11.27 Retail Activation 300x200

Retail activation: Why marketers love the malls

Experiential marketing is like a real handshake in times of virtual hellos. That’s why, despite the presence of several newer avenues for advertisers to reach out to consumers, experiential marketing has retained its charm. Even today, marketers are using this medium to raise awareness, carry out sampling and gather data in newer markets. Because it enables localised targeting, the activity demands concentrated spends and relatively shorter time periods, compared to TV or digital.

Deeper engagement
Activations help generate buzz even before the launch of a product. Take the case of Jeep Compass, launched last year, for instance. Jeep Compass saw 130 on-the-spot bookings through mall activations. What worked in its favour was that during the activation, the car had not been rolled out to dealerships yet. However, this was not the case during the launch of Jeep Compass Limited Plus, when malls registered two to five bookings per mall owing to availability of the product at dealerships simultaneously, with conversions happening at a later date in the showrooms. The investment in mall activations for this launch was Rs 2 crore. Rahul Pansare, head – marketing and PR, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, says, “We use malls for special launches. In the metros, the number of people who visit the mall displays could be between 500 and 550, of which 100 people easily go for a test drive. It is ambitious, but 20% conversions is our target.”

Generally, malls with high average footfalls tend to earn 5-8% as additional revenue per month through brand activations. A major component of this revenue is then reinvested in seasonal marketing to woo customers. Malls have the discretion to choose the kind of activations which are to be allowed. For example, having a Nykaa activity near a Sephora store would not be permitted. Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO, Select Citywalk, says, “Any brand that is required by our customers and is not looking for a permanent space can host, say, a two-three day event which could cost Rs 1.5-2 lakh, depending on the seasonality.”

Sharma points out that sometimes online platforms too wish to hold mall activations which is not an ideal situation as shoppers could be tempted to shop online instead. But, for an e-commerce player, a weekend mall activity presents an avenue to overcome the ‘touch and feel’ limitation. US-based mall owner Macerich has launched BrandBox, which allows maximum lease duration of one year for e-commerce platforms to have a modular store in malls. This allows online players to test and measure the impact a physical store might have for them.

Crafty execution
Not all engagement activities in malls lead to conversion right away. Consider how ITC Sunfeast Farmlite’s Healthier You Awaits You aimed at connecting with people. Late last year, the brand set up a gift area at Infinity Mall, Mumbai, where parents could come and claim gifts for their kids, except they had to shed calories in exchange and not money. Experiences of people participating in the activity were recorded and later used to promote the campaign across digital platforms. Hemant Malik, divisional chief executive – foods, ITC, says, “The mall activation was the starting point of our campaign that helped us build content with real people whose stories reached many million viewers, which also generated engagement and buzz on social media.”

Execution is everything when it comes to activation. Dalveer Singh, head – experiential marketing, APAC, Dialogue Factory, cautions marketers against duplicating OOH ad copies for experiential marketing. “A customer in a mall comes to you with his time and wallet share; what you have to focus on is creating a brand story, as the purchase mindset is already present in a captive audience.”

Irrespective of whether a mall activation leads to sales, it adds a lot to a brand’s equity, believes Puneet Anand, senior general manager and group head – marketing, Hyundai Motor India. “On an average, there are 10,000 to 12,000 customers visiting a mall on a weekend. Even if you are able to convert 10% of the enquiries, it is a very big database for dealerships to cold-call or pursue hot leads.”

Anarock has predicted that by 2020, 85 malls are set to come up across the top eight cities. While this means a wider canvas for brands, it also entails that brands ace the art of activation.

Source: https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/retail-activation-why-marketers-love-the-malls/1393576/

11.24 doraemon 300x200

AI Licensing India introduces Xperium for better brand engagement

Mumbai-based AI Licensing India, which is into content licensing, merchandising and syndication of famous international characters and brands, has added a new business unit to its portfolio called Xperium, with an aim to create elevated customer experiences.

For the past four decades, Animation International (AI) holds the exclusive licensing and merchandising rights for Doraemon in Asia and Middle East. Each country’s operational office manages the character, depending upon its popularity and market’s growth potential, to give better return on investment for the brand owner.

In addition to Doraemon, AI Licensing India, which started its operations in the country in 2005, also holds the license for brands like Shin Chan, Garfield, Archie Comics, Hallmark Design collection, Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.

