Showing posts with label customer delight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label customer delight. Show all posts

04 July, 2018

SS EOSS 2018 is a full house

After a long time, I went shopping. Once again, of course during EOSS popularly known as End of Season Sale which usually occurs twice a year after each season is over (SS – Spring Summer & AW - Autumn Winter). I recall, during my days at Benetton in 2004, there were not more than 3-4 weeks of EOSS, which would begin right after Valentine’s Day (late-Feb) & just before Ganesh Chathurthi (July). There would be a frenzy among Customers to get the best merchandise at lower prices during this time and the EOSS was a great crowd puller. A number of first time customers would turn up at the stores, those who’ve otherwise not been the Brand’s patrons earlier. They would engage with the Brand, the Staff, take Trials and purchase. If they liked what they wore, they would come back and buy again, even at full prices. Therefore, EOSS was a great tool to induce first time buyers (of a Brand).

Things started changing slowly, especially between 2006-2012 during the Retail explosion pan-India with over 300 Malls opening simultaneously across the country. What was supposed to work “for” the Retailers and Brands worked “against” them. Let me give a perspective;

Let’s say, Brand A had 3 -5 stores per Metro (around 2006) and a small presence in 1-2 Department stores. Circa 2012, the same Brand had a dozen or more stores plus larger counters at various Department stores in the city. Add to this, so many International, Domestic & Regional Brands started exploding the retail scenario in the country with total shopping space quadrupling every two years. 


All of a sudden, customers had too much choice, and at better price points. If a (Male) Customer had 4 brands to choose for Formalwear earlier, there were atleast 20+ brands in the same space now. Similarly, for casualwear & sportswear while new categories like fitness & lounge wear were created.

Meanwhile, the Bansals were building E-Commerce websites which offered clothes and accessories at half the price (like books!) and they called it disruption. It was indeed, that Customers could shop from their desks or sofas – just that a few Brand Managers got it all wrong. While pushing unsold merchandise to e-commerce (at discounts), thanks to a general slowdown in Retail Sales, even fresh Merchandise were being sold at lower prices than at stores. Mall Owners were gasping, feeling high and dry with footfalls barely hitting the precincts during the weekdays and largely window shopping over the weekends. Everyone was talking E-Commerce. So many Brands built their own websites while most of them who wanted an online presence aligned with E-commerce Marketplaces like Myntra & Jabong, as well as horizontal players like Flipkart & Amazon. 

As an ecosystem, we (Retailers) pampered Customers to shop online, return if they didn’t like what they bought, get a 100% refund if they deemed fit and encouraged them with a variety of discounts. This became a daily habit and more Brand Managers were getting intrigued with this incredible opportunity. All along, many Retailers missed meeting Customer Expectations at the Retail Outlets. Customer Engagement was negligible, Customer Service levels were dropping and the Staff were getting impatient not being able to earn more, thanks to a fall in their Incentives which was directly linked to lower Sales, thanks to fewer footfalls. The cookie crumbled. Many Brands shrunk their operations, some exited less important markets and a few downed their shutters. 


It’s been reasonably slow the last 4 seasons for most Retailers. However, I saw something incredible last weekend at one of India’s largest Department Stores. Customers were patiently waiting in a long queue to bill their products which took an average 20 mins during peak hours. Add to this, they have already spent quite some time trying out their outfits at the mobile trial rooms set-up. I was convinced, Customers haven’t shunned Offline Retail. They will come back to the stores when they see “value” for what they buy coupled with fantastic / personalised service. Ofcourse they are here for discounts right now, but then, the same discount is available on their Mobile Apps. So why did they come? Think.

20 February, 2018

Does Loyalty still exist?


I was speaking on a Panel Discussion last week at a conference hosted by Asia Retail Congress at Mumbai with some fantastic speakers from the Indian Retail Ecosystem, where the topic for us was to discuss Customer Loyalty. While preparing the points to ponder, I was wondering whether Loyalty still exists in today’s context. Well, yes – it sounds crazy if I say there is no Loyalty in the consumer business today. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

The toothpaste and toothbrush – look how consumers get swayed by newer options and attractive advertisements? There was a joke that a dentist/compounder who would appear in such an ad for toothpaste was once seen wearing a stethoscope! The body wash/soap – the options we see at supermarkets. The clothes we wear – this one’s interesting. Let me ask you, is the dress you are wearing right now – was it the same brand that you purchased most recently? If yes, you are part of a small minority of consumers who are still brand loyal. The so-called disruption by new-age startups who thundered the e-commerce world a decade back and continue to bleed in billions – do consumers have any loyalty still left over? Again, consumers prefer to buy from trusted websites (is Trust=Loyalty? Later, on that) where they could probably have the option of returning faulty goods sold by unscrupulous vendors on whom the Amazons & the Flipkarts don’t have much command. A Big Billion Day or an interesting Sale period – and consumers swing their loyalty there.


