The connected world has transformed home improvement retail like never before, and one need not look far for reasons. First, technology has enabled customers to seek solutions rather than just products, thereby compelling retailers to solutionise their offerings. And second, it has enabled retailers to get a unified view of customers, and vice versa. Welcome to the world of omnichannel, an imperative for home improvement retailers.
In this 8-minute video, retail guru Dr Mahesh M explains the nuances of omnichannel retail, and what home improvement retailers need to do to keep the customer satisfied at all touch points, as she travels across the information gathering, sale and delivery stages of her transaction.
Mahesh is CEO of Pune based Creaticity, the first mall in the country to focus entirely on the home improvement market segment. For over a decade he has built up this shopping destination from scratch, first as Ishanaya and now Creaticity. In the process he has watched closely the transformation of home improvement, from being product driven to now predominantly service driven.
Mahesh acknowledges the great work that home improvement brands like Pepperfry and IKEA are doing, in leveraging technology to understand the customer needs gauged during her information gathering journey, and thereafter by presenting her a compelling assortment of products and services. However, he points that the third stage of solutioning – delivery experience – is outsourced “8 out of 10 times” and that’s where gaps emerge between promise and reality. “Brand owners should own the delivery experience,” he insists.
Another fact of life for a retailer, according to Mahesh, is that the customer is looking for information upfront, well before she steps out to shop. Add to that her need for convenience of seamless transactions at all stages of the selection-buying-retuning process. Together this creates an inherent demand for complete transparency. “The customer wants to know what she is getting, and more importantly, why she is getting it.”
All these emergent demands, the result of technology being all pervasive, bring us to the buzz word – omnichannel.
But what does it mean to be omnichannel, what are its 6 basic elements, and how should brand owners and retailers leverage this approach to build competitive advantage? In Omnichannel: An Imperative for Home Improvement Retailers, very economically Mahesh explains what needs to be done to align retail ops across all channels and all dimensions of omnichannel.
More pertinently he asserts that we all live in an experience economy, where experience and convenience are the two essentials of tech-driven retail. While the first relates to the hedonic side of shopping, the other is the functional side. And both need to be married together to satisfy the customer.
Referring to Creaticity’s Curated Trails, that take customers on a veritable guided tour across the mall on the basis of their interest, Mahesh predicts that malls will get transformed into business spaces going forward, as against their pre-Covid avatar of social handout spaces. “Retailers will now be looking for meaningful traffic rather than just footfalls. As mall managers, we are obliged to make sure that we bring them the customers they are looking for. Curated Trails is one such initiative that enables shoppers to find the products and brands that they are looking for more efficiently.”
Mahesh M has recently completed his doctoral thesis from IBS Hyderabad. His thesis centres around Omni Channel Retailing with a focus on channel integration and customer patronage intentions. He plans to pen his thoughts and experiences related to retail and soon share them in the form of a blog.