Currently, AI Licensing India has four business verticals, of which licensing drives the maximum business revenue, amounting to almost 60%. “Exports has emerged as a big area of operations in the past year and half since we entered it. We also have a creative studio where we design a lot of products in-house, not just for our own IPs but for other IPs too, which has turned out to be another independent business model for us,” said Nitin Kalra, director, AI Licensing India

He added that the company was the first to get into event licensing in India in an organized manner. “In 2010, we became the first agency in the country to suggest to malls that our characters can help them generate more footfalls, which in turn can help them generate more business. This philosophy was well accepted and since then, we are have never done any event for free, setting an industry precedent,” Nitin proudly claimed.

Nitin Kalra, director, AI Licensing India

Xperium takes this concept a step further as an experiential licensing vertical, by linking AI Licensing India’s other business verticals. It constantly works with partners who create products based on brand licenses that are issued to it for a time frame of two to three years. These companies pay royalties on the products created, for instance, merchandise like apparel, mugs, bags, etc.

Additionally, AI Licensing India also works with FMCG companies like ITC, Dabur, Kellogg’s and McDonalds India for short-term tactical promotional campaigns, where it ideates on the marketing strategy based on the chosen licensed brand or character. “This idea is becoming popular as each brand is looking for a trigger to attract more customers. For instance, animated characters have a great pull factor when it comes to product sales,” Nitin pointed out.

Realizing that AI Licensing India was consistently involved in elevating customer experience, it conceptualized Xperium as a division that would create events around its characters, which would help its affiliated companies to sell a lot of merchandise. “We created the ‘100 Doraemon Secret Gadget Expo’, which toured eight cities globally and had 100 life-size figurines of the cartoon character, each inspired by different episodes. We sold around 1.5 million tickets within three months of the expo and also noticed a spike in merchandise sale. That’s when we realized that the total amount of merchandise we could sell in one year in Malaysia is the same that we sold in three days of focused selling,” Nitin said.

It was this awareness that prompted the company to found Xperium to create concepts and engagement programs for its customers, starting with the 50th anniversary celebration titled ‘Date with Doraemon’ in 2020. This 50-city campaign will be rolled out in 2019, offering different companies selective engagement activities and brand activation opportunities. The first event will be in April 2019, where brands can engage with selective 100 to 150 people for couple of hours.

source: http://news.retailnetworks.in/ai-licensing-india-introduces-experium-for-better-brand-engagement/

11.19 VEGAN 300x200

Vegan finds the beauty way ahead

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Vegan products are the new must-haves that the new-age customer is rooting for. And retailers are making a note of it. With time and growing awareness, various players in the category are rebooting their business strategies and investing in vegan products. The beauty and skincare segment has most recently realised the significance of product merchandising in terms of growth prospects and is now offering a special line of vegan products in line with the growing demand for the same. Veganism is now moving into the mainstream, with an ever- increasing number of people adopting, or at the very least considering, a meat-free existence. According to a study by Market Research Future, the cruelty-free cosmetics market is set to increase by 6.1 percent between 2017- 2023.

“The beauty and skincare segment is doing tremendously well today, especially in the vegan space. Merchandising around this trend is important in order to drive more sales and better walk-ins. In the retail environment, merchandising is the key to the product you want to sell and at Kama Ayurveda, we emphasize on shelf life of the products in accordance with the season and product launches,” asserts Vivek Sahni, Co-Founder and CEO, Kama Ayurveda.

Take another brand, The Body Shop. While it prides in being a vegetarian and natural brand, it is also continuously working towards becoming more and more cruelty-free in the times to come.

Sanjali Giri, General Manager, The Body Shop, informs, “We have been working towards offering natural and vegan products since the very beginning and around 65-70% of our product assortments are vegan. The only thing that has changed for now is that veganism has emerged as a lifestyle change and an increasing number of people from urban cities understand what it really means to be vegan. So communicating this to our consumers has become more relevant now.”

“Since it’s a very key consumer base that has information about vegan products and they are very strong loyalists, we have made sure to have vegan certification in the packaging. As part of our merchandising and marketing communication, we collaborate with small societies who support veganism on social media, etc. and work with them to find out how they can be a part of The Body Shop and how we can be part of their different endeavours,” informs Giri.

