Empowering Traditional Retailers: Navigating the Shift from Offline to Online for a Seamless Phygital Experience

Empowering Traditional Retailers: Navigating the Shift from Offline to Online for a Seamless Phygital Experience

By: Sumati Sahgal, VP - Retail, Schneider Electric, Greater India

A dynamic leader with two decades of experience in Banking, Telecom, and IT sectors, Sumati  is leading the Greater India Zone for Schneider Electric's Homes & Distribution division. She delivers cutting-edge home automation solutions, driving business growth through strategic leadership and innovation.

The world of retail has undergone a paradigm shift governed by digital, supply chain transformations, and evolving customer expectations. The rapid surge of the digital age has ushered in a transformative era for businesses globally. It has become imperative to understand how shoppers have evolved over the past decade.

The rise of e-commerce has further highlighted the value customers attach to convenience and choice. Despite this, offline retail has thrived and continues to disregard predictions of “the demise of brick-and-mortar shops” spurred by a rising share of e-commerce sales in the retail space. However, traditional retail needs to evolve to meet the changing demands of consumers. This has resulted in faster adoption of new technologies which is changing the landscape of retail.

Today’s tech and digital savvy customer base expects omnipresence from retailers and brands. Online shopping has gained popularity across categories and from being the first choice for research, online platforms have become the preferred choice for purchase as well. In response, retailers have adapted their business models to include online sales channels. In this competitive market, brands that can provide convenience, choice, and experience to their customers have a better chance of winning the customer acquisition race at a lower cost.

Rapid transformation of business models towards digitization

The Indian Home and Distribution market is valued at 1.5 Billion Euros. With India being the 5th largest economy in the world, the retail market has immense potential. In recent years, the retail landscape has experienced notable transformations, largely propelled by the widespread adoption of technology. For many companies, transitioning from offline to online has become important due to various factors such as consumer behavior, global reach, and cost-effectiveness. Online sales are not simply a mindset shift but a permanent fixture. It is the first step towards integrating digital sales strategies into business models. This ensures that businesses are not left behind as the industry continues to evolve. Further, an optimized online presence is essential to capture and retain customers. Ensuring a seamless integration between your online and offline channels is paramount for delivering a cohesive customer experience. It is crucial to synchronize inventory management systems to provide real-time stock levels across all platforms. This integration helps avoid the frustration of customers ordering items online only to discover they are out of stock. Moreover, consider implementing options for in-store pickups and returns for online purchases to further bridge the gap between the two sales channels.

The electrical trade has been slow to embrace digitization, but it has now recognized its benefits. Retailers are increasingly striving to enhance efficiency in their operations, expand their sourcing and supply capabilities, and optimize cash flows. For example, at Schneider Electric, through our SE Pavilions —an omnichannel retail strategy—we aim to digitalize the traditional retail market. We seek to empower partners by establishing the digital presence of retailers, creating websites, enhancing their online visibility through SEO, and ensuring their relevance in today’s fiercely competitive market. Our e-commerce strategy focuses on using digital channels to enter new markets and deeply engage with customers through our unique value propositions. Additionally, our industry-first WhatsApp commerce bot, Koko 2.0, will provide comprehensive customer engagement, order booking, and tracking, offering access to over 7000 products for instant ordering.

Consumer interest on shift towards digital retail

The buying journey of consumers is not necessarily linear. They come across channels that influence their buying decisions. Therefore, it is important for retail brands to be omnipresent to maintain and enlarge their clientele. If a brand is innovating, then its competitors must follow suit to survive in the hypercompetitive market. The shift from offline to online offers unprecedented solutions for retail brands to expand their reach, market share and inventory turnover.

Retail businesses should not rely on a single channel in this highly competitive market. A brand should aim to provide a holistic experience to their consumers to ensure business continuity even if the performance on one channel is substandard.

Technology is rapidly getting democratized post the pandemic. With a variety of technologies at disposal, retail brands can reinforce their digital presence by building their digital infrastructure. Retail brands must maximize their leverage on both offline and online models of commerce to increase their market share. An integration of technology and strategic thinking is necessary to maximize stronghold across touchpoints in today’s omnichannel retail environment. The journey from offline to online consists of adaptation, innovation, and resilience. By studying and learning from businesses that have successfully navigated this path, any company can make the transition seamlessly.

By embracing the digital path, there will be boundless opportunities!