Indian Retail is a Balancing Act – Raviraj Deshmukh 24th June 2014
Originally published in Retail Design World
The retail sector in India is on a roll since Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) policies have made it conducive to international retailers to set up shop in the country. The changing socio-economic scenario, upgraded lifestyles, influx of international global brands and additional disposable income to the average Indian, have made the retail industry all the more attractive and lucrative for businesses and investors alike.
Organised retail in India was born more than a decade ago when the first hypermarkets were established. The idea then was to set up stores which cater to the majority of the population – the office going class – with shops based on discounts, offers and set in a more comfortable and familiar environment, as opposed to the swanky interiors of a branded retail store. These stores had to consider the mindset of a traditional value-based consumer who based decisions on a touch-and-feel shopping experience.
This phenomenon of giving consumers the experience of Indian local markets but in an organised, maintained, self-browsing, and air-conditioned environment has made this concept a huge success across the country. The organized retail sector is set to evolve further with the arrival of new international hypermarket giant brands in India.
Another aspect to consider in the current retail landscape is that more people are travelling globally and therefore have access to international retail experiences. This exposure has generated the growing demand for a better and exclusive retail shopping ‘experience’, inclusive of e-commerce.
With the average Indian population below 35 years of age, e-commerce has seen a consistent rise over the past few years. The diffusion of Internet access deep into the small cities and towns across the country has made it a more viable and cost-effective option for retailers to set up shop online. As such, the growing population of Internet users is giving a huge boost to e-commerce industry and technology is changing the way people shop.
The ever-changing scenario in the retail industry has posed some serious and important questions to designers to come up with innovative and customer-centric environments, which focus not only delivering a ‘wow’ experience every time a customer walks into the store, but also in maintaining consistency across various touch points a customer has with a brand: apart from a flagship store, these could include online portals, pop-up stores and shop-in-shop in malls. The customer is delighted when the brand is able to deliver the same experience and quality every time he shops across these different touch points.
Physical and virtual retail environments need to co-exist, seeing as today’s Indian retailers wants to incorporate the online world and hands-on engagement in their retail stores, while also directing customers to their stores when browsing online. Local retailers need their retail environment to provide a consistently rewarding experience that encourages customers to associate themselves with the brand across different platforms. To stand out from the fierce competition, it is vital to build an emotional connection between the customer and brand and increase sales by way of advocacy and customer loyalty.
Raviraj Deshmukh is a design delivery manager at I-AM, Mumbai.