We all know that when we walk into a neighborhood store - the one we’ve been visiting for anywhere between months and years, where we consider the owner as a good old acquaintance and where we are greeted upon arrival or waved a goodbye to - that we will not hesitate to ask for something that we have not seen at the store before. It may not be what we decided upon based on an advertisement, which means the chance of it being found at every home-needs store is rather low.
The neighborhood store owner will usually be obliging enough to let you know that he/she will make the product available, in most cases, if they can source it locally. There is a relationship here that the store owner will personally invest in. The neighbourhood store will typically start off supplying a small quantity of the new product and scale up supply depending on demand.Are large retail chains able to capture such new requests or demands ? Or are they, with their large formats and wide range of offerings, succumbing to the woes of a fairly impersonal engagement ? Are they , perhaps, already too bogged down with existing information, operations and growth challenges to tune-in up close?
Let us take it as a given that in hypermarket and supermarket chains, the engagement of the customer is with the brand and the consistent experiences at the various branches. There are even examples of localization, as with Big Bazaar. Let us also take it as a given that enough time as been spent on market research to gather insights on consumption trends in the relevant areas or cities and product mix,pricing,location, service offering, branding and communications have been chosen accordingly. But can the voice of customer be heard clearly enough in such large format stores?If I walk into a Big Bazaar or a Spencer’s today and do not find what I may have been looking for, I’ll probably inquire with the nearest member of floor staff about the product. If the floor staff is unable to help due to not being informed enough or lets me know that the product I am looking for isn’t available, does my query and possibly hundreds of similar others register on the business’ CIS? I think, in most cases, not.
And even if in most cases the answer is in the positive, accuracy and the proportion of requests / queries registered as against those voiced will remain challenges. For example, the staff I enquired with could be having a bad day or could just be too tired to recall what I asked about, pass on the information to the inventory desk or manager in order that the query can be registered in the system where it can really begin to make a difference (along with similar others in larger quantities of course).
Tuning-in with Technology: Can interactive touch-screens at tills and / or specific locations within the store be a solution? Could one develop an interactive system that is linked up with CIS, customer support,inventory support and the merchandising desk? Wouldn't such a system act as a cool research tool, bring in enough live data that is analyzable, and, make hypermarket and supermarket chains dynamic and engaged service providers?
[The article has been contributed by Lakshmi Rebecca.