Customers are changing. Today, a 90-year old uses a smart-phone and doesn’t need any assistance to book a taxi to travel from point A to point B. Similarly, a lady in her mid-forties would think twice before exhausting her hard-earned frequent flier miles and let off her shopping itch on her mobile device instead. ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’ swooned Bob Dylan in early 60s, and the reason, as would appear four decades later, is clear for every business today.
Customer, the game changer
A pure play retailer like Big Bazaar, who we have looked up to for all our weekly or monthly grocery needs, is going online today. Of course, the transition did not happen overnight and in words of Vivek Biyani, Director Big Bazaar Direct, who is slated to take on a larger role with the Future Group, “We have always believed that the consumers of tomorrow will shop through multiple channels of retail.”
While there always are categories more friendly to a kind of retail, but the boundaries are constantly and speedily blurring, all thanks to the consumers of today. After all, who would wake up in the morning to fetch the daily fill of milk and groceries fresh from the nearby mandi, we will let LocalBanya do that for us instead.”
The ways of engagement with today’s customer have changed. Therefore, the adoption of channel has changed. “While traditional will hold its space like it always has, there are many digital mediums that have gotten the people to behave differently. The consumer of tomorrow wants personalisation, convenience, loyalty etc and all these terms would mean very different to them. We don’t even know how the ‘Millennials’ will behave tomorrow. Organisations today have to become more agile to know how consumers of tomorrow will change,” continues Biyani.
The consumer of today expects a certain service from retailers; therefore, it is important for pure play retailers to build the organisation the right way before a plunge is taken.
Big Bazaar believes that for a product and services organisation like theirs, it has been a natural progression from being a pure-play to being a forerunner in adopting multiple channels of retail, but, there is always a bone of contention. “As a physical retailer, there is a lot of capability one needs to build to look at digital retail. It is a lot of change in the culture of the organisation. One needs to architect the organisation in a certain way to justify the service expected by loyal customers,” adds Biyani.
Embrace technology like your customers would
Technology is other aspect which needs to be embraced to take a plunge into digital retail. Raghunandan G, Co-founder and CEO, TaxiForSure, echoes the fact to the extreme of believing that if not for technology, (Geo-location sensor to be specific), his organisation wouldn’t have existed. “It is because of Geo-location sensor that tracking a taxi became significantly cheaper. You would be surprised to know that taxi businesses around the world started as recently as in 2011-12, around the time when Geo-location sensor service got introduced.”
Interactions with retailers have led me to believe that they never thought that they were building a disruptive business. The beauty of disruptive business is that unless they are started, no one really knows if it will disrupt the ecosystem.
Raghunandan also pointed out that if customers are not responding to the technological advances made by organisations, growth cannot be achieved. He says, “TaxiForSure until last year was present in just three cities and we thought in the May of 2015 we will be able to reach another eight cities or so, but our plans kept changing every two months. Today, exactly a year after, we are in 62 cities. And it is not about us, it is about how customers have adopted technology in the last quarter. Today, around 74 per cent of our customers are booking rides through their mobile app, as against a sparse five per cent last year. Do you need any other statistic to believe how customer adoption of a particular technology is changing things so drastically?”
Yes, it is indeed drastic and can be felt in sectors that are predominantly into sales; Insurance. Alok Bansal, Co-founder, CFO and Chief Business Officer at Policybazaar, confesses, “Our business idea changed within the first three months. We thought of building a model around the motor insurance and thought that it will be the easiest product to compare. So, we built a marketplace around that but soon realised the folly of that thought. There are so many things the industry needs to change to put the customer in the front. Even though we are in the business for the last seven years, we have to constantly keep evolving our business models.” So, it is important for companies to realise the importance of what the customers need, rather than just trying to create something with the intent of selling it.