Today, the need for retail business to be omnipresent has become a necessity. While most brands are following the conventional path of launching a showroom followed by an online store, lately we have seen a trend in the opposite direction where brands are first developing an online presence before moving into a physical space. No matter how convenient and efficient online shopping is, there will always be some shoppers who want to touch, feel, try as well as physically experience a brand. Showrooms, boutiques or any brick-and-mortar store cater to these needs while helping brands derive data on real time consumer behaviour – a win-win for both, the brand and consumers. Industry biggies, start-ups and online born-and-bred brands are now realizing the impact of bricks-and-mortar. The Indian retail sector is estimated to grow with 34 malls by 2020 – for which Rs 79.59 billion has already been invested by private equity funds in malls till September 2018.
From Victoria Beckham’s fashion business raising $40 million for expansion to Numero Uno investing Rs. 10 crore to open about 36 stores, there are many brands who have now started conquering the offline space.
Integrating online and offline experiences through digital innovations
Research says that more than 65% of users surf online, 55% read reviews and 47% check brand websites before visiting a showroom. The journey from online to offline is unquestionably paved with scepticism. However, many online leaders are integrating their digital and physical presence to interact with their shoppers and fulfil their needs.
With innovative solutions, brands are now utilising digital natives to draw audiences offline, thus establishing strong connections with customers and enhancing in-store customer experience and purchases. For instance, retail company, Max Fashion will soon be launching a new channel allowing users to place an online order in the store using digital kiosks, and have it delivered to their doorsteps. India’s multi-brand e-commerce beauty platform, Nykaa who started out as an online multi-label destination, launched its first store in Mumbai last year. With an aim to open 30 offline stores by 2020, Nykaa wants to enable shoppers to interact with its products firsthand. Beacon technology and location-based services are the biggest examples that can help brands target customers to make their buying experience memorable. These are the devices used by retailers to automatically send notifications and discounts to shoppers’ smart-phones when they enter a store.
Interactive design and space
Consumer experience doesn’t only revolve around preferences, knowing and delivering the right sizes, interests and after sales service. Today, the dynamics have transformed completely. Stores have evolved into more of an experiential playground where brands are communicating their values through the design, layout and space. Last year, India’s biggest online fashion retailer, Myntra, in association with one of its franchise partners, Roadster, launched the first retail store in Bengaluru. The store introduced several elements to engage with their customers. For e.g. a video wall which showcased details of products, international trends as well as the brand history through a futuristic, touch interface. The unique ‘scan and go’ purchase mechanism allows shoppers to add their favourites to their shopping cart on the Myntra app, saying good-bye to all the hassle, shopping bags, checkout counters or billing queues. The store is also equipped with multiple touch screen displays which provide information on fashion looks and the product catalogue. Apart from this, Myntra is now hatching plans to draw its online traffic offline as well, by starting a chain of brick-and-mortar stores for brands like Mac, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Esprit etc.
The idea is to redefine the way consumers experience brands, while encashing on the same. Many smaller online independent designers too, are giving physical store experience a chance with the help of pop-up shops or fashion expos. This not only helps increase awareness, but also builds trust in their brand. Ethnic apparel brand, Fabindia has announced its expansion by adding 40-50 stores every year. The company recently opened a new retail format called the Fabindia Experience Centre, and aims to have 10 stores by the end of 2018.
The key to a brand’s success lies in customer experience, be it in-store or online. It all depends on how you delight the customer. While many international players as well as homegrown brands have already opened their doors to customers, we can’t wait to know what’s in store (literally!) next.