Peshwa Acharya, Senior VP - Marketing, Reliance Communications focuses on the seven things to keep in mind to please a retail customer.
Availability of merchandise - We often think that a retailer will obviously have enough merchandise. But that is not the case because retail is a business in which predictability is no good unless you have previous data. It is important to have the right merchandise which includes right product, brand, model, quality and price. Also, every retail store format would have footfall drivers. It may not add much to the profitability of the retailer, but it is very important from the store proposition point of view.
And it is extremely important for the retailer to have right merchandise of these footfall drivers. For example, for Reliance Fresh it would be their milk, fruits and vegetables, and everyday FMCG, which would need to be available round the store-time clock and that too, fresh. If there is a situation when it is out of stock, it will turn the customer off. In the context of digital and technology products, it is very important to have the product or the model on the day of its launch, otherwise the store’s whole concept of technology proposition: you get it first here, would go for a toss.
Right pricing - Consumers across the world, and especially in India, are very value conscious and the best way to create that value is pricing. There is a concept in retail called Key Value Indicators (KVI). A consumer may not be able to remember all the items in a store, but he tends to remember around 10-15 very important product brands/ categories which form the KVI. Based on these KVIs, he forms the perception of the store. That means the pricing of these products are very important to create a good store pricing perception of being a great value place. [Example: POT (potato, onion, tomato) pricing in India]
Promotions and consumer offers - Consumers across the world, and especially in India, are becoming fairly savvy about when and how to buy on promotion. And each category has its own promotion cycle, for example, in the apparel category, you will see large amounts of promotions from the months May to September, which is called End-of Season Sale (EOSS), and for electronics it is typically the festival season. In case of high ticket items, consumers check prices across multiple stores and even on the Internet. In terms of grocery, this search happens within the store itself. And consumers tend to pick the brand which is giving a better offer in a particular product category at that moment. And that is the reason why in-store visual merchandising becomes very critical.
Pre-sales and consultative selling - This is primarily applicable for high ticket items like consumer durables, laptops, mobile phones, cameras, etc. Consumers will have various questions on usability and features and it is very important to have a trained staff who can understand the need and requirement of the consumer and accordingly suggest a product. This is called consultative selling. You are not pushing down anything which you think is correct, but trying to understand his requirements.
Wide assortment – It is very important for the retailer to keep a wide assortment of brands in any product category. He needs to give the consumer the option to choose from a number of brands. For example, if a consumer wants to see a mobile phone, he would want to see various brands and compare them. Same goes with LCDs and other consumer durables. It also applies for an apparel store or a book store.
Ease in navigation, appropriate lighting - Store ambience is very important and it does not necessarily mean great design. It means a customer should be able to find his way in the store. Another thing we have noticed is right lighting in the store. An apparel store should have a warm yellow light while an electronics store can do with white light. Similarly, fresh vegetables should have bright yellow light.
Retail services - Most retailers tend to overlook these services as they are not directly related to what you are selling, but are very important to make customer experience comfortable. Having parking space in a big city is essential. Retailers often tend to look international. Stores internationally do not have a sitting place for customers. But in India, it is different. For example, in an electronics store, an entire family may go to buy a high ticket item. Similarly, it is essential to have a separate gaming area for kids, this adds to customers’ shopping experience immensely.
(Peshwa Acharya is Senior VP - Marketing, Reliance Communications.)