Where is my Mobile?? I need to Shop!!

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Hmmmmm….gone are the days when all that your mobile phone did was to connect you with someone you wanted to speak to. Phones today remain a remote medium to talk. They do much much more! So much more that retail is in threat because of them! For those who arent acquainted with term – Mobile Showrooming, here you go…

As pointed out by a TNS Study, ‘Showrooming’, implies a behavior by shoppers where they visit stores only to test products but buy them later elsewhere and this has emerged as a significant threat to the high street in recent years, with one third of mobile users globally admitting to ‘showrooming’ behaviour.’

But let’s not panic. As per TNS’s annual Mobile Life study, based on responses from 38,000 people in 43 countries, shows that whilst showrooming is a very real threat, mobile can offer a solution to brands in minimizing this risk. Among those who showroom, two thirds use their phone whilst doing so, providing a major opportunity for brands to interact with consumers via mobile and turn browsers into buyers.

Matthew Froggatt, Chief Development Officer at TNS, said, “The impact of digital development, mobile Internet and online shopping are coming together in a way that is posing a very real threat to traditional bricks and mortar retailers. However, there is also opportunity to mitigate that risk for brands that get their customer engagement right.”

Some behaviours – such as using a mobile to conduct independent research in-store – do present risks to retailers, as external influences may increase a shopper’s likelihood of leaving without making a purchase. However, the study shows that people are open to engaging with brands whilst in-store, with more than one tenth (11 percent) of smartphone owners in India keen to receive mobile coupons whilst shopping and 14 percent interested in apps that help them navigate the store they are in compared to one fifth of people globally.

Meanwhile 10 percent of consumers in India are interested in a ‘virtual sales assistant’, compared to 13 percent consumers globally, who will help answer their questions in-store about a particular product. This openness to interacting does present a real opportunity for brands that get their mobile strategy right, to engage meaningfully with people at the point when they are considering a purchase.

Parijat Chakraborty, Executive Director, at TNS India adds, “People in India still want the reassurance of seeing a product before they buy it. Rather than seeing mobile as a threat to in-store sales, brands and retailers must embrace it as the most immediate and personalised way to engage with shoppers while they are in-store to ensure they don’t leave empty-handed.”

Showrooming is a global phenomenon, but the role played by mobile varies significantly across the world. In markets where people’s first introduction to the Internet has been via a handset, shoppers are highly likely to use their mobile when showrooming – 75 percent in emerging Asia, 87 percent in the Middle East and North Africa and 67 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. People in developed markets, where online shopping is well established, are less likely to do so, with 55 percent of showroomers in North America and 56 percent in Europe using their phones in this way

“In developed markets, mobile presents an opportunity to break established showrooming behaviours and make purchasing in retail more appealing. However in emerging markets, where there is a greater tendency to embrace disruptive behaviours, there is an imminent threat of new showrooming behaviour driven by mobile,” commented Froggatt.

The biggest drivers for showrooming consumers are twofold: reassurance on price and reassurance on suitability. Reading reviews or checking social media whilst in-store to inform their decision-making stands at 2.4 percent in India compared to 16 percent globally. 42 percent Indian consumes prefer asking friends and family what they would recommend buying. This is in line with 49 percent in emerging Asian markets and much higher when compared to such consumers globally (25 percent).

Having knowledgeable sales staff on hand is no guarantee of success, with two-fifth (39.7 percent) consumers in India preferring to access information on their phone than speak to a sales assistant in store, compared to almost a third of people globally and two-fifths of 16-30 year olds. While people continue to choose diverse ways of seeking the reassurance they require, an integrated approach meeting customer needs at all touchpoints is essential.

Parijat concludes, “The increased popularity of m-commerce is not the death-knell for conventional retailers. Both online and offline retailers need to understand the complex mix of decision making elements in-store and online, and sharpen their strategies accordingly. Consumers want both the formats to exist; however, they wish to see the benefit of both in each. The success for marketers will depend on how the best of both the worlds can be offered by bringing in synergies across online and offline”.

TNS shows the way in which retailers can get involved –

  • 38 % of people are interested in redeeming mobile coupons
  • 36 % would like to scan a barcode for more information
  • 34 % would like to check social media and buzz about the product
  • 31 % would like a mobile app to help navigate a store
  • 30 % are interested in completing the purchase on their phone
  • 30 % would like to receive mobile coupons when they pass the product
  • 16 % are interested in an app to check to availability elsewhere

– Zainab Morbiwala

Much more than just a Fantasie!

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As I would pass through the corner of New Marine Lines, no amount of self-discipline would ever let me hold myself back from not only looking but also getting tempted to the huge outdoor display advertising covering the façade of the store Fantasie Fine Chocolates. The foundation of the store was laid much before I was born…infact much before my mom was born!! It was 65 years ago when a man by the name A. Fazelbhoy decided to do something no one would have even imagined of at that time. He decided to start off with a store for hand-crafted, artisanal chocolates in India. These were certainly not the days and not the time when Indians were matured to indulge in delicacies such as this but nonetheless he took the first step. And today, when modern retail is the buzzword, not much has changed! If you look around, except for a handful (number that you can count on your fingertips), not many exclusive chocolate brands can be seen around. Salute to Fazelbhoy for being the visionary that he was!