As Shahnaz Husain, Chairperson and Managing Director, Shahnaz Husain Group, affirms, “We are watching this trend and have made it a point to draw attention to the advantages of plant power through our regular columns in newspapers and magazines worldwide. We have also chosen attractive packaging that emphasizes the goodness of cruelty-free products. Merchandising is important in the retail business.” There are other brands too, such as Kama Ayurveda, for example, that have been able to notch good sales through effective marketing of their vegan products.

Most of such leading brands have been successful because of the way in which they have changed as per the needs and demands of the customers. As Shahnaz Husain puts it, “Over the last decade, we have maintained a steady growth rate of about 20%. As far as revenue is concerned, at present the total revenue worldwide is approximately Rs 750 crores.” Meanwhile, The Body Shop has vegan products integrated in their entire product portfolio and about 70% of the overall sales come from their vegan merchandise.

The consumers for this category are people who have a strong value system and are strong activists who believe in cruelty-free environment and products. “The women shopping in our stores are in the age group of 29-55 years old, are well-travelled, educated, have tried other products and chosen to go the natural and ayurvedic way because they are conscious of the environment and their role in preserving it,” Sahni says. Another important factor is the timing. Even as the beauty and skincare is an all-season category, the maximum sales for the merchandise is posted in the months of October to December, which is basically India’s festive season. For Shahnaz Husain Group, sales are more during the “winter months and the humid season and also the festival seasons.”

While the trend has engulfed the urban and metro cities, the Tier II and Tier III areas still have a lot of catching up to do. As Giri explains, “The concept of vegan is not very popular in Tier II and Tier III towns. Though people are buying our products, they are not consciously buying them because they are vegan. We are definitely merchandising and highlighting our vegan products in these areas but there is a need to educate these consumers about the importance of a vegan lifestyle.”

source: https://www.indianretailer.com/magazine/2018/november/Vegan-finds-the-beauty-way-ahead.m120-2-1/

11.17 Vidnet2018

VIDNET 2018: OTT industry needs more experimentation

In the last couple of years, over-the-top platforms have emerged as mainstream entertainment source going beyond “mail-metro-millennial” phenomenon for a sizeable population in India despite television still holding its dominance…. http://www.indiantelevision.com/iworld/over-the-top-services/vidnet2018-ott-industry-needs-more-experimentation-181117


ZEE5 announces special subscription packs for Tamil & Telugu audience

ZEE5 – India’s #2 OTT platform, announces special subscription packs for the Tamil and Telugu audience. Riding on the success of their language content, this latest addition will enable users access to premium Tamil and Telugu content at half the price.ZEE5 is the first OTT player in India to introduce language specific packs.

The ZEE5 Tamil and Telugu Premium packs are each priced competitively at Rs. 49/- for one month and Rs. 499/- for a year. Additionally, subscribers can avail a 50% cashback on the above-mentioned price by paying through Paytm.

The key features of the pack are:

Industry First in terms of the number of hours the TV content is available on the platform before it airs on TV

Before TV offering with top rated and popular shows from Zee Tamil like Sembaruthi, Yaaradi Nee Mohini, Poove Poochoodava and many more and from Zee Telugu like Kalyana Vaibhoyam, Muddha Mandaram, Prema and many more

Original Shows with some of the finest talent across actors, directors and production houses in both languages as also other language content dubbed in Tamil & Telugu

Power packed line up of world digital premieres of blockbuster Telugu films like Bhethaludu, Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada, Kaashmora, Memu among others and Tamil blockbusters like Junga, Irumbuthirai, Kolamavu Kokila, Bhaskar Oru Rascal, Naalu Aaru Anju among others.

Tarun Katial

Tarun Katial

Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India, said, “Regional markets are a huge focus for us at ZEE5 and language content is one of our biggest differentiators. Launching consistent regional content across Originals, movies and of course catch-up TV has spurred our subscription numbers from smaller cities and towns.”

He further added, “This special Tamil and Telugu subscription pack, a first in the industry, is for the local language-speaking consumer from all three states – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. We are offering more choice to the consumer in terms of content and price as well as sweetening the deal with Paytm. The‘Before TV’ offering is one of its mainstays, where viewers have the unique opportunity to watch their most loved Tamil and Telugu shows before it airs on TV, apart from this we also have Originals and World Digital Premieres. It also helps build value for advertisers coming to our platform seeking focused audiences.

