Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“We will never see online and physical retail channels separately”: Pawan Sarda, Future Group

As Big Bazaar gears up for its annual sales event Sabse Saste 6 Din, the brand is trying to convert traffic from its ecommerce website to offline footfalls.

All offline retail outlets, regardless of the category they might be in, need customers to physically visit their stores. Like e-commerce players monitor and drive traffic to their websites, physical retail stores strive for footfalls.

This is exactly why offline retail stores took the most amount of beating due to COVID. The pandemic forced consumers to stay indoors and take their shopping online.

While e-commerce brands like Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy, Big Basket, Grofers and Amazon were scrambling to get their backend infrastructure like logistics and safety protocols right, offline players ventured out of their stores and into the domain of online shopping.

Future Group’s top retail chain Big Bazaar started its ecommerce website shop.bigbazaar.com in the peak COVID month of June 2020. With this, the brand’s stores across 140 cities came online. Customers placed orders via the website from their nearest store and store personnel delivered them.

Big bazaar is now trying to convert traffic from its website into physical footfalls. The brand has decided to bring its flagship sale event ‘Sabse Saste’ online so extending the overall sale period by a day. Sabse Saste 5 Din is now Sabse Saste 6 Din.

As a part of the initiative, customers can buy vouchers worth Rs 2,500 online and redeem it for Rs 3,000 in-store. The ‘super saver’ vouchers can be bought online till January 25 and can be redeemed from January 23 to March 31, 2021.

Big Bazaar’s ‘Sabse Saste’ sale last year was unaffected by COVID. Considering the fact that the annual event spikes daily footfalls by anywhere between five to eight times, Big Bazaar is out to ensure that the numbers remain favourable despite the COVID shadow. Safety measures have been upped too.

Pawan Sarda, group head , digital, marketing and e-commerce - Future Group says, “Safety measures are priority number one. We are far safer compared to a regular market.”

Many of Big Bazaar’s stores are located within mall complexes which have seen sluggish recovery of footfalls. Sarda says that there is month on month recovery and consumers are coming in more. “The footfalls whether in a mall or standalone store, are growing.”

Sarda mentions that Big Bazaar’s customers actually wait for the sale event and the benefits also drive consumption. “We did not want them to be dissatisfied this year. It was about extending the benefit along with comfort to customers. We felt that the benefit needs to be extended a little longer. The sale vouchers have long validity too.”

Pawan Sarda
Pawan Sarda

He reveals that over 50 thousand customers have bought the coupons within ten days from the launch of the offer. “During COVID we realised that omni-channel is the way forward and was extremely important. We will never see online and offline physical channels as two different channels. It will always complement customer benefit.”

Apart from the traditional mediums, spending on digital advertising has also been increased. “Digital will also help us from a conversion point of view.”

Speaking on the key shifts in purchase behaviour, Sarda says that an upfront change is the conscious spending and change in the basket size. “Customers are being conscious and their overall basket size has definitely reduced. Items of day to day need is higher on the priority list. Customers are picking and choosing what is required.”

While Big Bazaar maybe a very large and dominant player in its place, buying online is the trend. As the offline retail chain learns its tricks in the ecommerce business, newer players, especially startups like Swiggy and Zomato, have made significant inroads in areas like grocery delivery, hygiene, home care, etc.

On being asked if its a cause of concern Sarda says, “We are already expanded and we touch upon the entire basket of the customer. Food, fashion, home, electronics, it’s all available at Big Bazaar. Our focus is on how smoothly we can deliver or customers can come and buy.”