The retail sector in India is growing at a phenomenal pace. According to the Global Retail Development Index 2012, India ranks fifth among the top 30 emerging markets for retail. Indian retail is expected to grow 25 per cent annually, with modern retail being worth in the range of $175-200 billion by 2016. The million-dollar question - how do Indian retailers seize this opportunity and create an offline:online mix? What is the right proportion? Should retailers go completely to the online mode and just do e-tailing or should they support a brick-and-mortar set up and progressively move from there onwards?
According to Group FMG, there are FOUR fundamental aspects to building a powerful e-commerce business- ATTRACT, INTERACT, TRANSACT and REACT. These four aspects guide content in the online mode. Brands need to attract onsumers through a content management system or a website/portal, then interact with them through relevant personalization, provide a B2B or a B2C commerce platform to transact upon and then react based on consumer experience. With the right blend of these four aspects and channels, we help brand and customers build effective and engaging solutions.
A study by Avendus Captial – a financial services firm – said that Indian e-commerce revenues grew upto $6.3 billion in 2011, from $4.3 billion in 2010 and $3.3 billion in 2009. According to Indiaplaza.com, there were only about three million people who used the internet in 1999-2000, and out of that, only about 15,000 to 20,000 users were shopping online. Today, that figure has grown to over 100 million Internet users, with online buyers span growing more than 14 million.
Although the Indian e-commerce business is a lot tougher than what may seem, it has grown immensely owing to many factors that have developed in parallel, like the expansion, reach and improvement of internet services, smartphones, mobile applications, secure transaction gateways, online banking, easier access to credit cards/debit cards, lower cost of products (as compared to those in brick & mortar shops), etc. The future of e-retailing has infinite possibilities in India and in this series we will focus only on the 'Social' aspect to begin with.
Adoption and Innovation in social media in Indian Retail / eRetail markets
The influence of social media and Internet in Indian retail sales is gaining importance and acts as a ‘game changer’, reveals a recent study published in October 2012. Evident to this finding on current trends, many Indian retail brands experiment their strategic objectives with social media and had reported positive outcomes over the last few years. Retail brands use social media as a component of their marketing mix, customer acquisition & customer loyalty strategies and as customer service touch points.
When Ford India wanted to celebrate the 50,000th production milestone of the Ford Figo car with its community in an engaging and incentivising way, social media was used extensively. Ford started an online contest promoted heavily by social media to select four young couples who drove Ford Figo across 10 Indian cities travelling 2,500 kilometers in 25 days. Along the way they shared their adventures and discoveries with the online communities. Tweetups were organised and bloggers at various cities met up with them to share interesting driving stretches to make the celebration more exciting and rewarding.
Many brands similar to Ford use social media to incentivise customers on reaching their sales and production milestones. And then there are brands that incentivize their followers for achieving milestones pertaining to their social media programs.
Taking a look at eRetailers, their key imperative business aspect is that 100 per cent of their target markets are on Internet and an average Internet user in India spends about three hours a day in social media. Most of their marketing messages will have to get through Internet and their customer service issues are discussed beyond contact centers. They have to be constantly available in a medium where their users spend their time and Social media becomes a logical choice.
When Bookmyshow.com, a web-based platform that sells movie tickets realized that most of their users are on Facebook, they introduced their Mascot, Bob, who became a friend to all their fans, with whom users could relate to and express their thoughts and dislikes. They were also quick to introduce an integrated Facebook application named TicketBuddy to book tickets without leaving Facebook, paving way for their entrance into ‘Social-commerce’.
eRetailers look forward to get their users talking about their in-site activities in social media. They integrate social sharing elements at various levels like the product pages, wish lists and post-purchase pages to let the customers announce their proud new purchase to their friends and implicitly spread the brand word.
Apart from the proactive and reactive spreading of the brand message into social media, retailers have also understood the potential of social media to provide them meaningful insights and use it for decision making in launching new campaign, CRM programs etc. Text mining and network mining are also evolving as powerful analytic approaches for revealing new insights in social media data.
In addition retailers and e-Retailers can also use innovative approaches to add more visual and textual content about their products to social media. The content will be of high impact when it is ‘generated by customers and involves them’. This not only will help increase the brand awareness, but also will let the customers be the brand representatives to their connections in addition to the mannequins, models and high paid celebrities. Initial approaches suggested by Group FMG are as follows:
· Videos of unpacking products are very popular on YouTube. Encourage customers to unpack (suitable) their purchase in front of professionally set store cameras, capture the moments of excitement and upload / tag it to the retailer’s social channels with their consent. eRetailers can allow their customers to record their own version of unpacking and submit it online
· Invite customers to post photographs or videos of them using the product. Reward the customers posting the most popular photographs over a day, week or month
· Encourage and incentivize checking in, tagging of customers in retail stores
· Adoption of QR codes to take users instantly to the social media profiles created for products and for retail outlets can help add more number of connections to the profile. These QR codes can be printed in Newspaper / magazine ads, flyers, product packing or in several attractive points in a retail outlet.
According to arecent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) the Indian e-commerce market is pegged at Rs 50,000 crore, and social media will play an increasingly pivotal role for e-Retailers in their journey to match projected value in the coming years. The core elements for effective social media utilization are to ‘Monitor’, ‘Engage’, ‘Build’ and integrate it across the decision journey of customers to help brands achieve higher customer acquisition, satisfaction, loyalty and retention.