Gone are the days when eCommerce was touted as the ‘new wave’ or monster that would eat up the physical retail. With numerous stores opening up, especially for international labels, one can say that physical retail is immortal in India, irrespective of the change in consumer engagement mechanism.
Owing to the digitization of retail with the advent of eRetail marketplaces like Flipkart, Snapdeal Amazon and specialty retailers like Jabong, Pepperfry and FirstCry, the brick-and-mortar retail, though faced a major setback during initial days, but has re-gained momentum.
Doing away from YouCome-Choose-MakePayment-Leave mode, the traditional retailers are reckoning consumer engagement and offering what quintessential eRetailers do including virtual display and setting up e-store. Even the retail magnates like Landmark Group (Max and Lifestyle), Shoppers Stop etc. came up with their online shopping sites.
Moving a step ahead, these retail moguls are working towards creating a seamless Omni-channel experience over mere online and offline experience, thus integrating best of both the channels. While they are listing themselves on other marketplaces, they are also leveraging their network of retail stores for click & collect and last mile deliveries.
Thinking on similar sidelines, a couple of retailers are foraying into eCommerce, but are tweaking the traditional model, thus making the stores enact as dark stores as well.
Of late Tata Unistore - a Tata Industries incubated business venture has announced the launch of its eCommerce platform, Tata CLiQ across website, mobile site and mobile apps (Android and iOS), Tata CLiQ has positioned itself in direct competition with eRetailers). Moreover, Arvind has launched beta version of its much awaited project Nnnow.com, which would mark its foray into Omni-channel retail.
As per Kulin Lalbhai, the young son of textile tycoon Sanjay Lalbhai, Nnnow is not a dot-com, but an omni-channel engine which will try and bring together the online and offline worlds.
"I know omni-channel is an oft-repeated term. It's confused with multi-channel sales. I need to be clear about what we are doing. This is simply Arvind's biggest wager in the last few decades," he told a leading daily in an interview.
In a move to ensure seamless Omni-channel experience, both the retailers have offered click-and-collect (store pick-ups) facilities and connected digital shoppers to every product from stores, thus being one of the most comprehensive merchandise offerings.
Similar to these two players, Raymond and Celio are also planning to planning to leverage their store network for the last mile delivery.
Commenting on the same, Mohit Dhanjal, Director Retail, Raymond asserted, “We saw eCommerce as an opportunity to invest burn cash and then get the turnover, but after evaluating the cost we thought of not playing that game because we already have strong brick and mortar presence. We are not running after those big bucks and still want to retain high level of trust, great product and great service.”
“For Omni-channel, our physical strength will give us leverage and would be a competitive advantage. We have close to 700 stores in 383 cities and 665 of them are franchised. We will leverage the inventories of these franchisees and use them as point of collection with click and collect model. Also we will use them for last mile delivery with right technology in 6-8 months,” added Dhanjal.
Sized at $20 billion, the eCommerce in India is growing at a faster rate than brick-and-mortar retail. The eCommerce market will account for 2.5 per cent of India’s gross domestic product by 2030, growing 15 times and reaching $300 billion, said a Goldman Sachs report.
Encouraged by the potential, brick and mortar retailers have been rigorously working to foray into the fast expanding eRetail sector. While these retailers are in no mood to burn out cash in form of discounts, it is very clear that they are banking upon bridging the gaps between online and offline.