Retailers in the high-value and luxury segment have introduced video calling through apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Skype
Malls and stores that have opened in some parts of the country are yet to see substantial footfall, as consumers are still hesitant about stepping out. According to a survey by Retailers Association of India, malls witnessed 77% degrowth, while high street retail saw a decline of 61% in business in the first half of June, as compared to the same period last year.
To counter this, retailers in the high-value and luxury segment have introduced video calling through apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Skype, to drive sales. Will this merely become an avenue for window shopping or could this really help businesses in the long term?
Three’s a crowd
Jewellery brands Tanishq and Kalyan Jewellers, automobile manufacturer Skoda, footwear brand Crocs, fashion rental service Date The Ramp, and South Indian textile chain Pothys have hopped on the video calling bandwagon.
“Since we don’t allow a group of more than two to visit the store, customers began video calling their families from our stores,” says Ramesh Kalyanaraman, executive director, Kalyan Jewellers. It is with this insight that the jewellery chain launched its own video calling facility to showcase products to a large group of buyers.
Additionally, video calling drastically cuts down the time spent in the showroom. Typically, customers visiting a jewellery store or an apparel showroom spend a couple of hours viewing, trying on, and selecting a product for purchase.
Tanishq, which has rolled out the video calling option in 200 of its 330 stores, says it has served 1,800 customers in six weeks. “An average video call lasts about 45-60 minutes, and is preceded by a telephone call with the store manager where customers list their basic criteria such as budget, type of product, weight, etc,” says Ajoy Chawla, CEO, jewellery division, Titan.
Date The Ramp, which sources and rents fashion garments, encourages customers to first do a video call over Instagram with the store staff to shortlist the product. “Customers can then book an appointment and come try the pieces they have shortlisted, limited to three. The products that the consumer does not choose are then steamed at high temperature and quarantined separately for minimum 24 hours,” informs Chinmoy Panda, founder and CEO, Date The Ramp.
The average ticket size generated via video calling has been encouraging, according to some of these companies. In the case of Tanishq, for instance, it has been around Rs 2 lakh, and a total of Rs 38 crore worth of sales have taken place as a result of video calls. “Overall, the ticket size of online purchases has increased from Rs 13,000-14,000 to Rs 30,000 this year,” Chawla adds.
Kalyan Jewellers is seeing a conversion rate of nearly 90% on video calls. Consumers browsing apparel on Date The Ramp via Instagram videos are renting clothes worth Rs 20,000 and above, for upcoming weddings.
The challenge for these retailers has been scaling up home delivery. Most of them still need the consumer to come to the store at the specified time to pick up the product, even if the payment can be made online. “We are home delivering to customers who have made big-ticket purchases, and want to check the product once before closing the deal,” says Kalyanaraman.
According to Shankar Shinde, managing partner, Geometry Encompass, video calling works mainly in the premium category, where the ticket sizes are large. However, greater video integration can also help drive small-value purchases, says Shinde. “Retailers could provide shoppers with a video experience of shopping aisles to increase the cart size. Seeing products on store shelves promotes buying,” he adds.