The Indian brick & mortar retailer’s dilemma…to digitize or not?Posted by Sriram Subramanian on April 7, 2016
2 years ago, I would have gone to a mall (in India) to purchase a pair of shoes which I now can buy at a cheaper price sitting at my home with a guarantee of same day delivery. Moreover, with many players entering the e-commerce market we now have a plethora of choices for shopping online, as if the entire retail world has been served up on a platter to the consumer with a great selection of products and unbelievable prices. Electronics, Apparel, Books, Media you name it. Almost everything which was exclusively available at physical stores can be now bought via few clicks on your phone.
Implications for brick and mortar retailers
For most brick & mortar retailers, this dramatic shift in the retail ecosystem has adversely impacted revenues and growth. Showrooming has become quite popular and been a real pain — the shopper uses the information provided by the staff at the store but eventually makes the purchase online, sometimes even while he/she is in the premises of the store!
Retailers’ recognize the need to collaborate with marketplaces, however only a fraction has jumped on that bandwagon due to technological and operational complexities. Besides the big3 (FlipKart, SnapDeal, Amazon) there are several other prominent national players (e.g. PayTM, ShopClues) and many niche/local ones as well. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the use of a popular ERP/POS (Tally, for example), which only tracks their store sales and is completely disconnected from the catalog they need to create on a marketplace. More than maintaining a separate catalog, the killer requirement is the need for constantly syncing stock counts 2-way between the store and marketplace so that the retailer doesn’t run out of stock…which eventually results in the retailer getting suspended from the marketplace!
Further complicating the situation is that many retailers own multiple stores which then brings in new requirements around data sync across different store locations and virtual selling channels. Many POSes (Vend, for example) have stellar support for syncing inventory and sales data across multiple store locations. However, they don’t help when it comes to syncing data across e-marketplaces. Creating a brand new catalog for each and every marketplace along with manually monitoring inventory + sales has become quite a drag for retailers, and in most cases the business owners end up hiring additional staff to manage various digital channels. No wonder most retailers shy away from digitizing their operations and listing on marketplaces.
Online to offline (O2O) — bridging the best of both worlds
The key to winning in this Retailers need to play on their strength — for certain categories (e.g. Appliances) shoppers like to touch and feel the product before they commit, which provides physical retailers a big edge in these segments. ShoppinPal is in the process of jointly rolling out solutions with top marketplaces whereby consumers could reserve a product online and make the final purchase in-store once they visit. Also on our roadmap is the “try and buy” capability, which is most suited for apparel and jewelry.
Our vision is to bring true omnichannel to small and mid-sized retailers globally. Take our seller app for a spin and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear how we can help solve your challenges in this space.