Future Group’s Big Bazaar went live with its website bigbazaar.com on the midnight of August 10 as a re-attempt of its online retail strategy. This recent move was to complement its five-day Mahabachat sale which was heavily promoted by ads, a 24-hour Facebook Live activation and gamification. Around 660 kiosks were set up across its various stores where promoters equipped with tablets looked to popularise the website during Mahabachat.
Until the website launch, consumers could purchase products from the Big Bazaar shop on Amazon Now. But there’s a catch to Big Bazaar’s e-commerce ambition — it will sell products online only during its sale days/discount seasons and
Online retail? Not quite
Its previous attempts a few years back at e-commerce had met with little success. Why this fragmented approach to online retail? Pawan Sarda, group head — digital, Future Group, shares, “We are currently looking at online retail only for our sale days such as Sabse Saste Din or Mahabachat, etc, so that more people can avail discounts and offers. We cater to almost 10,000-12,000 pincodes through our stores. With the launch of our website for the sale period, we covered 70% of these existing pincodes.”
The company aims to bring in the younger segment into its fold with this move. Although, Sarda explains, it may not just be about selling to the young elders in a family. “The younger audience will use our online presence more. Often, this digitally-savvy audience is also an influencer in their family,” he says. The endeavour is to create enough touchpoints for consumers.
Although too early to gauge its effectiveness, its seasonal online retail presence may end up being a channel that supplements offline or drives footfalls for that period. Sadashiv Nayak, CEO, Big Bazaar, shares that the company is looking to maximise on ‘digitally influenced shopping decisions’. Around 15-18% decisions are digitally influenced with the purchase happening in the physical store, he shares, and after being present in 160 cities and with over 275 stores, the company ‘cannot afford’ to make a choice for two reasons. “One, there are physical stores that are doing great business and will remain our main play,” he says. “Two, there could be a young elder in a small town family who despite being a digital native, will still want to visit a store. We cannot ignore that customer.” However, a seasonal e-commerce strategy may not go down well with its loyalists who may like the convenience of shopping online during the sale periods, but will be forced to revert to physical stores post that.
Devangshu Dutta, founder and chief executive, Third Eyesight, believes Big Bazaar may be treating the online retail format as an experiment. “During a sale period, there may be more footfalls in the store requiring more sales staff and higher operating costs…not to mention, the shopping experience could be unpleasant and the company could lose out on making a sale.” But if consumers do choose to shop online during that period, one is easing out the peak load on the stores while retaining the customer, through e-commerce support.
It remains to be seen how effective a seasonal online retail strategy works for Big Bazaar considering that it offers home delivery during sales, which is the convenience factor that consumers who shop on portals such as Grofers or BigBasket look for. Aside from deliveries, the digital-only players offer app-only deals and discounts or the luxury of ordering deliveries as per the consumer’s preferred time. Being a strong brand in the offline environment, success in the online space is necessary for Big Bazaar, especially in areas where the threat (big or small) comes from other retail players or hyperlocal online-only players.