Our lives today are a blend of online activity and real world lifestyles. We are constantly accessing information, sharingour lives on social media and showcasing our individuality writes RajendraKhare, Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, SureWavesMediaTech Pvt Ltd.
Yohoho! The D-days are around the corner with Diwali, December,Digitalshopping and Deals galore. It is indeed a great time for spoilt-for-choice shopaholics as retailers put their best festive foot forward.
Right from gifts, gift cards, home décor, apparel and accessories to electronics, food, luxury products and jewellery, shoppers are busy filling their shopping carts and gearing up for the festive season ahead. October to January is the busiest shopping season in India, with the onset of festive days followed by winter holidays. With wedding bells too ringing in the air, it is indeed a hectic time for retailers.
What with competition going full-throttle across all platforms, they, not only have to ensure their stocks are full, but also have to woo the well-informed, compulsive shopper in new and innovative ways. Unlike the West, our festive spirit starts quite early in August itself with the Great Freedom Sale. The season gathers momentum with Navratri and reaches a crescendo during Christmas and New Year’s, before it climaxes during Republic Day. Needless to say, other occasions like Ganesh Chaturti and Akshaya Tritiya too have been marketed to the hilt. Early bird offers, mind-blowing discounts and cash-back offers are all part of the marketing rhetoric, which is louder and crazier than ever before.
Apart from buying for ourselves and our close family, gifting is also a big part of the festival season. And so you have leading brands exclusively promoting this segment too. This is also the time of the year when corporates offer festival bonuses to employees, a time-honoured tradition that continues till today. Then you have the laid-back last minute shoppers. So, retailers have many plans up their sleeve, luring early birds with new stock previews and discounts and the procrastinating shoppers with extended shopping hours and enticing eleventh-hour offers. Then of course, the compulsive buyers become privileged customers with points and miles!
E-commerce is here to stay
So, what’s becoming clear is that shopping is here to stay..but the way we are shopping is changing. According to estimates, the year 2015 turned out to be a year for digital shopping and online deals. What began as an experiment a few years ago has now become a full-blown practice, withtransactionsworth $12 billion (gross merchandise value) recorded in the e-tailing industry last year.
Buoyed by the unprecedented demand from across the country, e-tailers like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal are stepping up efforts to wooconsumersthis festive season through personalised offerings,more affordable high-quality products, easy returns and product exchangesand faster one-day/two-day deliveries.
Globally, event-based shopping is catching the fancy of retailers and shoppers. The United States set the trend with Black Friday and Cyber Monday and it has caught on in other countries too. In Canada, the first Sunday of December has traditionally been the busiest retail day; but in the last two years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken over. Of course, no prizes for guessing who was behind the change. Ditto with the UK. But the latter tried to battle this with another event: Buy British Day on October 3, every year.
We don’t know if India will join the Black Friday frenzy, but we haveour desi versions such as Unbox Diwali, Great Indian Festival, Wish for India Sale and Big Billion Days Sale.
Innovation is the name of the game
The rise of the e-commerce players has pushed the offline retailers up the ante with innovative offerings and marketing promotions. So the stage is set for some intense competition between the brick-and-mortar and online retailers. In fact, the lines are blurring, what with offlinefolks getting online and online retailers setting up experiential points.
Offline or online or both, retailers are using the festive season as a good time for them to experiment with concepts such as augmented reality and experiential marketing. This is also the time when promotions play a key role in rising above the noise and clutter and be heard.
And so you have smart stores for smart customers with interactive touch screens, magical mirrors, style simulators, pop-up counters, self-checkouts and digital dressing rooms could soon become the order of the day. Experiments of this nature are already on in India and abroad. Brands like Van Heusen, Shoppers’ Stop, Lenskart, Samsung and Coca-Cola have already jumped on the bandwagon and I am sure more brands will follow suit.
Customer still holds the ace
No matter what technology or innovation retailers adopt, the ruler is clearly the customer, still at the core of it all. And so diversity in shopping is a reality.
Online retailers discovered this truth when they were backed in a corner in the face of technical glitches such as servers crashing and payment gateways failing and running out of stock during big sale days in 2014 and 2015. But this year it led to them completely upping their customer service and being adequately prepared for the festival frenzy.
Our lives today are a blend of online activity and real world lifestyles. We are constantly accessing information, sharingour lives on social media and showcasing our individuality. An increasing number of people are turning to Facebook and Twitter to discover Diwali deals and discounts by various brands. So, shopping too has become a social activity.
There is no denying that technology is playing and will continue to play a major role in influencing purchase decisions. So, retailers must listen to the voices on social media and cleverly push their products and services, without being intrusive of course.
Retail is set to become more service-oriented and mobile payments will become the order of the day.Consumers will move towards a sharing economy (rentals are becoming popular), consumer feedback will be increasingly online and everyday services too will go online. Retailers who move with these trends will ensure customers stay with them through the year, year after year.
The ‘what, how, why, where and when’ of shopping is still a mystery that needs to be discovered by retailers, more so in India.