with the topic of retail evolution at the CII Retail Brand Summit, Lloyd Mathias, director, marketing, Motorola, India and South Asia, started off by saying, "We don't sell; they choose!" Mathias then said that the statement, 'The consumer is king', has never been truer than today. He quoted Sam Walton, founder, Wal-Mart, as having said, "It's all about the consumer." And proof of that, said Mathias, is the fact that retail is moving away from a transactional model to an engagement one in India.
According to Mathias, not so long ago, retail was all about selling products, while now, it is about identifying consumer needs and selling shopping experiences. Salesmen, too, have evolved into communication guides. "Now, it's not about closing a sale, but about opening a relationship," stated Mathias. Further, the shopping area has become a hangout joint, a centre of escapism for consumers. It's not only about buying products, but also an outing with friends and loved ones. "This has led to the emergence of destination stores," said Mathias. For instance, most major malls are equipped with food courts, cafés and multiplexes. Further, individual stores such as Bose in India and Apple (worldwide) are using experiential marketing to their advantage, allowing consumers to 'experience the product' first-hand, without pesky sales staff bothering them.
Retail stores that imbibe these three qualities also make for good word-of-mouth (WoM) case studies. This, said Mathias, is 'self-expression retailing'. In an age when consumers have so much choice, it helps when they are not 'told' what to buy, he said, but choose what they want to buy.
Mathias laid special emphasis on store design as a means to gaining an edge in creating consumer experiences. "In Motorola stores, we have an interactive space where consumers can etch/tattoo their names on their phones," said Mathias, offering an example close to him. This space is labelled 'Xpressions Table'. Further, there are areas where consumers are allowed to browse the Internet for free on laptops in the store and to download ringtones/callertunes/images and other requirements for their cell phones. In other areas, they can learn the full applications of various technologies such as Bluetooth. Next, a 'Whispering Windows' at the entrance displays holographic messages such as 'Hello Moto' every time a customer walks past.
"These activities ensure higher footfalls for us, better experiences for customers, and increase in sales per square foot," said Mathias.
Two trends which Mathias highlighted in his talk were the emergence of '12 to 12' stores, which, as the name suggests, are open from noon to midnight, keeping in line with the busy schedules of people, particularly the working class. "Stores that shut at 7 pm will soon be redundant," he said.
Next, he spoke of the emergence of 'bargain boutiques' - stores that resemble boutiques, but offer marginally priced goods. "Customers in India have the mentality of bargaining, while still wanting the best product in the best ambience," remarked Mathias. "These stores will benefit enormously from this insight."