Let’s look at a few touchy, personal products. Let me start with Gillette which I have personally been using for the past 2 decades. I started with a Presto plastic shaving razor worth Rs. 10 twenty years back. I am now using the “Mach 3 Advanced” which is some Rs. 350+ per razor! And while the Advertisement claims a 30-day use, it still warrants “Conditions Apply” such as the skin tone, number of times repeating the shave and hard water. For me, this is one classic case of Customer Loyalty where consumers have continued to stick on with the Brand and its extensions such as Shaving Gel, After Shave, Body Wash & so on. Let’s look at Sanitary Napkins. Women I know (and I don’t discuss this with many!) use a particular brand/model – purely because of operational comfort. Interestingly, Brands which come in with alternatives offer sample packs or ones with fewer pads, so consumers can perhaps try and decide. Still, the loyalty is extreme. Women continue to stick to their favourites.

Look at Café Coffee Day. With 1,500 cafes across India over 2 decades, the brand continues to drive at least one lakh consumers every day and sells over 50,000 cappuccinos daily! Cut to competition – the nearest café chain Starbucks has just over 100 cafes pan-India although the argument is that their daily turnover per café is 3x of CCD. Indeed, their food prices are 3x of that of what we get at CCD and their beverages, at least 2x. So, that explains.


Royal Enfield was an underdog seven years back, selling 1 lakh vehicles per annum. Now, they sell almost 1 lakh units per month. Today, RE sells more motorcycles worldwide than all other premium brands put together – some feat this.


So, does Loyalty exist? I have a hung verdict here t least for now. The house is definitely split over this issue. For certain products and categories, consumers show extreme loyalty while for some, there hardly exists any loyalty. Travel, Food, even Luxury – take your pick. Look through the lens and you’ll see how fragmented the so-called Customer Loyalty is. And Loyalty Cards – well, I shall write a follow-up column on this shortly.

19 July, 2017

GST at Cinema Theatres

GST is the most searched term, perhaps in the past 30 days or so. India transitioned to GST on the midnight of 1st July 2017 with a special session of the Parliament, which was attended by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet including members of the Opposition. Much has been spoken about GST so I am not going to delve in any further. But I am presenting my views on how GST in Tamil Film Industry is affecting the trade.


In Tamil Nadu, there was no VAT on cinema tickets prior to GST. However, there was an Entertainment Tax @ 30% on the ticket prices. The DMK Government, when they claimed power in 2001 provided a reprieve to the Tamil cinema Industry for the said Entertainment Tax if the film had a title in Tamil and was provided a U Certificate among a few other clauses. That’s when Sun Pictures was floated (a division of Sun Media Network which runs Sun Tv & 45+ channels in four regional languages). The reprieve was used by most Producers with fancy Tamil titles including the all time highest grosser of Superstar Rajnikanth whose film directed by Shankar was titled “Enthiran” meaning Robot in Tamil.


The ticket prices in Tamil Nadu have been capped at Rs. 120 for Multiplex screens and Rs. 100 for standalone Theatres. The 120-cap was inclusive of 30% ET, which means the actual earning to the Theatre Operator was only Rs. 84. However, due to the largesse by the successive Governments, the theatres were able to earn extra – the ET collection was not passed on to the Customers, rather pocketed in to their kitties – obviously because the Producers knew they could hard bargain with the Exhibitors for a higher Minimum Guarantee & higher Revenue Share as well. This vicious cycle has been going on for a while with 9 out of 10 cinemagoers unaware of the same.

On June 30th 2017, the TN Government passed a mandate where the local body tax was applicable at 30%, which was over and above the GST. Cinema Exhibitors got in to a huddle on the 1st of July and decided to protest the TN Government’s decision and shut down the screens for four days from 3rd – 6th July 2017 incurring a loss of over Rs. 400 crores to the Industry. TN Government decided to put the levy on hold and allowed the Theatres to operate as per old norms.


Now here is the catch; GST had just replaced the Entertainment Tax and was 2% lower. Which means, the ticket prices should have gone down or remained as they were. But the smart industry guys have played their cards well by adding 28% GST on to the Maximum Ticket Price of Rs. 120 which is against the spirit of GST implementation. Interestingly, neither the Central nor State Government have taken cognizance of this issue and cinema goers have been forced to shell out more from their pockets. With the already sky-high costs of Pepsi, Coke, Popcorn and other Food & Beverages inside the theatres, regular visitors have been dissuaded leading to a 30% drop in tickets sold. If this trend continues, more footfalls will reduce and would have a deep impact on the film exhibition industry. A few star-studded movies are in the pipeline, which will decide if this move by Cinemas to pass on the GST to customers will have a significant impact. With burgeoning OTT Apps & ever increasing movies screened illegally on websites, the fate of the film industry is facing a Damocles Sword.

