Adobe Digital Dialogue

Trade Revival: India’s economic and digital boom will transform the retail industry

India’s econ­o­my is the fastest-grow­ing major econ­o­my in the world. In its annu­al Eco­nom­ic Sur­vey, the Min­istry of Finance fore­cast GDP growth of between 6.75–7.5 per cent in 2017–18, com­pared with pro­ject­ed growth of 7.1 per cent for 2016–17 and actu­al growth of 7.6 per cent in 2015–16.

The country’s sus­tained peri­od of pros­per­i­ty is also good for the dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­o­my that is cur­rent­ly under way.

That said, India’s dig­i­tal jour­ney is not an entire­ly seam­less one. Like India itself, a vast coun­try of extremes and dif­fer­ences, the cor­po­rate sec­tor is not a homoge­nous enti­ty that moves as one.

Dif­fer­ent stages

Some busi­ness­es are mov­ing faster than oth­ers with regards to dig­i­tal uptake and some that have com­menced that jour­ney have bare­ly touched the tip of the ice­berg. Cer­tain large com­pa­nies that one might expect to be well down the digi­ti­sa­tion path have bare­ly giv­en it any thought, and so their com­peti­tors are seiz­ing the per­son­alised first-mover advan­tage with gus­to.

Yet while Indi­an busi­ness­es are at vary­ing stages of dig­i­tal aware­ness, the hall­marks of the dig­i­tal mar­ket­place are the same for all play­ers.

Great expec­ta­tions

Con­sumers are today demand­ing a height­ened cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, more per­son­alised ser­vices, rapid response times, rel­e­vant prod­uct and ser­vice offer­ings, and a choice of engage­ment chan­nels. Sim­i­lar­ly, employ­ees, par­tic­u­lar­ly the dig­i­tal natives, are attract­ed to ‘smart’ work­places that reflect chang­ing atti­tudes to work, fos­ter an inclu­sive and col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture, and enable tech­nol­o­gy-agnos­tic work prac­tices.

Inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly, brands can no longer rely on unfet­tered loy­al­ty – the onus is now on them to under­stand their cus­tomers bet­ter. Smart mar­keters under­stand the chal­lenge: brands have to be in sync with chang­ing con­sumer behav­iours and mores, while also ful­fill­ing the demands of con­sumers that are less for­giv­ing.

When con­sul­tants Bain & Com­pa­ny stud­ied the shop­ping habits of 80,000 Indi­an house­holds last year, they found that one-third of the shop­per base churns every year, and that lev­el is expect­ed to grow.

“For brands hop­ing to tru­ly benefit from India’s econ­o­my, suc­cess rests on under­stand­ing actu­al shop­per behav­iour and what win­ners do dif­fer­ent­ly,” Bain said in its paper, Win­ning with India’s shop­pers.

“As con­sumer goods spend­ing in India reach­es an inflexion point, mar­keters… will need to under­stand the impor­tant nuances of shop­per behav­iour at the point of sale.”

New lev­els of under­stand­ing

Mar­keters have always want­ed to under­stand their cus­tomers and with pow­er­ful tools to cap­ture and analyse huge amounts of data in real time now at their dis­pos­al, they can know them like nev­er before. More­over, they can per­son­alise cus­tomer inter­ac­tions across plat­forms (online and offline) based on those insights.

While dig­i­tal take-up is still frag­ment­ed, fresh inter­est is com­ing from quar­ters which have pre­vi­ous­ly resisted,or been indif­fer­ent to tech­nol­o­gy.

It’s no longer just bank­ing, finan­cial ser­vices or insur­ance com­pa­nies invest­ing in dig­i­tal capa­bil­i­ties – many of these insti­tu­tions are prepar­ing to step up their dig­i­tal sta­tus as the ben­e­fits become clear. A num­ber of banks, among the ear­li­est adopters of digi­ti­sa­tion, are now devel­op­ing advanced mul­ti-chan­nel capa­bil­i­ties to bet­ter ser­vice cus­tomers.

The con­sumer pack­aged goods sec­tor is show­ing inter­est in dig­i­tal and even tra­di­tion­al ‘bricks and mor­tar’ retail­ers that have resist­ed the e-com­merce busi­ness mod­el are today start­ing to dig­i­tize, hav­ing real­ized, that all com­merce is eCom­merce.

Con­sumers dri­ving the trend

Shop­pers, not retail­ers, are set­ting the rules of engage­ment as they become more adept at using online and offline chan­nels to secure the best deals avail­able. For exam­ple, a shop­per may vis­it an Adi­das store to see a shoe, check the price and try it on, only to then pur­chase the same prod­uct online for a bet­ter price. Alter­na­tive­ly, they may do their research online, read the reviews, see what social media is say­ing about that par­tic­u­lar shoe and then walk into the retail store to buy it.

The time is ripe for com­pa­nies that have yet to embark on the dig­i­tal jour­ney to take their first step. The econ­o­my is buoy­ant and con­sumers are seek­ing out the brands that best meet their expec­ta­tions and modal pref­er­ences.

Adobe is proud to have part­nered with some of India’s most inno­v­a­tive busi­ness­es on this jour­ney, includ­ing HDFC Bank, Make­MyTrip, Spice­Jet and Indi­Go air­lines, Malay­ala Manora­ma, as well as a num­ber of state and nation­al gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

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