Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WOWing the shopper !!!!

What are those elements that go into making a never to forget shopping experience?

Peoples’ expectations are high. It is easy to fall short of those expectations and hard to eclipse with something that’s over the top. A recent research report carried out by few of my students on "Discovering WOW- A study of Retail Shopping Experiences in the Metro Cities," points to five major areas that contribute to a never to forget shopping experience.

The ingredients of WOW

Brand Experience: Exciting store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they are special and that they always get a deal.
Expediting: Being sensitive to customers’ time on long check-out lines, being proactive in helping speed the shopping process.
Engagement: Being polite and interested in helping, genuinely caring, acknowledging and listening
Executional Excellence: Patiently explaining and advising, checking stock, helping to find products, having product knowledge and providing unexpected product quality.
Problem Recovery: Helping resolve and compensate for problems, upgrading quality and ensuring complete satisfaction.

Retailers can focus on creating a platform based on five major pillars of retail satisfaction to increase the probability of creating a wow experience.
Brand experience and engagement are the strongest drivers of loyalty. Younger consumers aged 18-30 were most likely to recall having a great shopping experience. Their experiences are coloured by greater comfort with multitasking and familiarity with the internet, making them more transaction oriented, rather than relationship oriented and less tied to brick – and –mortar stores. Those over age 50 like being treated and acknowledged courteously.

In the current recessionary climate, though price is important to consumers, but it is only one factor in the overall WOW shopping experience. It is the product excellence that matters more to modern consumers. While the Great Depression led to an era of penny pinching, today’s economic crisis is leading consumers to focus more on value than price, specially with credit cards, retail and telecom. People are being more scrupulous about what they buy and where they buy from. More educated customers are looking for a better value in everything. Hence, despite shortages of resources and store closings, it is still possible to delight and surprise consumers. The possibility exists when retailers have everything in place. The best way to lay foundation to WOW customers is that store owners to hire and train staff who are able to take basic information about shoppers’ preferences and convert that knowledge to customized service.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My name is (not) Khan

Well this piece has nothing to do with K Jo’s forthcoming film “My name is Khan,” but the recent hue n cry created by the King Khan.. ala Shahrukh Khan ( who happens to be one of my favourite) and the media, on the former’s recent visit to the US. Even the former President of the country was also frisked in our own land by the staff of an US airliner and very few eyebrows were raised. In fact there are many Indians, who were frisked.. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Irfaan Khan, Neil Nitin Mukhesh, Salmaan Khan, Jayanti Natarajan, to name a few.

I fail to understand, why we Indians are so conscious about the VIP status, specially when the formality is carried out at the cost of the security of a nation and involves the lives of millions? We, Indians are very emotional, and very easily tend to forget the consequences of ghastly terrorist attacks. I am actually surprised that SRK, who happens to travel to the States, very often, is passing such a remark, rather he should be used to such a practice.. (yes it would have been wrong, had they strictly limited to carry out such a formality on the basis of a particular religion) Very recently, the US cops were found seeking ID from a Professor of Harvard and most surprisingly from American Icon & Legend Bob Dylan. This is the reason, why no terror attacks had taken place in the US post 9 / 11.

It is high time, we Indians should learn from the US. Though the Honourable T & T Minister, Ms. Ambika Soni said that we should also do the same (Tit for a Tat) with the US celebrities / VIPs… the protocol should be religiously followed in our country, no matter whether there are US celebrities, Indian VIPs, Pakistani nationals or aam Hindustani… Thank God,my name is (not) Khan, and I am a common Indian and I would not mind waiting for hours, if it demands so, for my nation. Jai Hind.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Repositioning is in Fashion

The challenge for today’s market leaders is to reposition so as to sustain. It is always tempting to compare the competence of today’s leaders with those of the previous generation. People who have watched Gavaskar take on the best fast bowlers of his time would certainly rate him higher than Sehwag. People who have watched Big B on Don might rate him on a higher scale than SRK.

A leader is a function of the times he lives in, just as much as a batsman is function of the opposition that he bats against and the pitches that he bats on. The biggest challenge for today’s leaders is to reposition themselves to the point they aspire for. Starting from consumer durables, FMCGs, footwear, entertainment, media houses, advertising agencies, web portals have repositioned themselves. To add to this, even Himesh Reshammiya (Jai Mata Di, Lets rrrrock, fame) for his forthcoming film has repositioned his voice, keeping aside his new looks. As a teacher of marketing, the theme excites me and hence, collected few information on revamping/ repositioning workouts, which, I thought to pen down on my blog.

Media in India has transformed. From the few mainstream papers and one TV channel, the industry has metamorphosised into a maelstrom of choice. It is only few years back, the newspapers were busy saying “no space” and even magazines like India Today wished they had multiple “ front sections;” so acute was the demand for space and preferred positions. The performance of media managers were evaluated mainly on their ability to get space. The emergence of cable and satellite and the growing literacy of India has lead to vernacular media making its presence felt in more ways than one. Regional media is growing and is no longer the country cousin of English.

