India’s age of omnichannel

Indian consumers are moving online and it’s a huge market, says Anand Baldawa, CEO, Seeba|thinKitchen

The market opportunity with a digitally savvy Indian consumer is large. India is likely to have 500 million online shoppers by 2030, according to a joint report by MMA, Mobile Marketing Association of India and media agency, Group M India.

With retail in India being re-oriented in the past two years, as consumers navigated their lives through a pandemic. Ecommerce has come of age as consumers moved to online shopping to accommodate the restrictions on physical retail. While many of those restrictions have recently been pulled back, consumers are far more comfortable with online shopping than they ever were.

With this as a backdrop, consumer expectations around a seamless omnichannel experience, regardless of preferred platform or method of shopping, are building up. And businesses are stepping up to meet this expectation. For consumers shopping on listed Indian beauty retailer Nykaa’s app, they are informed of special offers and promotions exclusively available at stores close to them. Similarly, for those shopping at Nykaa’s physical stores, they are added to the online database and encouraged to replenish online.

“Quick commerce in India is recent but becoming an important customer touch point”

Simplified shopping experiences, convenience and speed are of essence. A few weeks ago, Amazon in India integrated its grocery outlets Fresh and Pantry into one unified store Amazon Fresh, for faster and convenient delivery option across 300 cities from one unified destination. Shoppers Stop, India’s leading departmental store chain recently launched Express Store Pick Up, a Buy Online Pick up in store (BOPIS) initiative. Croma, the electronics retail chain from Tata also offers this service as do many others.

Retail is far more ‘phygital’ with the use of technology for more immersive customer experiences even in store. Sportswear brand, Decathalon, reportedly deploys an app only payment and checkout system in Tier 1 cities in India. Fashion retailer Zara uses location intelligence which causes its app to switch to in store mode when a customer enters a store, so that the customer can locate products and receive offers. Pepperfry, an online furniture retailer has stores designated as experience zones where customers are encouraged to walk in yet order online.

Quick commerce in India is recent but becoming an important customer touch point. As per a report by Redseer, quoted in The Hindu Business Line, a key financial daily, the estimated size of the Q-commerce segment will be about $0.3 billion in 2021 in India and expected to grow 10-15 times over the next five years to touch $5 billion. Walmart owned Flipkart is reported to be ramping up food and grocery specific warehousing by lining up small storage spaces in metro cities. It has also introduced its hyper local service, Flipkart Quick, an assured delivery service within 90 minutes in 10 cities in India. Similarly Swiggy, one of the biggest food delivery services in India, has introduced its quick commerce service, Instamart in 15 Indian cities as of Oct 2021, moving beyond food into grocery and other essentials.
The impact of omnichannel growth is also being felt at the backend. There is greater emphasis on efficient supply chain and warehouse management. There is an increasing demand for dark fulfilment stores, JLL’s, the global real estate services firm, India office expects urban logistic spaces to surpass seven million square feet by 2022. The increasing trend of faster goods distribution is expected to push demand further. Dark stores are seen to drive efficiencies, improve delivery capabilities and reduce logistics costs by 10% to 30% as per Economic Times, India’s leading financial daily. 

Likewise assortment, pricing, and operational strategies including real time updation of product and inventory data are being aligned across platforms where a change on any platform is accounted for by all the others to produce a seamless shopper experience. Clear lines of communication between in-store and online teams to encourage collaboration, are areas of priority. Footwear major, Bata, in India has included their franchise partners in the efforts to streamline customer fulfilment channels. “Bata One”, is their ERP platform, an interactive AI enabled platform for franchise order taking capable of suggestive ordering, KPI and order tracking, complaint resolution and integrated payment gateway.

Going forward, there is more in the pipeline that is expected. A BAIN & Co and Flipkart report predicts that retail will be driven by a few notable mega trends. These include evolving and growing digital ecosystems that are geared to capture a larger share of consumer time and spending. The growth of voice search and language based user interfaces. Also the expected uptick in live streaming and video commerce along with social commerce. Thus this growing relevance of omni channels makes it a must-play and must-win frontier for brands.

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