The retail industry today have grown up the growth matrix, fairly well, categorizing themselves in two broad buckets of the BCG Model (Boston consulting Group) i.e. cash cow and dogs. The once who were in the quadrants of Niche and Visionaries moved into the state of leaders today, reaped through the benefits of the first mover advantage and expanding themselves in leaps and bounds.
The changing market dynamics also went in their favors, both in terms of the consumption pattern and disposable income. While some argue that recession depleted the disposable income with compromising consumption pattern, some used this in their sides, through negotiation on the rentals and various input costs into long term contracts, which marked up their margin, boasting the profitability of the retail outlet. This not only helped visionaries and niche player to increase their presence in terms of square feet but also made them venture into new formats, as a part of the expansion drive.
When we look at the Tier one cities today there is a burst in the retail format, every suburb today would boast on minimum of two formats and when cumulated to the city, we would question on the footprints. This has shown growth in the capacity matching demands of different consumption pattern, in developing the formats from creating landmarks to multi brand outlets to niche to entertainment destination, in addressing wide spectrum. These trends are leading every retailer today to an edge, where they would like to boast on the footprints, and get maximum eyeballs for their advertisers.
Shopper Ambassador–Blend Emotions to create association– The crux is not to bring in an USP for the format to draw the attention, but to bring in an attribute of association in the eyes of the consumers, a sense of they being brand ambassador, would make a difference. The most commonly adopted technique, which is done to death, is having a road show or promotional events in the common arena of the space, which ends up as a nuisance for the shopper. These would have to go beyond just the in store entertainment to level where in the shopper feels comfortable and binds a sense of association with the store. The best example to this would be having a CSR touch, where we go beyond the collection drive; have few volunteers from the shoppers to the sponsored NGO or activities where shopper are involved with the beneficiaries directly.
Bring in more of a personal touch for the shopper when he is in the retail outlet. Usually we see a consumer once he enters the arena feels lost, reasons could be, one he doesn’t find what he is looking and two, nobody to guide him. In both these case a retailer would answer that they have people around, but most of the time these people are not themselves aware on the assortments.
- What would be required are customer engagement people who smartly interact with the customer, when they enter and depart, this gives such a nice feeling about the store.
- If it is a chain, there should be uniformity in store design, service levels and customer engagement; usually these are negated by the retailers. This brings in a lot of difference in the customer experience.
This would help them not only to gain the confidence but would bring in a new wave of associating with the consumers.
The community driver –Focal to your retail format- The trend usually followed in the retailing is more of a push formula, which is driven by the marketing calendar and sales figures. This paradigm shift needs to happen from the push to pull, which has a farfetched impact in creating a strong loyalty. The retail brand today just can’t fill it’s appetite of footprints through Multi-Brand and Multi-category, which would be a very short termed strategy, to be a winner in the long term they would have to gain confidence of the consumers, through a community with the focal point of its brand.
This would mean going beyond the normal way of associating with the consumer to create a platform, where in consumer would interact with the brand, network with fellow shoppers, and express their taste creating an ecosystem which is conducive for both retailer and shopper. This would create a strong bonding and also lead to process improvisation and build a shopper friendly retail. The entire essence is to bring in prominence for the shopper. The platform would be a face to the outlet and channel of communication, the loyalty program could revolve around this platform. The other benefit which could come out is that retail being the focal point shoppers might use it as a medium to network and meet their fellow shoppers at the outlet.
The Influencers- spokesperson among the shoppers -This would open a new Pandora box in the footprint strategy, where influencers among the shoppers could be identified who could help in promotions and are the spokesperson in their network of social networking site which is like hitting the gold mine and has greater precision than the advertising. The methodology would help in creating spokesperson to influence their community and to comprehend the fact is the way today we are closely hooked to social networking site, to share, hear and review. The challenge here would be how creative we could become to efficiently drive our messaging through and fro with these guys in the most subtle manner, keeping the focal point around the retail and outlet as a vehicle to meet physically.
Localization – bringing the local flavor into the city>suburb>locality strategy- The retail industry would have to go through more refinement then what we are seeing now. The science has just started and it would need more and more people to jump in to reform it. The methodology, as pointed out earlier in this paper, which is followed as a trend today is generic where in the drive comes from the retail marketing calendar, which is more of a push then a pull. This would have to be reversed to create the need what we are looking. No doubt today all format of the same flagship operates in the same way across the nationwide presence, which negates the regional flavor in terms of fads, styles and taste. If these would have to change, then every retail flagship would have to treat each of their city and its suburb stores as SBU. Bringing in the region based flavors & preference, which should also reflect in their merchandise apart from promotions and advertisement. Stressing on market research, customer segmentation, buying pattern & consumption study in relation to the growing disposable income with type of viewership in terms of entertainment options, which translates into types of category could be brought in the subtle way which might become the prime consumption pattern in the future. To give an example, a retail format could strategies their merchandise into different buckets such as fads, local flavors, looked upon merchandise, promotional stuff and so on. In turn we would see a dramatic shift in the loyalties among the consumers. Also it would make a lot of sense to have a regional partner while running the store, in a hybrid franchise model, which would change the industry looks and also would improve the supply chain.
Customer Engagement Model is the key in retaining the customers, which many retailers fail to understand and end up in push formula, but increasing competition in format, retailers would have to think on their Retail Footprint Strategy.