With over 3500 films, 500+ TV shows, 4000+ music videos, 35+ theatre plays and 90+ LIVE TV Channels across 12 languages, ZEE5 truly presents a blend of unrivalled content offering for its viewers across the nation and worldwide. With ZEE5, the global content of Zindagi as a brand, which was widely appreciated across the country, has also been brought back for its loyal viewers.

source: https://tvnews4u.com/zee5-announces-special-subscription-packs-tamil-telugu-audience/

11.09 Baba Ramdev 300x200

Patanjali enters branded apparel space, aims Rs 1,000 cr business in FY’20

Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved on Monday forayed into the fast growing branded apparel segment through its brand ‘Paridhan’ and expects a sale of around Rs 1,000 crore next fiscal.

Patanjali enters branded apparel space, aims Rs 1,000 cr business in FY'20
Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved on Monday forayed into the fast growing branded apparel segment through its brand ‘Paridhan’ and expects a sale of around Rs 1,000 crore next fiscal

According to a PTI report: The Haridwar-based firm plans to open around 100 outlets of Paridhan by the end of this fiscal and have a network of around 500 stores by March 2020, mostly on franchise model.

It has introduced three brands — LivfitAastha and Sanskar– targeting customers across all age groups.

“This year, we would have a network of 100 stores ranging between 500-2,500 sq feet. We are aiming a turnover of around Rs 1,000 crore in the next fiscal,” Baba Ramdev was quoted by PTI as saying.

He further told PTI:”It would also be available online by next year. We are working on it.”

While Sanskar would be a range of menswear, Aastha is a women’s brand and Livfit would have a range of sportswear and Yoga dresses.

“Our target is to compete with multinational companies in this field such as adidas, Puma,” he told PTI adding the Paridhan range would be around 30-40 per cent cheaper and would target ordinary people.

The company may plan to have standalone store of its three brands, depending on the catchment area and availability of space, said K M Singh, who is heading the apparel business of Patanjali.

According to Ramdev, in textile industry, 90 percent sales is through unorganised segment and the branded segment accounts only 10 percent, in which there is hardly any Indian brand.

“We want ordinary people to feel proud of wearing domestic brand,” he further told PTI.

Besides, Paridhan would have a range of artificial jewellery and wedding clothes which would be at least 40 per cent cheaper than rivals, he claimed.

Range of Patanjali jeans would start from Rs 500, shirt (Rs 500-1,700). Paridhan would have around 1,100 options along with 3,500 SKUs of menswear, womenswear, kidswear, denim and accessories.

The company is sourcing from 90 vendors across India and would encourage small and medium enterprises, Singh added.

This is the ninth venture of Patanjali after entering into herbal ayurved, natural pure products, cosmetics, personal care, cattle feed and biofertilisers, dairy products and frozen vegetables and packaged water.

Patanjali, which had recorded multi-fold growth in recent years, witnessed a marginal growth only last fiscal hit by the implementation of GST, finishing at around Rs 12,000 crore.

In 2016-17, Patanjali clocked a turnover of Rs 10,561 crore, registering 111 percent growth.

Source: https://www.indiaretailing.com/2018/11/05/retail/patanjali-enters-branded-apparel-space-aims-rs-1000-cr-business-in-fy20/

DN Regalia Mall aims at unique retail experience with a focus on exclusivity

DN Regalia Mall is slated to become one of the most promising retail destinations in Patrapada, Bhubaneshwar. Spread across 2,50,000 sq. ft. with two levels of dedicated fashion, lifestyle
shops, restaurants and cafés along with a reputed hypermarket, the mall will be a complete shopping experience for both locals as well as tourists.

DN Regalia Mall aims at unique retail experience with a focus on exclusivity
The kind of convenience and experience Omnichannelisation brings, is a path that DN Regalia wants to tread along with its retail partners

DN Regalia Mall promises a mix of national, international and regional brands for customers who seek the finer things in life. It aims to off er a unique shopping experience where the focus is on brand mix, exclusivity, space and aesthetics.

Major Attractions

DN Regalia has INOX as their multiplex partner, Big Bazaar as hypermarket while Splash, Max, Zudio and Easy Buy are fashion anchors/mini anchors. These brands will soon commence their fit-outs in the coming months and to ensure a smooth and timely process. Beyond Square feet will be doing fit-out management for the mall.