07 May, 2017

K for Kleptomaniacs


People who steal at retail stores are otherwise known as Kleptomaniacs. Store Pilferage, as it is also known accounts for about 10% loss on Turnover each year across Organized Retail in India. Worldwide, the numbers vary but is perhaps the highest only in India. From shaving razors to condoms to shoe laces to mobile phones, people steal anything and everything from retail store shelves. For Retailers who make a paltry margin on Sales, they lose their whatever little profits they make because of such losses. It is estimated that in 6 out of 10 such cases, the store employees are involved in store thefts.

Kleptomania is a disorder among several people in the world. It is the urge to steal a product especially from a Retail store. There are various reasons why people do so. Here are some key points;

Ego Trip: Customers steal at Retail Stores mostly to satisfy their Ego trips. They may even steal items that are not required for them or someone they may know.

Bet with Friends: This happens most often, especially among the younger lot when they place bets among friends to bring a prized catch from a Retail store.

Need Vs. Want: Many times, the person who is stealing may have a genuine need for such a product and may not have the means to acquire them lawfully.

Compulsive Urge” At times, for kleptomaniacs, it’s just about stealing something from somewhere which may have less or no value at all.


So what should Retailers do about it?

Worldwide, Retailers are fighting a losing battle against Kleptomaniacs. For each case that gets caught, there are liberals and human rights activists who fight for the Kleptomaniac’s justice. Things are worse for juvenile offenders. In most cases, the Retailers simply ask the person who steal to just pay the amount of the products and leave the place. A few of them take law unto their own hands and provide third-degree treatment by getting physical and abusing them. In a few more cases, the local police is called and the person is handed over. Sadly, there is no specific law in India against kleptomaniacs. This keeps the Retailers worried all the time about what action must be taken against them.

Quick Fixes;

CCTv: Retailers may install CCTv cameras across the store. However, this is just a deterrant. A mere signage that the store has CCTv cameras or even dummy cameras usually deter potential customers who want to steal to recede.

Watchful Eyes: The store staff must be watchful all the time and keep looking for those who may have come to steal the products

Strict Policy: A display of the policy against Kleptomaniacs may again deter them to avoid stealing, such as causing public embarrassment through photos.

05 May, 2017

Inventory Management

For any retailer, Inventory Management is about maintaining the right level of stocks at the right place at the right time. If this is achieved, then the Sales can increase by atleast 30-50%. Sadly, it isn’t so easy. The “Fill Rates” as they are called refers to the amount of stock level that’s maintained at the Retail stores. It varies according to formats, location, pricing strategy, etc. In Grocery Retail, a fill rate of 80% is considered to be healthy while in fashion, it is ideal to have 90% and above. It may not even be relevant in Gold Jewelry while in Consumer Durables, it is normally about the breadth of brands and models one carries.


I set-out earlier this week to buy some general merchandise for our new office. As always, I prepared a list and walked in to one of the oldest Grocery stores in the neighborhood. The first thing I asked – a dustbin, wasn’t available. Really? And then I asked for another thing, which wasn’t available. And then another thing and the same answer. This sends a very negative imagery about the store to the potential customer. In Retail, it is estimated that over 70% of customers always purchase more items than they had originally come to buy provided a wider range of items are available and also the Retailer maintains a level of excitement at the store. In just a few minutes, I knew how the store was being managed since products of the same category were kept for display in two locations inside the store! Really felt bad for the store and the Retailer Brand that there is scant focus on merchandising & visual merchandising. But the god thing was I also picked up something which caught my attention at the cash till, which I had not written in my list. Smart placement, I would say.


Soon, I reached out to another store closeby for purchasing the rest of the items – now this is the last thing that a customer wants to do – store hopping for essentials. And trust me, while e-commerce has chipped in to some extent in offering a wider range, even they haven’t been able to crack the Hyperlocal delivery where such products are delivered in the fastest instance. At this store, I picked up the stuff I was looking for, thankfully got what I wanted and bingo! Picked up a few more things which I hadn’t planned to purchase. Again, because it was displayed near the Cash tills.

Inventory Management at a Retail Store has been automated for well over 2 decades now, from running simple software solutions to implementing complicated ERP solutions from top IT Companies. Sadly, even then, the fill rates in India in the Grocery store business continues to be less than 60%, sending Customer Experience to very low levels. I would also say, Indian Customers have been very nice to Retailers by being lenient loyal to such retail stores, shopping frequently at the same store even though the Retailer provides a poor experience. When I try to analyze, it’s partly tech-related but more importantly, the attitude of the front-end staff make all the difference. If only they displayed the products that have arrived from the Warehouse and also send out feedback of what’s not available! Wishful thinking.

I reiterate that Retailers can improve not only their Sales but also their margins by managing Inventory better. But it is a discipline to be followed daily.

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