The recent wave of reforms by the Government to incentivise Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in various sectors is bringing a new zeal to the investment climate in India. Industry experts believe that organised retail, which constitutes eight per cent of the total retail market, will grow much faster than traditional retail. It is expected to gain a higher share in the growing pie of the retail market in India. Various estimates put the share of organised retail at 20 per cent by 2020.
Having said this, India as a market hasn’t seen spectacular work in terms of branding in the retail space. Though brands have been using retail for various activations and other consumer connect activities, retail as a space hasn’t been used to its optimum.
exchange4media speaks to a few experts to understand what are brands doing wrong in the retail space and also what they can learn from their western counterparts.
Lack of standardisation
If one looks at the branding activities in the Indian retail space, there is lack of standardisation of display at most multi-brand outlets. Poor visual merchandising can be spotted many a times. Experts believe very few brands have really mastered the balance of placement position and branding at a mass scale.
Ambika Sharma, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Pulp Strategy shared that there is a lot that can be done in this grey area. She believes that today there is little or no product information, and whatever information is available is a jumble of tech specs. Self-service information kiosks could fill that gap, but they are few and far apart.
The consumer is left with asking the sales person, who is already strapped for communication skills or brand appreciation. Sharma substantiates the situation with an example, “The pricing is in fine print on the toothpaste tube, the pricing is not clearly displayed on the shelf, and this makes effective austere buying difficult. Deals or offers by brands are not prominently displayed, so that the consumer can make an informed choice. Smaller stores are not beyond not giving information entirely, so if one went to buy a camera and did not get the free tripod, it is quite likely that the store owner pocketed it. For all the exclusivity in advertising in retail, the interaction is disappointing at best. Un-groomed, poorly turned out sales staff (if any) and that too interested in the sale, and not the experience.”
Ashwini Deshpande, Founder - Director and Principal Designer, Elephant Design pointed out three interesting thoughts, which according to her, are the reasons why brands are not able to present well in the Indian retail space:
• In the first place, brands should create products with enough differentiation to make choice easier for the shopper
• Today, space planning is focussed on piling up maximum stocks in minimum area. It does not consider shopper convenience. Retail merchandising is often made with least budgets and, therefore, lands up looking tacky and pulls the brand value down
• Not using digital or mobile opportunities beyond sending SMS for sale to the database of shoppers is another big mistake that brands are making today
What Indian retailers can learn from their Western counterparts?
There are a number of things that brands can pick up and take inspiration from, before going ahead with plain vanilla branding activities. According to Desphande, “Advertising may help create awareness about retail brands. But once at the store, I don’t believe advertising helps much. It is the experience and service design that create differentiation and loyal shoppers. Global retail practices are focussed on creating surprising experiences for their shoppers at the store. They enhance brand values through those experiences. They don’t stop at advertising for creating footfall.”
On the other hand, Sharma stated, “I think the experience and transparency is the largest learning one could take. The experience needs a radical shift and change from its current state, the quality of training, the interaction, the engagement and the ability to give correct unbiased information. Then of course, the transparency in sharing of information and display of information on pricing in a friendly format needs to be looked upon carefully. You cannot walk into a store and think the guy is out to fleece you if given a chance.”