Merger of offline and online will define future of retail: EVP & COO, Walmart India

Devendra Chawla, EVP and COO – Merchandising, marketing and E-commerce, Walmart India gives insights into how the retail landscape is changing with the fast evolving customer preferences

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Jul 30, 2018 5:45 PM

At the recent launch of BW Businessworld Marketing Whitebook 2018 on Friday in New Delhi, Devendra Chawla, EVP and COO – Merchandising, Marketing and E-commerce, gave insights into how the retail landscape is changing with the fast evolving customer preferences.

He says, "With over two and half decades of experience in consumer marketing and of which half of it I spent in the retail sector, I have realized one thing -- the customer has to remain at the center of all decisions. The retail sector is innovating at breakneck speed. Both online and offline shopping opportunities are getting competitive than ever before, all with the view to make it convenient for today’s customer. And when we put the customer at the center of everything, it becomes clear that the merger of offline and online is imminent because the customer prefers both places. Specifically in India, technology adoption, purchasing power, youth population, penetration of mobile devices and 4G connections has led to changes in consumer behavior. With consumers taking to online shopping, offline retailers are innovating going the extra mile. These companies have taken the plunge into online retail space to offer customers, what is called a ‘phygital’ experience – basically mix of Physical and Digital experience."

He shared current trends in the industry: There is no pure play format, whether Offline or Online; Aspirations are growing for large/variety of assortments; M-Commerce: There’s increasing use of Mobile among consumer (4G & increasing use of smart phones boosting further); Consumer is using these smart devices in every step of their journey (product research to mobile checkout etc, thus having a series of digital touch-points at any given point in time); S-Commerce: Commerce will continue coming through social media; Digital payment solutions are becoming mainstream; Retailers and tech companies are disrupting traditional delivery model – as companies go from national delivery to hyper-local to local with customers expecting multiple fulfillment options and cheaper & faster delivery. (Globally we are seeing delivery solutions such as ship-from-store, curbside pickup, expanded pickup in-store, delivery lockers, and ride-sharing-like delivery etc); Experiential retail is fast catching up. Developers are focusing on integrating technology for an experiential shopping experience such as digital trials of apparel, entertainment zones etc. and retailers adjusting their store formats to fit into the tight real estate and property boundaries of most cities; small format stores; experiential and personalized merchandise to appeal to the local shopper; cater to the younger city customer's grab-and-go approach to shopping — buying just the essentials they may need for that day rather than stocking up).

Digital is emerging as a robust platform for any retail business model. With experiences becoming increasingly important to consumers, retailers are adopting play that will appeal to this desire. From exploring promising algorithms and evolutionary AI to employing apps that allow customers to order and pay before picking up in-store. In fact, retailers are trying to build a perfect amalgamation of offline and online using digital mediums and in doing so give a better post buying experience to the customer by obsessing over customer journeys and providing digital nudges wherever appropriate. Data will continue to become bigger and the real intelligence that will drive business going forward will probably come from predictive analytics. New predictive analytic techniques will enable retailers to invoke personalization, recognition, and reward the customer instantaneously.

He concluded by saying that, "Even as technology evolves, I truly believe, human interaction will continue to live and customers will continue to look for experiences that are immersive, seamless & personalized."

Disclaimer: The speaker shared broad industry insights and has appropriately used relevant industry sources for articulating his thoughts.

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