Sanjeev Kotnala: Redefining the Store – the Five Senses Brand Website

24 Dec,2014

By Sanjeev Kotnala


We are far from the time, when cash register in ‘brick and mortar’ stores will stop making that pleasing sound of counting cash. However, it would be dumb not to recognise the shift in consumer buying process that caught many marketers sleeping.


Consumers today are using retail stores as a ‘Five Senses Product Website’ experience. They walk in, see, feel, talk, eat, smell and even compare the products. Then they order it on the e-commerce site.


The new model is a simple WSW framework: Web-Store-Web


STEP I: Go browse websites and shortlist choices


STEP II: Visit the retail store. Have a complete Five Senses Experience of the products/ brands in consideration. Get further educated and informed n the product. Validate the choice and define a backup plan.


STEP III: Log on to e-commerce site. Evaluate pricing options and order. Alternatively, wait for the sale to happen on the e-commerce platform.


Once the consumer gets the selection right – like the shoe size, the colour choice, the seating comfort, the fitting, it’s natural for the future purchases to move to websites.


E-commerce sites have graduated from being a ‘suspect’ to being a ‘confidante’ of consumers. Earlier consumers did not know, what to expect and were slow to warn up to e-commerce. This forced e-commerce sites to innovate. Timely early delivery, EMIs, Advance booking, Cash on delivery, 30-day return policy. Result: there is a newfound confidence. What has worked most is the positive experience of consumer. Surprisingly, manufacturer guarantee- warrantee- service was valid on products bought at these sites.


This forces a rethink at the store level. We need to redefine the skillset and the role of the store staff. We need a new version of the store salesman with a thematic brand attitude and not the tactical push sales mindset. Who is not worried about the short-term gains, top line, commission or bonuses and is polite and sincere. Is willing to provide unobtrusive service and answer the most irritating consumers. Maybe we could then convert few possible e-commerce sales.


Additionally, we need to tweak store policies and consumer interface modules. Fixed clear pricing with no space for negotiation could be a good start to mirror Internet experience. Prices near what is available on e-commerce platform would help but may-not always be possible.


We need to help consumers to browse through options in a most transparent and independent way. Even provide relevant information on competitive brands. Invest time and energy in listening to the consumers. And at the right opportunity plug in our brand message. Just like the e-commerce platform, present to then the accessories and other items to consider along with their main purchase. Give an experience matching the mood and feel of a comfortable home environment. Make them feel at ease and pray that they buy at the store or at least click on our brand while loading their e-carts.


Hence, we need to leverage intangible brand power a lot more. The need for a stronger vibrant relevant contemporary trusted brand becomes that more important. To avoid being commoditised in the e-commerce platform, the brand will we will have to be highly differentiated and innovative in their approach, in complete sync and touch with current and potential consumers.


Half of this battle will be fought at the store level. One of the way to win would be treating them as ‘Five Senses Brand Website’ mirroring their newly acquired friend- the e-commerce platform.


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