Retailers go omni-channel for clicks and footfalls


August 8, 2013

Priyanka Pani , The Hindu Businessline

Mumbai, August 8, 2013

Department store chain Shoppers Stop is charting out plans to evolve as an omni-channel retailer in a bid to provide seamless access to consumers in physical stores as well as online. They expect this to make customers buy more — at least 15 to 30 per cent more — as some research studies have shown.

With consumers increasingly turning to online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers are devising ways to stay ahead by offering incentives to walk-in customers. The omni-channel strategy is one such initiative.

Shoppers Stop Managing Director Govind Srikhande said, “Globally, several departmental stores, such as Macy’s, John Lewis or Sacks have come back strongly through omni-channel retailing. About 9-20 per cent of their overall sales come through this channel.” He said this trend would slowly catch up with Indian retailers, too. The Mumbai-based retailer that got into e-commerce three years ago recently revamped its online channel.

Other retailers, such as Future Group, Lifestyle, Tata’s Croma Retail, too, have similar plans.

Online platform

Rajan Malhotra, President (retail strategy) at Future Group, the country’s largest retail company, said the firm doesn’t want to be a pure play e-commerce or physical store but an omni-channel retailer.

The group’s consumer durables and electronics business, eZone launched an online platform three months ago and has witnessed a 50-60 per cent jump in sales sequentially, he added. “The plan now is to integrate both offline and online in a flawless manner,” Malhotra said, adding that eZone’s online business will fetch over Rs 200 crore within a year from just Rs 1 crore at present.

The Landmark group’s value retail arm, Max Lifestyle, is also planning a similar strategy in the next four-five months. However, the company refused to divulge any details fearing competition.

Devangshu Dutta, founder of a marketing and retail research firm, Third Eyesight, wondered whether retailers had the necessary expertise to meet customer demands.

“They have to invest heavily in creating and integrating all the channels and technology systems to act as one,” Dutta said.

Retailers will have to add quick pick-up counters for online purchasers, train their staff to handle instant check-out though a smartphone or tablet and gather data to personalise the shopping experience, he added.

(This article appeared in The Hindu Businessline on 8 August 2013.)