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Brands and customers love online shopping, but offline stores haven't lost their edge

Despite the growth of online shoppers in India, the physical or retail stores still attract more consumers and provide for a better conversion rate owing to the touch-and-feel experience, as per brands and experts

The pandemic-induced lockdown led to an increase in online purchases as there was no other resort available to the consumers. But as normalcy returns, consumers are not shying away from visiting both stores and websites to get themselves the best deals.

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While online channels have their own merits of convenience, no time barrier and more, the offline channels are the ones which ensure a holistic experience and the reliability factor. As per brands and experts, these reasons make offline stores a must for all players and their relevance is only going to grow in the days ahead.

Nisha Sampath

According to Nisha Sampath, Brand Consultant and Managing Partner at Bright Angles Consulting, “Today there is a new merged reality in the phygital world that we live in and the reality is that both online and offline businesses had to accept that the consumers are going to purchase simultaneously through both online and offline mediums. The consumers only make the purchasing call after they compare the two mediums and finalise on their purchase point based on what is most advantageous to them.”

She also went on to point out that consumers look up the product online and then go on to the

brick-and-mortar stores to buy the product and vice-versa in case of white goods, depending upon which purchase medium is more convenient and economical to them.

Speaking on the importance of online and offline mediums in the purchase journey of a consumer, Sampath also pointed out that even though online channels attract consumers through a variety of deals, cashbacks and coupons which in turn reduce the purchase cost, it is the retail outlets and physical stores which provide a touch-and-feel experience and offer an opportunity to the early adopters to test the products before deciding to make the final purchase.

Vidyut Kaul

As per Vidyut Kaul, Head, Personal Health, Philips Indian Subcontinent, “Consumers now have changed in terms of where and how they engage, and it is essential to recognise this change and accordingly reshape and customise offerings.”

Kaul also went on to add that consumers today are living in a phygital world, where convenience and experience is crucial. “There is a shift that is happening and will only accelerate in the future as offline mediums will move towards giving more personalised experience to the consumers,” he stated.

Furthermore, he also went ahead to add that the younger consumers often start their consumer journey, researching about products and solutions, online and then go on to visit online websites which provide convenience, variety and the experience.

Mini Sood Banerjee

“While online and offline touchpoints are equally faring out well, there is a high conversion rate of 70-80% when it comes to offline purchase on a regular basis,” according to Mini Sood Banerjee, Assistant Director and Head of Marketing at AmorePacific India- the parent company for innisfree.

She also went on to add that when it comes to offline stores they provide a much more experiential opportunity to the consumers.

Adding to this, Philips’ Kaul said, “With the arrival of the festive season, consumers would want to pamper themselves, experiment, and look good. They are looking for products that offer a better value proposition in the long run and as a result, we saw a significant increase in traffic and footfalls in the stores, leading to the sell-out levels bouncing back and even crossing the pre-pandemic levels in different segments.”

Furthermore, he also emphasised that in the last couple of years, offline channels were subdued due to the pandemic but this year, Philips has seen a significant jump in the sales pouring in from the offline channels. “We have seen a growth in the range of 45- 55% for different categories on a year-on-year basis, this year,” he claimed.

Erik Jan Middelhoven

According to Erik Jan Middelhoven, Acting Country Commercial Manager, Ikea India, the brand follows an omnichannel approach to reach its customers through various touch points. “We are present in our key markets through big stores, small stores, and online platforms. Our customers have the option of visiting us both online and offline and we have received a positive response in terms of visitations,” he said.

Middelhoven also went on to add that the brand’s stores in Hyderabad and Bengaluru’s Nagasandra have shown exponential growth in terms of store visits. He also emphasised that 70% of the total sales for Ikea India come from the stores and 30% from the online medium.

According to Sampath, “The biggest perk of offline stores in India is that the customers in the country have a knack for personalised interactions and enjoy a face-to-face conversation rather than just being transactional.”

In fact, she also pointed out that the consumers are also sceptical when it comes to online purchases because they don’t know who to hold accountable in case of a problem which might warrant them to request a replacement or refund in case anything goes wrong with the product, which is not the case for offline stores.

Moreover, for brands that deal in luxury, cosmetics, fragrances, and more such categories, online mediums can still not provide the personalised experience to the consumers that offline does through its touch-and-feel user experience and it is invaluable for a first-time purchase, she stated.

Speaking on how consumer behaviour is different on both online and offline channels, Philips’ Kaul said that consumers are constantly looking for offers and waiting for peak event sales to make their purchase.

Striking a similar note, AmorePacific’s Banerjee stated, “The recent Independence Day sale and the festive season has definitely pushed people to the stores for getting an increased hold on good offers. Also, when customers visit and purchase from stores offline, they keep looking for some

gift with purchases (GWPs) which they can see and test before actually buying the product offering.”

“We have greenus (beauty advisors) in our physical stores and they make our customers understand the brand history, concept, ingredients and story behind each product range. Customers can also ask multiple questions from our greenus in addition to a one-on-one consultation which is available at our stores and can get samples of the products for testing on their skin before they would like to go for a big purchase,” she pointed out.

Middelhoven also went ahead to point out that the pandemic has led to increased online purchases because of which Ikea had to undergo digital transformation to boost its capabilities and introduce ‘Click & Collect’ and home furnishing consultancy and customisation services, which are available through both stores and online mediums to increase accessibility for the customers.

Speaking of how the consumer journeys are spanning in the online-offline world, Sampath also pointed out that the brands need to consider both mediums while planning their marketing interventions. She said, “Businesses should understand the hybrid consumer journeys and where most online businesses go wrong is that they only see the consumer journey on online mediums and miss out on what happens in the offline market. Similarly, offline buying also has online components which the marketers need to pay attention to.”

Commenting on what Philips is doing to increase the footfall in their stores, Kaul stated, “Philips India has permanent fixtures in various modern specialty stores along with separate display areas in general trade stores that lead to around 90% of our sales. We have also placed in-store merchandisers in the high footfall stores to help build awareness and drive conversion at the point of sale.”

Ikea’s Middelhoven also asserted, “We recently concluded a special Midnight sale campaign during Independence Day where our large format store in Navi Mumbai and the city store

in Worli were open till midnight for our customers to shop their hearts out.”

The parent company for Innisfree, Amore Pacific has also been very active as a brand, post lockdown, as per Banerjee. “We have done multiple offline events with media and influencers and have organised masterclasses with dermatologists so that they can make consumers aware of the product efficacies. We have also done multi-city events so that we can cover a larger audience for our brand, in addition to our engagement with influencers.”

Banerjee also went ahead to state that AmorePacific tries to align its marketing campaigns month-wise so that they cover both online and offline channels equally. “Also, we try to cover different cities during our offline events to build the brand more in the cities in which we have not done any event till now and brand awareness is also low,” she concluded. 

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