The larger debate is not about online versus offline but a synergy of both. One of the key questions confounding companies -- if online can stand without brick and mortar businesses -- was the topic of a session at the 6th edition of BT Mindrush.
Rajesh Magow, CEO, MakeMyTrip, said it is not one versus the other. "The way we think about it is from the consumer's lens and how market and consumer behaviour is evolving. It is not about imposing anything on the consumer but adapting to their behaviour." He said no one can rule out the importance of new technology, what we need is to adopt it in business.
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Devendra Chawla, CEO and MD of Spencer's Retail said that since consumers are adopting digital, every retailer in the world, including Spencer's, is becoming omnichannel. Retailers need to have a single view of consumers as they are moving their entire day between analog, digital, online and offline. In both places, whether shopping in a store or buying online, they are leaving a lot of digital footprints such as web statistics. The challenge is to stitch together the data for offline and online footprints and form a view of the customer as an individual instead of a sea of mass.
On dealing with frenemies, Chawla said competition has always been there but a company focusing on customers will win. In the world of platforms, it's competition and cooperation together. MakeMyTrip and Lemon Tree is a perfect example of competing and giving business to each other. So, if you want to keep the customer with you forever, then you have to make partners with competition.
For Ajith Mohan Karimpana, founder CEO of furniture rental startup Furlenco, it is a matter of winning consumer trust. "Building trust, irrespective of whether they are online or offline, is the key." He said when there was only offline retail, the only way to build trust was by building stores. Now, information is freely available across channels and companies are working on different service models, he said.
Patu Keshwani, Chairman and MD, Lemon Tree Hotels, looks at technology from four angles -- customer outreach, for convenience, for efficiency and for MIS systems. He added what he is concerned about is customer outreach as there is a cost to it. "Currently, platforms like MakemyTrip are like outsourced sales vendors, but as a part of the brand, it is their job to retain the customer for the second time, but the problem is I am not able to compete with technology companies here."