Traditional retail ups its digital quotient

Struggling for relevance in the wake of the e-commerce environment, brick-and-mortar retailers are aggressively turning to digital technology to redefine in-store shopping

With the consumer’s path to purchase increasingly being influenced by digital, forward-looking retailers are tailoring their stores to impress and engage savvy shoppers. The use of in-store digital technology is playing a key role in making offline shopping an immersive experience. In-store digital technologies can increase the average purchase amount by 29.5% and in-store traffic by 32.8%, while creating a brand connect, according to an InfoTrends report. It is no surprise then that forward looking retailers/OEMs are bringing digital technology into stores, including social sharing, virtual mirrors and digital kiosks, to tap consumer preferences and to build up on their biggest differentiator — the power of the store.

Van Heusen, a premium lifestyle brand from Madura Fashion & Lifestyle, recently launched Van Heusen Style Studio, a 5,550 sq ft store in Bengaluru. The store aims to bring the convenience of online shopping to the physical format. The store has a Fit Suite, which suggests appropriate fits and sizes depending on a customer’s body type.

This is further aided by virtual trials whereby consumers can check unlimited ensembles without even getting into the trial room. “There is a fundamental shift happening in consumer behaviour due to the paucity of time, penetration of technology and increased awareness levels. This means stores must rethink the consumer purchase pattern and simplify her shopping journey,” says Vinay Bhopatkar, COO, Van Heusen, Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.
Fabric and apparel brand Raymond has also reinvented its retail store concept to connect with today’s tech-savvy shoppers.

Raymond launched its first flagship store, Ready to Wear, in August last year. The store is situated in the high street of Bengaluru and boasts of a double-height ‘live’ façade with LED curtains that display digital content without restricting visibility. What makes the store different is its inventory-light looks and unique fitting room experience. The customer’s selection appears “in the desired size” inside the trial room wardrobe when he clicks “Trial” on the iPad. The company plans to open 15-20 such stores in the next 12 months.

“The ‘Complete Man’ moves seamlessly between the physical and digital worlds. It is, therefore, a necessity to deploy cutting edge technology in-stores to optimise on a customer’s time,” says Gaurav Mahajan, president, apparel business, Raymond. “Early results show that the store is generating higher than average footfall and basket sizes.”

Retail chain Shoppers Stop has created digital touchpoints in its stores to offer a seamless and unified shopping experience across all channels. From digital kiosks that allow for browse-and-buy from its e-store to augmented reality-based dressing rooms in a number of select stores in Mumbai, the retailer is working on a host of technologies. “We believe that creating an omni-channel retail experience is the way to go. In line with this, we are digitising our stores to increase customer convenience for better brand connect and loyalty,” says Govind Shrikhande, customer care associate and managing director, Shoppers Stop.

Future Group, which operates Big Bazaar, is digitising its stores and running a pilot for technologies like virtual mirrors and digital signages to address painpoints related to in-store shopping. The company has opened Big Bazaar Gen Nxt stores in Noida and Mumbai. These stores are central to the innovative practices being adopted by the company. Apart from recently running a pilot for ‘valet’ billing to address cashiering issues in these two stores, the retailer is working on a closed group pilot to make signages in digital forms on retail shelves. “For a full-range retailer, instant price promotions are important. We are working on a system where the digital display takes product pricing directly from the system. This will help us do happy-hour pricing,” says Sadashiv Nayak, CEO, Big Bazaar.

This is not restricted to apparel/fashion brands, department chains or supermarkets. Even high-involvement categories like auto are changing the way they engage with consumers. While luxury passenger carmakers like Audi and BMW are frontrunners in retail innovation, what is changing the game is the adoption of technology at the retail level by mass segment players. Companies like Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) and Tata Motors are breaking barriers and creating a whole new brand perception through cutting-edge technology in their dealerships. While MSIL has launched Nexa, a paperless dealership to cater to the premium segment, Tata Motors has installed interactive kiosks in select dealerships to help consumers understand the technology behind their vehicles. Nexa currently contributes to 10% of overall sales at MSIL and has sold 45,000 units in a span of six months since the launch in August last year.

The two-wheeler space is not far behind. HMSI introduced an app to engage with young buyers, with the launch of the Honda CB Hornet 160R in December last year. “HMSI plans to introduce new digital initiatives in its dealerships in a few months such as equipping salesmen with technology to give customers a virtual experience and customise the CB Hornet 160R app to the store level,” says YS Guleria, senior vice-president, sales and marketing, HMSI.

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