How Online and Offline Channels Helped Businesses Increase Sales to Pre-pandemic Levels During the Holiday Season

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Most retailers have been collecting consumer data for years, but haven’t done much with it other than offering basic discounts and promotions.

By Rajat Wahi

Total retail sales in India are between $ 850 billion and $ 900 billion, of which 95-96% is offline commerce (general trade and commerce) – general / traditional commerce accounts for 80-83% and modern commerce in 12-15% today with the balance being e-commerce / online retailing and a small portion being direct selling. All retail businesses have been affected during Covid closures over the past 18 months, with various department stores, malls and neighborhood stores being closed or having limited opening during the various stages of closures in cities. E-commerce or online channels also suffered during lockdowns, with only ‘essentials’ allowed during different time periods (however, essentials were defined), and many cities and states restricting the movement of shipments during different time periods. . While online sales were the fastest to recover as restrictions were relaxed and many shoppers switched to shopping online for all their essentials and non-essentials, the offline recovery was slow after the second. wave.

Both channels sought new ways to reach their shoppers, experimenting offline with many new models such as Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) shopping, valet-assisted shopping, curbside pickup and drop-off, and Drive-through pickups, home delivery from shopping malls, community shopping in apartment buildings, etc. For outright online gamers, the focus has been on expanding their offline footprint to allow their consumers to “touch and smell” products and create a “physical” connection with their buyers.

The technology-enabled digital transformation has been a key driver for all retailers, whether they are malls, offline retail brands or online players. The goal for all retailers has been to capture valuable consumer data across different channels in order to develop a “one-stop” view of their customers / consumers. This allows them to engage with them throughout the buying journey, from awareness and discovery to actual selection and purchase (and even after the purchase). Most retailers have been collecting consumer data for years, but haven’t done much with it other than offering basic discounts and promotions. But I think it was the disruption of Covid that really drove them to extract this valuable data to understand the “what, when, where, why, who and how” of their buyers in order to better engage and serve them, in offering them personalized promotions. and offers, a selection of bespoke products, keeping products at home if they couldn’t make it to stores, and even home delivery. While the “single” view of the customer across channels is still a long way off due to unavailability of data, siled work within companies (separate and offline retail teams), channel partners do not. not sharing data, etc. retail analytics teams strive to get that “one-stop-shop” of their buyers.

Online research and sales trends have also helped offline retailers better understand where demand for their products is coming from (cities, neighborhoods, towns, villages, etc.), where potential / actual buyers are based, how much they are willing to pay, how often they search and buy, what adjacencies of products appear in their invoices, etc. This not only allows them to enter into the micro-segmentation of their buyers, but also help locate their new outlets in the right places, as well as plan the right inventory and marketing 4Ps (product , price, promotion and placement).

The pioneers / early users of the technology in retail had started a lot of work on their applications for their end consumers, even before Covid, in order to engage more with them. It really helped them a lot as they took more advantage of the app to connect more with buyers during lockdowns to enable shipping, orders, promotions and marketing directly to them. This allows these retailers not only to predict future orders, but also to ensure that all communication is done directly with more and more buyers in order to capture valuable data. It also means that their supply chain and demand forecasting must be very nimble to meet consumer demand online, whether the order is fulfilled directly from the warehouse or through the nearest physical store.

The author is a partner of Deloitte India.

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