Omnichannel commerce is the buzzword in the world of commerce. Omnichannel retail can be stated as the future of retail. It provides a bigger brighter picture of e-commerce. Omnichannel marketing provides an opportunity for putting the customer at the centre. Omnichannel shopping gives a better shopping experience as the consumers are given a chance to make a decision regarding how, where, when, and from whom they can shop.
Many companies are benefiting from the use of this marketing strategy and Bata is one of them. Footwear major Bata India has occupied the position of India's favorite footwear brand. Omnichannel strategy is being implemented in Bata India’s retail stores to reach and attract more customers.
In an exclusive conversation, Sandeep Katari, Chief Executive Officer, Bata India, talks about Bata’s business strategy in the new normal. He further speaks about how omnichannel retail has traversed the path from being a buzz word to being a business strategy.
What are the various temporary and permanent changes that have taken place in the retail industry in India during the COVID-19 times?
One of the biggest changes is the whole omnichannel experience. We are seeing a lot more acceptance by digital adopters and digital novices. Assisted Shopping is another channel which has been a bit of offshoot of our store on wheels. The changes are not going to be a straight linear line but there will be trends with people being far more open to trying. To fulfill such changing demands, moods, and preferences, we as retailers should be agile.
How much business do you think immediately shifted in the online environment, particularly on this pandemic period, and whether it will have an impact on the brick and mortar store?
Digitaization has contributed severely to the business as the digitally enabled sales are in multiples of what they were earlier. Pandemic has paved the way for us to adapt omnichannel. I think we are now learning that it's not about either an online or a brick and mortar but instead a collaboration of both. The brick and mortar stores themselves can expand and see how they can reach more consumers using an online strategy. We ourselves at Bata India have a Bata club on WhatsApp where our customers reach us directly without any hesitation.
‘Bata on Wheels’ concept is a wonderful initiative that you have taken through which you are getting closer to your customers. Do you think this is just an answer to a crisis or there's a more picture to it?
We, at Bata India, cater to the whole family audience beginning from the infant stage to grandfather's generations. During the peak of the crisis, when the elderly and children were not allowed to step out, we felt we were not being able to serve them. So, we planned to actually reach out to the underserved audience, that's how the ‘Bata on Wheels’ concept started. Soon, we realised that it's a solution that could be given to a lot more audiences and spaces.
How are you getting your teams aligned to this change of digitisation and remote working, taking them together in this change?
"Every dark cloud has a silver lining" and undoubtedly COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest driver for digitalization. Our teams coming back after lockdown have been far more open to the whole toolkits and now list the stocks from our stores itself. A cross-functional movement within the company has been responsible for strengthening the team as it has provided the opportunity to learn new tricks and techniques. And so the teams who understand retail then deploy omnichannel more strongly.
Finally, what would be your advice to young retailers?
I think "cash is king". So, we need to manage our cash inventory, sales, and costs very efficiently. And we have to be agile to adjust to the demands of customers.