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Brands going online to extend reach of their offline retail stores

With the rise of e-commerce, retailers are now trying the omnichannel approach where their online and offline stores are integrated seamlessly to be present at all customer touch points

Sonal Khetarpal | January 18, 2020 | Updated 20:10 IST
Brands going online to extend reach of their offline retail stores
Retailers, big and small, are trying to make themselves relevant as consumers move online

When shopping malls started sprouting up in India, the general perception was it would wipe out the general trade merchants. Now, with the rise of e-commerce, that discourse has engulfed the entire offline shopping fraternity, with retailers, big and small, trying to make themselves relevant as consumers move online. They are now trying the omnichannel approach where their online and offline stores are integrated seamlessly to be present at all customer touch points.

Nilesh Gupta, Managing Director of consumer electronics retail chain Vijay Sales, says brands are experimenting with different approaches - there are online-exclusive models and offline-exclusive models. He says, "We are currently in the transitory phase where we have not yet understood well that there will be an online customer and then there will be offline customer. Some customers will shop certain things online and the rest offline, and vice versa. Then there will be others who will conveniently switch between the two channels. The ecosystem is evolving and in the next few years everybody will realise that there is room for all players to coexist."

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Shoppers Stop started its online journey by setting it up as a different unit within the firm. But it wasn't working. So, in 2018, they started with the omnichannel journey to integrate their online and offline store. "We realised customer is not shopping either online or offline. Customer journey starts with exploring and discovering online and then shopping in the stores. We are making a very big effort to be omnichannel. I really believe that the future of online-offline is where the customer wants to be," says Rajiv Suri, managing director and CEO, Shoppers Stop.

Shoppers Stop's mobile app has got 7.5 million downloads and 70 per cent of its sales are from its stores that are connected. They have also tied up four stores with Amazon.  "Omnichannel works well where we have offline stores and Amazon stores help to reach where we don't have presence and that's what we are finding useful," says Suri. Shoppers Stop has 260 outlets across the country.

Sandeep Kataria, Country Manager of footwear brand Bata India, says that online retail store has helped them reach out to areas where their offline presence hasn't expanded yet and also to cater to the younger consumers who are more digitally savvy. Around five per cent of their sales now come from online channels.

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Manish Tiwary, Vice President, Amazon India says that online stores provide new brands a controlled environment in which they can experiment. He shares the instance of companies like Xiaomi, OnePlus were they first experimented online, fine-tuned their brand and product, and then launched it offline.

Sumeet Narang, founder MD of private equity firm Samara Capital says, "We are entering a world, where companies will not win but ecosystem will win because the moment there is an omnichannel play, what becomes extremely critical is that the cost structure is not duplicated between the different ecosystem partners so that all the savings are passed on to the consumer." He adds that working with ecosystem partners and making an ecosystem approach makes the customer promise stronger.

The speakers were a part of the panel at Amazon's conference SMBhav for SMBs in New Delhi.

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