What they said..

Building the Future of Retail

The first trend highlighted by Krish Iyer, President and CEO, Walmart India, during the inaugural session underlined how customers are at the core of any business while offline, online or omnichannel retail are just the platforms for delivery. “Walmart has been in India for a while now and is completely committed to stretching its footprint in the country. Our mission right now is to empower small resellers or small kirana stores to serve their customers well and ultimately make them our ultimate consumers. Secondly, any retail company needs to find out what exactly the customer wants and then plan the retail strategy accordingly,” he said.

Replicate Successful Strategies

Samir Modi, Managing Director, Modi Enterprises, took the discussion forward. When Modi started Twenty Four Seven, India’s only organised retail chain in the ‘round-the-clock’ convenience store format, he went through a number of legal battles even after getting permission from the Delhi government. However, he maintained that the key to successful business is adapting to what’s best for the firm, even when it implies copying some strategies. “Be innovative, take risks, see what you like from other organisations and copy that blatantly. Invest in brick-and-mortar, forget e-commerce, challenge the norm, hire staffers who can smile rather than technology experts,” he advised.

Link Consumer Goods Companies and Retail

There are a few essentials that are important for linking consumer goods companies with the whole retailing space and the consumers. The next session, presided by Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director, Nestle India Ltd., underlined the importance of human touch in maintaining relationship with consumers. “The primary goal for all of us is customer first. We have demanding shoppers who are knowledgeable about quality, brands, etc. Indian consumers do not care if the brand is Indian or foreign so long as the product is of value,” he said. Narayanan also emphasized the importance of traditional retail since “maximum sales in FMCG are derived from mom-and-pop stores of the country”.

Measuring the Value of Experiential

Experiential is a trend that continues to gain momentum and retailers are, very consciously, promoting in-store experiences to please their customers. Ashish Goel, Co-Founder, Urban Ladder, talked about how the home fashion brand has always tried to keep the brand imagery “drool worthy”. “We have two formats of stores – one is the lifestyle format where we show a room in its full glory and the other is the catalogue format where items from one category are placed next to each other. We definitely offer experience in our stores. Experiential retail is very important but you need to move away from making it gimmicky to actually making it relevant for the customer. It is essential to measure the value of experiential and keep it relative,” he said.

Moving Ahead with Blended Commerce

The omnichannel summit started with Bruce Stuart Harryman, Distribution Network Planning Head, John Lewis (UK), who talked about the integration of physical and digital commerce and “ultimately delivering an exceptional shopping experience to customers across all touch points”. John Lewis is a chain of high-end department stores operating throughout the United Kingdom. “Our customers don’t see any difference in shopping online or at our store since it is a seamless process for them. While 20% of our online orders are researched at John Lewis outlets, 75% of our online customers shop at the John Lewis stores. So they are shopping through all the channels,” said Harryman, who further underlined the fact that a retailer needs to keep investing in innovation in shops for better experience, etc. since this can ultimately lead to a successful omnichannel business.

Get Set for Omni-Revolution
The world has been witnessing an omnichannel revolution these past few years and the retail leadership is now all set and ready to go ahead with the trend. Vasanth Kumar, Managing Director, Lifestyle International, asserted, “Today, the millennial generation naturally expects digitized selling which is a combination of ‘digital’ and ‘touch and feel’. They use their smartphones as they shop and so it’s important for every retailer to deliver the best omni-experience.” Lifestyle International has been progressing each year, moving towards becoming tech-ready.
Convergence of Commerce and Payments
A keynote address by Joseph Chan, CEO, Asia Pay, threw light on the converging world of commerce and payments where he discussed the transformations in transactions and how to achieve a smart cashless society with contactless payment. “In some places in China, when you walk up to a convenience store or some fast food stores, you can easily use face recognition, place the order and make the payment,” he revealed, while talking about the changes in the payment landscape. “A lot of payment options are becoming available by using mobile devices and SOMO wallets,” he highlighted. These, he said, are creating increasing opportunities and challenges for the retailers while they continue to reach the expectations of their consumers.
The ‘Made in China’ Phenomenon
Riding on the high note with which the event had started, Yash Parwani, CEO, OPPO, brought the summit to a close by defining China’s big promise for the Indian retail market. “Technically, before 2008-09 Chinese handsets were always regarded as low quality products and most of them would come without warranty but we launched quality products that would make customers happy and at a price that others could not provide, along with exclusive solutions and specifications. When we look at India as a market, it is the second most important market for us across the globe after China,” said Parwani.
The Indian Retail and eRetail Congress (IReC) 2018 held on 16-17 April at JW Marriott, Aerocity, had top visionaries, business thought leaders and retail bigwigs.