Let’s get phygital, say retailers as Covid revolutionises shopping

August 9, 2020 7:15 AM

Besides maintaining sanitation and routine precautions like air cleaning, etc, the use of Aarogya Setu app has also been mandated in almost all malls for both employees and visitors, and the app is checked at entry points.

There is also a curbside pickup service wherein customers can order online and pick up their purchases from a designated place just outside the mall premises.There is also a curbside pickup service wherein customers can order online and pick up their purchases from a designated place just outside the mall premises.

By Reya Mehrotra

In 2019, Funan Mall in Singapore introduced virtual shopping experiences. One could book a parking space much before arriving. A facial recognition turnstile would welcome you into the mall, where you would treat yourself in the food court by ordering through Facebook and paying digitally or through cryptocurrency.

Instead of strolling across the mall, one could just browse stores and their products on a digital touchboard and then decide where to head. Even the trial room has an electronic queuing system. What then seemed far ahead of its time is already a reality today, replicated in malls across the country. The future of shopping is clearly here.

A few years ago, e-commerce and digitalisation revolutionised the way we shop. The pandemic has brought in a second revolution, where shopping is now a ‘phygital’ experience, blending e-commerce, virtual tours and personal shoppers.

In Delhi’s Select Citywalk mall and Ambience malls in Gurgaon and Vasant Kunj, customers can get a virtual tour of the stores, with a personal shopper picking up desired items, which are then sanitised and delivered to their homes.

There is also a curbside pickup service wherein customers can order online and pick up their purchases from a designated place just outside the mall premises.

Malls are also reaching out to regular customers through phone, offering to home deliver their regular items. Several shoppers said they received offers from stores like Allen Solly in The Great India Place mall in Noida and Pantaloons in Bengaluru to shop on video calls. The staff assists one to choose according to their preferences and style and deliver the goods at home while receiving payment online.

As Prashant Gaurav Gupta, business head of DLF Luxury Malls that include DLF Emporio and The Chanakya in Delhi, says, “We are providing a phygital experience by taking the in-store experience online, and the online experience in-store. At DLF Emporio, we are focusing on meeting purposeful needs via efficient omni-channel strategies and generating meaningful content that inspires, engages and entices our consumers.”

Phoenix Marketcity in Bengaluru is soon launching an app that will help in pre-booking a visit to the mall, select, book and pay for parking, contactless dining, finding stores and their catalogues, and check-in of bags for hands-free shopping.

Shoppers can even earn points on every purchase by scanning their bills and redeem those points to avail personalised discounts on the app, said Gajendra Singh Rathore, senior centre director, Phoenix MarketCity.

The mall is already offering concierge services for its patrons where they can select merchandise and products from catalogues or through assisted virtual shopping and even place orders through WhatAapp. While payments are online, contactless delivery is by a concierge.

Select Citywalk is also launching a digital catalogue called ‘The Home Edition’ that allows one to shop from home. One can browse through the catalogue pages featuring the latest styles and products.

To order, one can send the product code to the mall WhatsApp business number and get the products delivered home. Says Yogeshwar Sharma, executive director and CEO, Select Citywalk, “We are continuously innovating in the new normal to be closer to our customers and are sure that the digital catalogue will be much appreciated. It’s a trip to the shopping centre without venturing out of the house, with all the convenience, ease and delight of shopping for the best brands.”

Contactless dining is enabled at restaurants and food courts by digital orders and payments. The four-step process involves scanning the QR code with mobile, tapping on the notification link, ordering food – either dining in or takeaway — and paying online.

Since many changes would be new to visitors, malls are also deploying special task forces to help customers and see if norms are followed. Sachin Dhanawade, chief operating officer (COO), retail & real estate, Grauer & Weil (India), which operates Growel’s 101 mall in Mumbai, says, “A specially trained staff force has been formed that will assist and guide customers to follow the dos and don’ts of the new norms within the mall.”

Besides maintaining sanitation and routine precautions like air cleaning, etc, the use of Aarogya Setu app has also been mandated in almost all malls for both employees and visitors, and the app is checked at entry points.

However, with stores shut for months together, businesses in malls continue to be slow. Crisil predicted in a recent analysis of the top 10 malls in India that the revenue of mall operators is set to halve this fiscal due to the lockdown. A major reason is that gaming zones, restaurants, multiplexes and food courts that attracted crowds remain closed. In such a situation, sanitation and phygital efforts are directly proportional to better footfalls.

The average footfall presently at Ambience Gurgaon is around 30,000, while at Ambience Vasant Kunj it is around 20,000 on a weekly basis. Prior to the lockdown, the numbers were 75,000-90,000 during weekends and 35,000-45,000 during weekdays in the Gurgaon mall and 55,000-65,000 in Vasant Kunj on weekends and 27,000-40,000 on weekdays.

For Select Citywalk, footfalls before the lockdown had been 30,000-35,000 on weekdays and 40,000-45,000 on weekends. During the first month of Unlock 1, Select Citywalk witnessed 10,000 footfalls daily on an average. Currently Select Citywalk has almost 90% occupancy.

While the footfalls have been low, about 40% of pre-Covid times, the conversions have increased to about 70% from about 35-40% previously, notes Susil S Dungarwal, chief mall mechanic at Mumbai-headquartered Beyond Squarefeet Advisory, India’s premier mall advisory that provides end-to-end solutions in mall development and mall management.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Good news! Google Meet unlimited time video calls will be free for all users until March 2021
2Making homes may get expensive after upcoming festive season; cement prices likely to rise this much
3‘Startups’ role in pushing MSMEs to new heights can’t be downplayed; collaboration may be game-changer’