The Gray Hair Speaketh

Advice that is largely Unsolicited..

So impressed by this Korean retail revolution..

So for all the innovation that the retail industry is supposedly doing, as a consumer, how different is the shopping experience at an organized retail outlet, in say, last 5 years?? Or more, if you have also shopped in organized retail, outside India??

I would think the difference, if any, is marginal. At least perception wise.

Sure, there are more options, perhaps some innovation in loyalty programs (marginal again), etc. If anything, there are challenges as you shop. All the time.

Long queues at the checkout counter. Not finding the item you are looking for, as it is tucked into some inner shelf (because of space constraints, among other things), hassled shelves with products here and there, as people have handled them and the staff has not been able to rearrange them.

So yes, it’s pretty much the same-old-same-old. Retailers have not been able to really crack the code and make the shopping experience significantly better for the shoppers.

And then you see this amazing innovation from Korea:

A virtual store that is “real”!!

So sure, we had e-commerce. Where you saw a picture on a computer screen, small in size, not getting the perception of just how big a packing it may be, and then paying by credit card or whatever, and then waiting for the finite time to receive the products.

And it worked to an extent. But did not significantly dent the offline store business.

People, it seems, still wanted to go to the store and shop. And get a feel of the real thing. Pick up the bags and come back. Make it an interesting experience of walking around, window shop, see new things that have come, maybe talk to someone, and then shop. That experience still rocked! Compared to the computer screen one.

But this Korean way gets you the best of both ways.

Visualize this…

Put these LCD screens with full sized product shelves look inside your store. Beautiful back-lit screens with absolutely life-life images. In anything, better looking than the packaging!! Leave ample space for people to walk around. Except without the shopping carts.

Packaged goods are finally bought largely from the packaging, not so much from touch-and-feel.

Use QR code or some other device* to enable shopping.

She walks around, selects what she wants using the QR codes, and then lands up at the check out counter.

If technology of automated assembly is implemented at the back-end (like a warehouse management system that is used in busy warehouses), the customer’s selected order could be ready by the time she comes to the check-out counter, duly packed. She pays and picks up the bags and walks out. Since the entire billing process is eliminated at the check out counter, the queue also moves rapidly.

Seriously path-breaking, what?

And why can’t some retailer make a first move of this kind in India? I think all it requires is to be bold enough?!

Yeah, yeah… you will ask, “what about the non-packaged products like fresh fruits and veggies, or what about those packaged products that customers like to smell (soaps, perfumes, maybe..)?”

Okay, so a small hybrid model can still happen. All of the packaged goods lines, which do not require anything special (which will be what, 80% of the items at least?!) can still be the virtual LCD panel way, and then 1 or 2 aisles can have the rest of the stuff.

It will still have tremendous impact, and will be a “real” innovation, as compared to trivial ones that retailers love to talk about..

Guess someone’s got to make the first move? Looking forward to this..

(* “Some other device”? – how about giving a small hand-held scan unit to a person when he she walks into the store. Unit has it’s unique code, so whatever that shopper scans around, is recorded for HIS ‘virtual shopping cart’; the code does not have to QR or it could be. Alternate simple coding structures could also be adopted. Shopper brings the unit back to check-out counter and picks up his bags!)

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Retail | , , , , , , | 8 Comments