Source: https://www.indiaretailing.com/2018/11/02/shopping-centre/dn-regalia-mall-aims-at-unique-retail-experience-with-a-focus-on-exclusivity/

Shikhar Dhawan and wife Aesha launch home decor brand ‘DaONE Home’

All roads led to the rooftop of the Trident Mumbai on Sunday 28th Oct. for the launch of cricketer turner entrepreneur Shikhar Dhawan & his wife Aesha Dhawan’s home décor brand DaONE Home. Named after what his peers fondly call him, DaONE Home is a blend of elegance and practicality, reflecting everything that the loving couple holds dear in their lives.

A décor brand aiming to make your personal space look more beautiful than ever, DaONE Home puts the uncompromising discipline and work ethic from the cricketing career of its co-founder into implementation. With exceptional textures, evocative prints, beautiful tones, and luxurious materials, DaONE Home’s wide range of products are crafted with utmost passion, helping you transform your home to reflect who you are on a holistic and endearing level.

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Talking about the decision to launch the brand, Shikhar DhawanCo-founder – DaONE Home, said, “Our homes are a natural extension of our own personalities, a reflection of our preferences and tastes. When Aesha and I were setting up our home, we realized the challenge that most Indians face when it comes to getting their living spaces to reflect their identities. While there were plenty of options available to choose from, no one place could give us the kind of comprehensive, end-to-end satisfaction that we were looking for. DaONE Home is our endeavor to address this major market gap.”

Aesha Dhawan, Co-founder – DaONE Home, added, “When we tied our nuptial knot and vowed to remain alongside each other all our lives, Shikhar and I promised to not let go of our strong individual identities. We envision our home as a place where that promise is reflected, where our entire family can flourish. This feeling of togetherness, family, and identity is at the core of what we aim to do with DaONE Home. With our home décor brand, we intend to make homes across India look exceptional, individualistic, thoughtful, and aesthetically pleasing.”

Boasting of beautiful collections such as White Marvel, Moonstruck, Honey Grey, Heirloom Natural, Boho Blue, Boaster Flicker and Feminine Neutral, DaONE has lovely upholsters and soft furnishings such as bed linen, cushions and table linen available presently. The collections can be surfed through and purchased online at https://www.daonehome.com/new/.

Shikhar also serenaded us all with an impromptu performance on the flute

Reliance Retail — next big thing for Reliance Industries

Reliance Retail’s target is to open more than 6,000 outlets pan-India with a top-line potential of roughly $20 billion by FY20-end.

In the quarter gone by, Reliance Industries reported a mixed performance at the consolidated level. While the refining and upstream oil & gas segments bore the brunt of rising crude prices, petrochemicals registered healthy top-line growth and margin improvement. However, what stole the show was the momentum observed in the retail (Reliance Retail) and telecommunication (Reliance Jio) divisions.

Mukesh Ambani, in his address to Reliance Industries’ shareholders in the FY18 annual report, set his vision to ensure that the revenue contribution of these consumer-centric segments is on par with the non-consumer ones (refining, upstream oil and gas, petrochemicals) over the next decade. Consequently, a major shift in the conglomerate’s long-term strategy, which is aimed at tapping markets and consumers across the country, is worth taking note of.

Since B2C segments are steady in nature and also happen to be less volatile to economic/global/commodity uncertainties in comparison to the B2B segments, prospects of revenue and earnings visibility are likely to be better.

Furthermore, it is pertinent to understand the synergies that Reliance Industries could derive by integrating the customer base of Reliance Retail and Reliance Jio. For instance, a Jio user can get good deals on purchasing products from the online platforms or brick-and-mortar stores of Reliance Retail, whereas Reliance Retail can leverage its deep pan-India presence to increase the number of Jio subscriptions through various offers.


While Jio’s entry in 2016 changed the landscape and dynamics of India’s telecom industry dramatically and structurally, Reliance Retail could possibly do the same on the retailing front. So, what’s in store for the retail mammoth in times to come?

About Reliance Retail

Reliance Retail is India’s biggest multi-category product retailer in terms of store network and sales.

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As on 30th September 2018, Reliance Retail operated 9,146 stores with an area of over 19.50 million square feet and 512 petro outlets.

Q2 FY19 review

Accelerated store additions and healthy demand across all consumption brackets caused revenues to more than double year-on-year (YoY). Reliance Retail clocked sales of Rs 32,436 crore in Q2 as against Rs 14,646 crore in the same quarter of FY18. 138 new stores and 535 Jio Points were added during the quarter.

