates. This may just be the beginning of the change. The moment the key leadership starts seeing this as a single , common revenue stream, the rest will follow. Like most fundamental aspects of the business, implementation ceases to be a challenge but presents itself as an opportunity , only when there is a vision and a conviction behind it to make it happen.
Omni channel customer experiences can be the biggest brand differentiator. Enabling stores to fulfil online orders will definitely help improve customer experience as well as the retail metrics. Come to think of it, omni channel is a potent tool for a “touch & feel” market like India. Also, omni channel is such a big boon for cash driven market like ours. Think about jewelry. An omni channel operation is the biggest advantage for this segment. A small SIS in an LFS can be converted into what is called an endless alley. Instead of a normal 300 odd SKUs on display, the customer can choose from 30000 SKUs. It does not take a wizard to figure that this can help arrest not only the loss of sale but can infact increase the basket size as well. This could be truer for an EBO operation. Minimal physical inventory, smaller store size and hence lower operational costs including rental and staff. Omni channel not just ensures process efficiency but quicker repeat purchases too. This is because it can ensure personalization, basis the previous purchase irrespective of the channel of purchase.
Like the COD changed the face of online retailing, Omni channel is the next inflection point for not just e-tailing but for the overall retail. Need to destroy all the “e”, “m” and other alphabet silos now.The retailers need to look at the whole and not just the parts. The search for this holy grail may not be all that elusive after all.