Maneesh Mittal
Head-Ecommerce & Big Data-Infiniti Retail Ltd. (CROMA)

The customer-retailer relationship in today’s world of Big Data and omni-channel shopping is complex. As retailers actively engage with customers across various touch points, including websites, social media, blogs, mobile devices, and more, these platforms provide invaluable data about customer behaviour. The Retail Jeweller India Forum 2018, held on February 8 in Mumbai, endeavoured to unravel how structured and unstructured data can be analyzed to transform businesses and accelerate both online and offline sales. 

The session, titled ‘Leveraging digital and big data to transform the customer experience’, saw  Maneesh Mittal, Head-Ecommerce & Big Data, Infiniti Retail Ltd, Croma, talk about drawing insights from customer data to comprehend buying behaviour, plan retail and marketing strategies, and build product lines that cater to demand trends.

Customer acquisition – the goal of all businesses

Speaking at the event,  Mittal said that the goal of the jewellery industry and a retail chain for consumer electronics is the same: customer acquisition.

“Although India is poised to grow more than twice by 2020, only 8% of the market structure in overall retail is organised, as compared to 88% in developed countries. Retailers also face hurdles as they sell lesser, have lesser profit margin and give far higher rental charges than their counterparts abroad. Croma’s retail chain has had a steady growth since it was set up in 2007, but 2012 brought in the prospect of e-commerce boosting business. Croma then set up its online retail chain for the sole purpose of acquiring customers who were not visiting our stores,” said Mittal.

In order to cater to online shoppers, Croma created a separate inventory with different pricing. However, 2014 saw the emergence of e-commerce platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon. The market became highly aggressive, with customer acquisition becoming the prime goal, even at the cost of incurring losses.

Along the way, Croma’s customers started losing trust as they saw the same product priced differently in offline and online chains. This made the company do a re-think and it started standard pricing of products, regardless of whether they were being sold online or offline.

“From 2015, our customers could chose a product , such as a smartphone, online, and purchase it from our stores, where we gave related services, such as complementary screen guards, to regain customer interest in stores. By the end of the year we had about 35% of our sales happening through the omni-channel,” Mittal added.

In order to create a seamless omni-channel experience, Croma’s website started providing the entire inventory information of a particular store. Customers could also find the nearest store that had the product they were searching for. If customers visiting a store showed interest in buying a product that was not available in any Croma store in the city of the customers’ residence, they could book the product at the store and it would be delivered to them. Gradually, customers became attracted to Croma’s omni-channel.

Personalising the shopping experience

Croma also started directing its online customers to transact at stores and enjoy a better shopping experience. Digital influence, as Croma termed the procedure, introduced the feature of store managers addressing customers’ queries related to product purchase. Mittal explained, “On the website, customers could leave their contact details, and the nearest Croma store manager would call up, and understand what they need. This built familiarity and the growing base of in-store customers said they purchased from that particular store because they could connect to the store manager. Our annual in-store transaction went up 2.5 times because of this. In January 2018, we observed that about 47% of our in-store customers came to know about the stores through Croma.com,

Creating an engaging online brand experience

Mittal also spoke about targeting the millenial customers who are always hooked to their smartphones. The next challenge for Croma was to create a better engaging online brand experience for these customers.  “We developed an augmented reality app that enables customers to check out whether their desired product fits the space they have earmarked for it.” The insight for this was based on the understanding of how dimensions of products became a vital issue for customers while buying big appliances such as TVs or refrigerators. Customers coming to stores always demand measuring tapes to figure out if the product would fit in the space they had spared for it back home. “The Croma store app also sends a text notification of the nearest store available. When customers walk in, the app prompts them to either check out the desired product by themselves, or have a staff member guide them.”

Since the staff already has information about the products customers have been checking out, they save time searching for the right product, thanks to expert guidance from the staff, which even helps customers compare product features with other brands. “If you want to buy the product, you could just purchase it there and walk away as if we delivered it to you,” said Mittal.

Yet another thing Croma did to enhance the consumer experience was introduce QR codes. “Customers in stores spend a lot of time in queues to get their invoices and show it to the security guard before leaving. We enabled customers to pay for a particular product that comes with a QR code online. Showing the code to the guard is enough; you don’t need to stand in queues,” Mittal explained. He added that it was possible to introduce this feature primarily because the nature of the products was such that customers could not just carry them home; they had to be delivered.

This is how Croma targeted millennial customers and created an engaging online and offline  brand experience for them.