Not Brick Vs Click but Brick & Click: EIRS 2016
I read an essay “Technology for Mankind” by Jacob Bronowski. From a retail perspective, Bronowski would have written, “OmniChannel for Retail Consumers”. What technology did for entire mankind, omnichannel will do for the entire consumer world if not for all of mankind.
So, aptly, the subject was decided by Images Retail for the panel discussion at EIRS 2016 (East India Retail Summit), where I was the moderator on 18th March at ITC Sonar in Kolkata, India. “Not Bricks Vs Clicks but Bricks & Clicks : a healthy Omnichannel relationship”. This perhaps is the mantra of today’s retail and the faster retailers grasp this symbiotic relationship, the better it is for them to grow.
My journey with Images Retail started in 2004 at the India Retail Forum and I still remember how a distinguished panel including the likes of Kishore Biyani and B.S. Nagesh fought over a then absurd topic, e-commerce in India. A decade later, that discussion has completely changed the scenario, especially the way in which the consumer behaves in India and the way retailers reaches their consumers. Omnichannel, not e-commerce, is the buzzword in today’s retail. It is not about divulging the customer but to bring him/her back from other channel to store.
E-commerce has seen phenomenal growth in India and with the success of some home-grown ventures being valued at billions of dollars, this is presumed to be the future of retail in India. The country’s e-commerce market was worth $2.3 billion in October 2014 and retail consultancy Technopak estimated its value will increase more than 10 times to a whopping $32 billion by 2020. Some other analyst has even predicted a larger growth and predicted a market of $1 trillion by 2020. This growth has put a lot of and obviously resulted in a confusion among the way they approach business. 2014- 2015 was pretty alarming for the brick and mortar retailers as some of the high street establishments in metro cities closed down. The mad race of online promotions had given extreme flexibility to consumers and wider choices thus resulted in a rapid decrease of footfalls in shopping malls. What perhaps retailers have forgotten, it is not only the ecommerce but providing a unique experience to customers in different channels. The physical store is and will be the key pillar of success for retailers worldwide and nothing is more evident than the example of Amazon opening physical stores.
While the experts were busy analysing the profitability of e-commerce ventures, 2014 – 2015 saw the new age retailers reshaping their ammunition for the future.They took a step forward and amalgamated their existing physical presence with the e-commerce channel or a marketplace to meet the demand of consumers. They started looking at ecommerce as another channel to expand their business thus adopting an omnichannel strategy. Online is not competition but a reality that happened and the faster you adopt it, the better it is for your growth.
I was extremely happy to have a fabulous panel. While Kavita Samsukha (Proprietor, Indian Silk House), Shiv Daswani (Director Little Shop) and Nikhil Jain (Director, Rangoli) represented the face of traditional brick and mortar retail, – Ashish Tibrewal (Business Head – Bigbasket.com), Ajeet Sethia (CEO Jewelsforum.com) and Rameswar Misra ( Business Head – Voonik.com) represented the very online face of the retail industry. It was interesting to know from Kavita the real problem faced by a traditional house such as Indian Silk House putting up a catalogue in an online market space. Shiv’s point was very clear as he is not shying away in adopting the omni-channel strategy but he was visibly upset with this unreasonable discounts and schemes randomly provided in the e-commerce channel. Ajeet talked about a unique approach where he separated the online and offline identity but kept them integral from a system’s perspective. It was heartening to know for Bigbasket, Kolkata is now the most interesting consumer market where they are expecting the highest growth. The panel also brought a very significant consumer’s perspective to the discussion while we analysed the consumer behaviour and understood, finally, that it is convenience that matters. What we need is a strategy where the online and offline shopping experience gels. We need the technology that creates a backbone to enable the brick and mortar retailers to adopt the right strategy and give the consumer the ultimate freedom to choose what he needs from where he needs it.
The day started with a short adda with the one and only B.S. Nagesh.The founder CEO of one of India’s largest departmental chain, Shoppers Stop. The man who probably brought organized retail to India. Both Nagesh and Sanjeev Rao (Director – Business Development , Raymond Limited) were extremely vocal on West Bengal and its potential for being the key consumer market for retailers in India.
It was pretty challenging for me stepping into B.S. Nagesh’s shoes as he was the moderator for the session just before mine. But his ever charming presence made it much easier for me. Thanks to Images Retail for this wonderful opportunity. A special thanks to Piyali, Piasi, Mohua, Rohan and the entire Images Team for putting on such a wonderful event.
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