In the footwear market, Bata is on the front foot; seventy five years and still running strong. Generations have gone to school and grown up on Bata. Now the footwear major is re-inventing itself to appeal to a younger generation. The first footwear brand to set foot in the country, Bata is now looking to “surprise” customers with an expanded range- all at “great prices”- in a new and improved shopping environment. While being strong in men’s shoes, Bata also has grown in the ladies, children and sports segments. Furthermore, they also launched a new specialized division “ Bata Industrials”, offering footwear meant for various sectors such as defence, automobile, agriculture, construction, agriculture, metals & petroleum. The stores are now more spacious with more than 3,000 sq.ft of retail space, some are even larger than 10,000 sq.ft, not to forget that these stores have been designed by a specialist team of retail designers from Italy in collaboration with in-house team of architects. Bata’s retail environment underwent major changes with superior store fit-outs and furniture. Although the global meltdown did induce Bata to cut down its expenses, the company did no compromise on expansion or even modernization. With a revamp and new product range, Bata battles it out with the players in the organized sector like Adidas, Liberty, Nike, Reebok, Khadims, Metro, Woodland and many more.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Burger King's New Ad Campaign

I am shocked to see Burger King's new ad campaign where Goddess Lakshmi is featured seated on top of a burger..What is wrong with the creative department? Are the ad agencies falling short of creativity, that they had to make a mockery of Hinduism??

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is The Retail Romance Over?

Touted as the next big thing after IT and telecom, retail in India is facing trouble moving ahead. Malls which had sprung up all over urban India in anticipation of consumption boom are combating for survival. During the last Valentine Weekend, Select City Walk Mall in the posh south Delhi area was all bejeweled with white and red heart shaped balloons and adorn, because it is that time of the year where everyone from card shop owner to the jewellery retailer solicits attention for their products with a volley of offers. This year, the retailers were doubly keen to make the most of the season and despite lucrative offers, there were not many takers for their offerings. Couple contests, games and massive discounts were not attracting sufficient footfalls. Worried retailers have been extending “ end of season sales” for a long time so as to meet their sales target for the last financial year. In Mumbai’s western suburb Malad, which houses the popular InOrbit Mall, by and far the largest mall in terms of space occupancy, also says the same story.

Currently the eighth largest retail market in the world in dollar terms, India too does not seem to be insulated against the adverse impact of global meltdown. In fact, the year 2008, has not been a significant growth story for Indian retail. Marginal increase in sales coupled with escalating cost pressures has resulted in shrinking bottom lines and large number of retailers shutting shops and slamming the brakes on further expansions. Discount store chain Subhiksha Trading Services Ltd has shuttered its 1600 stores and laid off most of its workers. A Fitch report on the outlook for the retail industry in 2009 said that due to factors such as economic slowdown, high interest rates and the liquidity crunch and the high real estate rates, most retailers have experienced a drop in footfalls and demand, reflected in slowing same store sales (SSS) growth and greater time to break even for new stores.

Controlling costs will be a focal point to offset margin compression from top line pressures, increasing competition and promotional activity. As a result, retailers are likely to focus on inventory management, supply chain efficiencies and labour productivity. Kishore Biyani, CEO, Future Group & Managing Director of Pantaloon Retail has a different take. In his words, “The current phase does not indicate any slowdown in modern retail even though for the time being, it may look as if they this is the end of the growth story. The industry is suffering from the first pangs of growth. Favourable government policies will help in creating and sustaining demand.” In the words of Richard Cuthbertson, Sr. Researcher, Said Business School, University of Oxford, “There is a great deal of learning in the Indian retail story. There will be lot more regional variation and mom and pop stores will continue to exist. The best format for India will be a mix of everything—right kind of stores, pricing and even consumer loyalty.”

Lets wait n watch…….

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RECESSION? Going mobile can be the answer

Mobile marketing is no longer a forte or fashion.

The popularity of mobile phones means that the mobile channel will become more than a vehicle for sending texts and receiving calls. Mobile is still considered an up-and-coming channel by some, susceptible to uncertainty and hesitancy among late adopters. But smart marketers are integrating trackable, quantifiable mobile components within campaigns to extend their reach and increase efficacy. Mobile applications, known as apps, are the latest phenomenon. Web-based apps gained notoriety in May 2007 when social networking site Facebook opened its application platform to third-party developers. But it wasn’t until July 2008, when Apple launched iPhone 3G and App Store, that mobile apps became one of the most accessible and popular avenues to brand a business, popularize its services, pull teenagers to retail outlets, convince women to tread in during shopping carnival or even position a political party and woo the mindsets of voters. Even Hollywood these days are reaching audiences where they live- on their mobile phones.

Few things to be held in reserve when pursuing a successful mobile marketing inventiveness:

(a) One needs to think beyond the text: While SMS is the most recognized format of marketing via mobile, it is important to think beyond the traditional "BUY2DAY" such as content downloads, product alerts, surveys, loyalty messages, even wake-up calls, all designed to provide value and compelling content to the customers.