Ask his stunning and absolutely gorgeous grand-daughter – Zeba Kohli  (she heads the mantle for Fantasie Fine Chocolates and the other businesses that Fazelbhoy gave birth to and also is in-charge of the trust he initiated) on the philosophy behind the name and she explains, “It was my grand-father’s fantasy to have world-class chocolates in India and hence the name – Fantasie Fine Chocolates!” True to its name, the artisanal chocolates are class apart! A bite into any of them and you shall literally forget the Patchi’s and Leonida’s of the world!

As a teenager, Zeba used to hang around at the store helping the staff (usually they employed the physically challenged and the under-privileged). She would be introduced to the customers who would walk-in to the store and gradually she became the face people associated with Fantasie Fine Chocolates. She leaves no stone un-turned to praise her grand-father for setting a trend for many to follow  – be it in the business of artisanal chocolates or in the industry of refrigeration. “Cold storage in the country was literally not there! Nana did his every bit to pioneer things and set a trend”, says Zeba.

Today, the range that Zeba offers will leave you amazed. From chocolate Taj Mahals to Cindrella Shoe, from chocolate jewelry to chocolate puzzles for children – she has it all!! Way back in 2006, she had a chocolate fashion show! For Zeba, as she puts it so well – the business she is into is not that of chocolates but she is into something she loves doing and this just happens to be the business of chocolates. The purity of her thoughts is well evident from initiative she undertook to inculcate the values of ‘peace and non-violence’ in children from the film she made. Sharing a bit on this, she says, “I wanted children to understand the preaching of Mahatma and children love chocolates. I used the medium of chocolates to have a short film for them.” Amazing, isn’t it!

Across the world, Zeba has carved a niche for herself as the Chocolate Lady of India. Her confidence in what she does is evident from the fact that she bares it all before you. Check her website www.fantasiechocolate.com and you will be able to jot down all the recipes. She shares, “For me, I am my biggest competitor. I don’t need to feel insecure about having my recipes being replicated by anyone else.”

Ask her about the dynamics of artisanal chocolates in India, and she explains, “If I have to share the dynamics of the chocolate industry in India then I have to say that we have a long way to go! We are blessed with the most delicious of mithais hence for us chocolates actually account for just 0.01 per cent of total consumption when we talk of ‘sweets’. The mushrooming of exclusive chocolate stores is a good thing but the players need to think through all the challenges that are before us in terms of the back-end and our climate and culture. Climate because maintaining the shelf life for exquisite handmade chocolates  isn’t an easy task considering our tropical weather and culture because of the constant thrust on vegetarian products and also we have a lot of shraads and following of amavasyaas where chocolate consumption is restricted.”

Currently, with 6 stores spread across Mumbai and Pune, Zeba is in no rush to expand. She firmly believes that expansion has to be gradual and sure-shot. “With discrepancies in having a strong back-end, there is no point in expanding and compromising on the brand values and brand promise,” she shares.

Bharti Wal-Mart Easyday cannot Afford to Take it So Easy!

A couple of months ago, I happened to visit one of the oldest surviving cities of the Punjab region in India – Jalandhar. The place is far away from any of the metros that you would come across. The city is known for its lineage associated with the manufacturing of sports goods and a drive down the city highway shall also bring to your notice innumerous resorts and banquet halls that will give you a peek into a lavish Punjabi wedding! Retail in Jalandhar is still at its infancy but it is a good sight to see majority of the supermarket and hypermarket chains having set themselves early on.

My trip to Jalandhar was a leisure trip where I tagged along with my hubby for one of his business meetings. Our toddler accompanied us and because the city is otherwise a bit dead, the option before me and my daughter was to just go and spend time at the nearby malls (if I can call them so!!). One of the malls that I happened to visit had Bharti Wal-Mart’s Easyday as its anchor. The store entrance would literally confuse you of the store being under renovation but then since I had nothing better to do and I wanted to pick some cup noodles for my little one, I thought of just taking a stroll within. The product display is at par with what you would find in any other super / hyper market. The cooling within the store is decent as well. The product assortment has a good mix too but what really amused me was the training extended to the store staff specially considering the brand name – Wal-Mart is associated with this place! The staff seemed to be in a kitty party mood with all of them standing in clusters and exchanging jokes thus filing the air with their laughter. Well, laughter is the best medicine but then I am sure this exercise can be practiced outside the store when they aren’t spoting the uniform that they were in!

As I strolled down the aisles hunting for cup noodles, I just could locate them and finally I had to go and disturb a gang of girls on duty to help me out. None of them were rude but yes, ignorant to the core of what the supermarket housed! Firstly, one of them just couldn’t comprehend what I was looking for and because she had more jokes to share with her colleagues hence could really waste more time to solve the mystery that I had just presented her with, she requested me to go to the enquiry counter / helpdesk and just get my query resolved. Wow!! I thought to myself – Now that is indeed a solution!! How couldn’t I have thought of this before! As I was standing there with my little one thinking how could I be so daft as to disturb the girls’ with my silly question, the gang just decided to leave me alone with my thoughts and guess what!! Just as they moved, I found my cup noodles that were hidden behind their backs!!

Now, Bharti Wal-Mart EasyDay really really cannot afford to take it this easy when it comes to customer service and staff training!

– Zainab Morbiwala