The Indian retail industry has gone through tectonic changes over the past two decades, with a slow transition from the unorganized sector to the organized. Online channel growth jolted traditional retailers and the government’s push towards ‘Digital India’ may have helped the cause. But while online retail gains steam, the importance of physical retail stores cannot be undermined. According to a recent market study by AT Kearney, 94 percent of total retail sales today happens through brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, Bain & Co predicts that 75 percent of sales will still be occurring at a physical location by 2025.
Redefining Experiences for Connected Customers
Analysis of recent developments in the Indian retail sector suggest that consolidation of the retail sector and the inevitable permeation of digital retailing (mobile and internet) into the modern and traditional kirana formats will pave the way for a new type of omni-channel retail ecosystem - the ‘Phygital’ . The physical and digital worlds are converging, and seamless shopping— true omnichannel retailing—is table stakes for today’s retailers. These imperatives are pushing retailers to create unified experiences for their customers, with intelligent integration of data to customize every interaction.
Joseph Pine, globally-recognized business thought leader and author of ‘The Experience Economy and Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier’, said it best. “ Every great experience needs to have a theme. That’s the organizing principle of the experience. It’s how you decide what’s in and what’s out. ” To compete and outperform in this ‘Age of the Customer’, retailers must first - find their unique theme for designing the customer experience they want to deliver - straddling the physical and digital - and then leverage people, processes and technology to give it life across various touchpoints.
From Bricks to Clicks - and Back Again
With digital and physical convergence on the rise, India’s retail market is poised to double to $1 trillion by 2020 and needs fresh thinking to create inspiring experiences for the new customer engagement paradigm. Leading retailers like TATA CLiQ have already jumped on this bandwagon, harbinging ecommerce 2.0 through a comprehensive omnichannel offering - where customers can seamlessly move between the physical and online world as they browse, experience, purchase and receive their products.
They are not only integrating with sellers focusing on perfecting the customer experience but also bringing the consumer understanding and technology scale to retailers and brand partners to deliver a delightful offline-online experience to brand-affined Indians . Fast forward a couple of years and we are likely to witness many other digital-first brands transform the high street. The interplay between bricks and clicks will give new purpose to physical stores as part of the integrated retail landscape in which digital and bricks-and-mortar channels work in concert.
A major demographic shift is underway, bringing massive changes with it. One-stop shopping will be redefined to mean a seamless experience , where retailers use a convergence of physical formats, online formats, and digital tools to allow customers to interact with their brand, and to make purchases from almost anywhere. To win new customers, enhance customer loyalty and drive revenue, retailers will need to implement a single, comprehensive solution that unifies and delivers relevant, connected, and measurable customer experiences across all retail channels. Only those retailers that manage to design the right omnichannel customer experience program for helping consumers tide through these shifts - will emerge on top in this experience game!
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The author is Industry Marketing Specialist, Freshworks
This article has been published as part of IDG’s partner services. The views expressed are solely those of the author and not of IDG Media or its editor(s).