(b) Go forth and integrate: Customers may be provided with content and services that fit their lifestyles and improve their lives. The communications should be integrated across all channels, including mobile. In other words, mobile phones should be used as a complement to other media, and vice versa.

(c) Put the consumer first by balancing respectful communication and ease of use. Mobile users expect instant gratification, and do not want to jump through hoops to get the information they need. And they will bristle fiercely at any perceived invasion of privacy.

(d) The consumers should be given something they want. For example, if a marketer thinks of Mc coupons or other financial prompts; to text for more information or log on to a mobile site, the marketer can combine a mobile coupon with a store locator to add more value.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marketing Machine in Bollywood

With movie audiences spoilt for choice, slick and sleek marketing is vital to capture mindshare

Considering the increasing importance of marketing in deciding the fate of a film, and in movie placements are one such aspect, in the recent times, marketing spends can account for almost half of the cost of production of a small movie. The spends are flexible, but they can be as much as the movie itself if the producer decides itself worth ploughing the money back. Marketing too has become very sophisticated. The earlier approach, the noisy marketing that assailed audiences with TV & Prints ads, is passé. In a fragmented environment, it is difficult to capture audiences’ mindshare for a film. It calls for marketing campaigns in which movies are treated as a consumer products; its marketing communication sets once audience profile and message has been fine tuned.

Today everyone understands the importance of owning their films. It can be illustrated by pointing the very media savvy stars today. These days they are willing to take part in media interactions, cast engagements and even road trips (stripping of Aamir Khan, the clinical documentation of flab to pectorals) his generous billboard appearances in the bizarre Ghajini haircut or the actor himself flying down to Delhi, and giving the haircut in a makeshift salon. And yes, it certainly paid off, of course with due respect to the contents of the movie; the movie was the biggest hit in recent months. The plans are entirely different for the highly awaited Delhi 6, which has a more berate Indian appeal. A caravan will carry the stars across different cities of the country, a mela recreating the gullies (lanes) of Old Delhi is being planned for Kolkata and Bangalore. For its latest release Luck by Chance, Big Pictures arranged programming alliances which is now a norm; stars made appearances on reality shows. Big Pictures is leveraging Reliance ADAG’s other entertainment businesses-Zapak, Big Adda and Big Flicks and also rolling out online promos on Yahoo! Google and even Rediff.

The entire process starts at the script level, where the TAs (target audiences), message and brands’ equations are researched on to find out the product / service fit. The movie Fashion tied up with Sunsilk and Kimaya, which launched a range after the film. Lead actresses Priyanka Chopra and Kangna Ranaut sauntered the ramp for Sunsilk at Lakme fashion week---thus, the buzz reaching to the peak at the time of launch. A Vogue photo shoot was roped into the storyline; svelte and sultry Priyanka Chopra had already featured on the magazine’s cover by the time the film released. Therefore, it is not farfetched to expect two versions of King Khan’s next release—where in one he would play a Tag Heuer sporting NASA scientist, meet a babe, woo her over Diet Pepsis, flex a few muscles and also sing few numbers and in the other, he would play a Dish TV dealer, meet the babe, woo her with Pepsis and Sunfeast biscuits, flex the same muscles and sing the same numbers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Is Choice a good thing?

The need for modernization and differentiation in today’s competitive world results in the consumer being provided with innumerable choices and options. It is because of the belief that each consumer is unique and each customer encounter is inimitable and they deserve to be treated like king. But presenting a huge assortment does not essentially lead to customer satisfaction; on the contrary companies end up creating more convolutions, increasing costs and even perplexing consumers. A simple product like a bathing soap has a choice of nearly 50 brands and some brands have more than10 variants. Whether it is a soap, toothpaste or deodorant, consumers are provided with a wide variety. A consumer buys a variant of soap today and builds a preference for it. But the next time he looks for the same it is not available because the shop is stocking other variants of the brand. In such a situation, the consumer is required to try other available variants/ other brands.
As a modern day consumer, we also have a choice of outlets- a typical kirana in the neighbourhood with around 4000 SKUs (stock keeping units) or a large hypermarket with more than 50,000 SKUs. Moreover, every month new SKUs are launched. These creates space constraint in the outlet and at the same time appears more critical to look at simpler options to meet the needs of the consumers. In FMCG category approximately 1,500 new brands have been introduced in the last three years and almost in the same period, there have been nearly 1,400 line extensions of existing brands. If a consumer wishes to invest in mutual funds, there are more than 30 choices before him and each institution offers a choice of more than 10 plans.

With a given whole host of preferences, people have difficulty in staying focused. Excessive choice forces consumers to develop high expectations which may be difficult to be realized in reality. With my few years of teaching marketing to the management graduates, I feel it is imperative for marketers to understand that the company should maintain its focal point and continue to maneuver developing products/ services that matter most to the customer and have a distinct competitive advantage. It is important to limit preferences to a manageable number. To achieve success, one should give the consumer not a wide variety but insight-based and manageable choice. Else too many choices will not allow the consumer to choose but will craft the consumer to move.