Margins for the quarter stood at 3.8 percent, up 155 basis points YoY, on account of operating leverage.

The path ahead

For Reliance Retail, most of the incremental revenue growth in the coming fiscals will be driven by aggressive store additions across all segments (lifestyle, grocery, white goods, fuel, connectivity). Extensive use of omnichannel (i.e. a blend of online and brick-and-mortar retail) will be important in widening the market reach. Therefore, top-line traction is expected to be intact.

In the case of apparel and consumables, the share of private labels to annual turnover is likely to increase gradually too. Besides enhancing brand and product visibility, the move should aid margin accretion owing to economies of scale and lower procurement costs.

With more than 50 million customers already covered under loyalty programmes, a lot would depend on how Reliance Retail capitalises on its strengths to achieve higher conversion-to-footfall ratios. Should it succeed in this regard, the improved asset turns will have a positive rub-off on the financials.

In the case of fuel retailing, top-line growth will be volume-driven. Commissioning of new outlets, coupled with re-commissioning of existing ones, would be the factors to watch out for.

How big can Reliance Retail be?

Amid economic uncertainties at the domestic and international level, consumption theme, being the most secular in nature, has been the Street’s favourite. Unsurprisingly, valuations of most retail stocks, even after witnessing sharp corrections of late, continue to trade at elevated multiples.

In the context of Reliance Retail, this fact assumes even more importance considering its huge revenue base, large store count, growing contribution to Reliance Industries’ consolidated sales in the recent past and an ambitious plan going forward.

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Its target is to open more than 6,000 outlets across the nation with a top-line potential of approximately $20 billion by FY20-end. If this goal is achieved, Reliance Retail could capture roughly 5 percent of India’s fast-growing retail market.

Given Reliance Retail’s growth pace in the past, this objective seems achievable. In the last 5 years, it has been consistently expanding at the rate of more than one new store each day and footfalls at outlets have nearly doubled every 2 years. It also enjoys the first-mover advantage in many cities.

If the recent quarterly results of Reliance Retail are anything to go by, its margins could, at the very least, be in the range of 4.5 to 5 percent by the end of FY20.

Reliance Retail has been valued using the market cap to sales methodology to understand its significance to the parent company (i.e. Reliance Industries). We considered the median market cap to sales multiple of India’s leading retail names for our analysis.

Using a market cap to sales multiple of 3, we derive the value of Reliance Retail at Rs 3,73,668 crore, which is close to 56 percent of Reliance Industries’ current market capitalization.

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If we exclude the retail portion, Reliance Industries’ market cap stands at approximately Rs 4,13,826 crore. Reliance Retail’s valuation, in this case, would be almost similar to all the other segments of Reliance Industries put together.

So, if Reliance Retail is able to earn better margins, its market cap to sales multiple will witness a re-rating. This could be a major game changer for Reliance Industries and drive its valuation upward.

What also sets Reliance Industries apart from the rest is its increasing focus on futuristic businesses. The company, through its wholly-owned subsidiary, acquired 12.7 percent stake in SkyTran, a high-speed public transportation (through magnetic levitation) company.

In due course, we see a lot of steam in Reliance Industries on the back of initiatives undertaken by it in synergistic domains (stake acquisitions in Den Networks and Hathway), consumer-oriented consistent growth verticals (Reliance Retail, Reliance Jio) and differentiated technologies (SkyTran). Investors should, therefore, keep a close eye on how developments pan out on the organic and inorganic fronts.

Source: https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/reliance-retail-next-big-thing-for-reliance-industries-3070621.html

Infinia Retail Develops Online Solutions for Offline Retail

If you have a Software as a Service (SaaS) idea that you passionately want to see the light of day, you might want to seek out The Lean Apps, a company that calls themselves a ‘startup for startups’. Taking an idea to MVP to the stage of investment and beyond, they have worked with over 20 startups in retail, music, insurance, health and telecom sector, worldwide.

The Tech Panda spoke to Gaurav Soni, the co-founder of Lean Apps, which is currently focussing on its retail product Infinia Retail. Soni speaks about the challenges in the Indian retail market and the need for building customer relations.

While online stores offer better pricing, he says, the actual attraction for a customer is still the experience. While blockchain and AI are celebrated for transparency, in the end, a customer returns for a good experience. Infinia’s focus in the coming five-ten years will be to build products that help retailers in enhancing the experience.

“The physical retailer today is not connected to the customer. They don’t focus on returning customers, their likes and preferences, or offer them personalised pricing. The customer is nowhere in the picture in the overall transaction journey,” he says.

Challenges in the market

While the retail segment in India presents stiff competition, particularly in terms of profitability and margin received from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), the biggest challenge, Soni says, is the customer mind set.

“Retailers are still not ready to invest much on technology. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting system products, like Tally and Busy, are already being used for years, but when it comes to mobile apps, AI, or AR, India is taking a long time in deciding whether they want to go towards technology or are focusing on enhancing in-store customer experiences. They tend to believe that if a customer is coming, he/she will anyhow buy. We want to bring the market to the level where they start focusing on building a relationship with customers and focusing on the experience,” he says.

Another challenge the retail market faces is the adaptation of technologies. Rising real-estate costs in retail and high inventory-holding cost are leading to shrinking stores. Still, retailers are not analysing predictability of sales based on customer demands. Inventory availability across stores often becomes a big challenge for retailers. Infinia plans to connect the systems that are already there.

How it started

Soni started The Lean Apps three and a half years back with two of his co-founders. They started by helping startups, providing them business consulting and services for building their products, which include many mobile app developments. Working with enterprises and startups, they built a team of around 50 people in India. After they started generating a good amount of revenue in terms of business in services, they took the direction they always wanted to take, towards products, and that’s where Infinia Retail started.

They started building products to enhance customer experience in offline stores with both a technology and a business perspective. “In Infinia, the focus is the retail industry. The retail industry is an ecosystem with an online as well as an offline world, which are converging. The customer is looking for a seamless experience whether its buying online or offline. However, there is a huge gap in the way production happens online versus offline. So we started focusing on enhancing the experience of the customer in offline stores,” he explains.

Currently focusing on Infinia, Soni is helping it grow in India and Europe with his partner. They have also started trying to get into other geographies like Middle East, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. “Presently in the validation state, we are building products based on customer problems and validating it with our customers. Once we know what the exact problem is, we can scale up on it,” he says.

How it works

Infinia is a SaaS offering for retailers to help them enhance the customer experience in their store, leading to increase in sales. A customer’s journey starts when he/she walks into a store and inquires about a product. Typically, with products like furniture, TV, or clothes, they want to see it and feel it, so they go to the store and inquire about the product.

The challenge is that the associate in the store talking to customers doesn’t know their intent to buy, which often leads to lost sales. Contrary to that, in online shopping, like Amazon, customer behaviour on the website, which includes time spent on the product page, reading reviews, adding to cart, helps know the intent to buy. In an offline store, the associate is the touch point for the customers. However, when customers walk out of the store, this associate doesn’t have the opportunity to take details like contact number, e-mail address, to connect with them online or offline.

Infinia helps the associate capture a quick lead on the customer, associating him/her with the product he/she was looking for. This product information goes into Infinia’s AI amd ML based cloud, forming a customer database.

As Soni explains, “It’s akin to adding a product to the cart. An online store can pursue you via e-mails, giving you offers and recommendations. Using Infinia, an offline store can do the same. So you have an e-commerce platform, through which, the store can send a link to customers, which they can click and collect. The product can be delivered and the store can collect the money at doorstep.”

Future plans

Their core forte being retail, the company plans to expand in the products they are focusing on. They are also moving on to voice-based products and AR, because they are also targeting the European and the US market.

“The intent is to make voice-based products, because 60-70% of searches in the next three years will be on voice. We’ll start using the AI, AR, and voice technologies to work on enhancing customer products,” Soni says.

They are also looking at building B2C products to help customers interact with the brand, allowing them to better review the brand. “We want to build something similar to Zomato in retail. Whether you want to buy shoes, jewellery, or a TV, you can look at the nearest store locations, the store’s review, compare the price with online prices, on the same app. Then, you can decide if you want to buy online or offline. So you initiate the buying decision, and it becomes a referral program. So for us, everything becomes uniform. The customer can see everything in one place and then decide,” he says.

SOurce: https://thetechpanda.com/infinia-retail-develops-online-solutions-for-offline-retail/29378/