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The Future of Retail Stores in India: Dead or Alive?

With growing penetration of eCommerce in India, a nationwide discourse has been prevailing for the past few years, which is- what is the future of Retail Stores in India?

In the last few couple of years, India has witnessed a boom in Internet driven technologies and it has also seen new ways to conduct the businesses with the help of these technologies. By that time, we also became aware of many new terms like- online marketplace, eCommerce portal, Online shopping etc. With increasing number of online marketplaces, online stores and growing eCommerce trade, this discussion is naturally bound to take place, because these platforms are perceived to pose serious threats to brick and mortar retailers.

But, is it really so? Are physical retail stores on the verge of dying in India? Is it really that much a serious matter to worry about?

On the basis of the insights, unveiled by leading agencies like KPMG and others after surveying shopping trends and shoppers behaviors in India, we say No.

The future of retail stores is still safe here, but only by timely adoption and up-gradation of technology, which gives a great in-store experience to shoppers.

Digging further, this is the fact that, anywhere in the world, the buyer’s inclination towards Online and mobile shopping is largely because these platform offer great convenience, speed, and ease to use, while obsolete brick and mortar fails to give the same. This applies to India too. Besides, Indian industry has also seen major disruptions by eCommerce due to all the technological interventions and heavy discounts being offered on shopping through online or mobile. These all factors severely impacted brick and mortars and posed a threat to the offline businesses.

However, to resolve the problem of inappropriate whopping online discounts, Retailer’s association of India (RAI) approached the Government of India many times, and as a result of that the policy to regulate the eCommerce trade is now under pipeline. But, that is not the only tool for offline retailers to stand them established in such a cut throat competition, they really need to be on war-foot to face such challenges, and that is only possible by the adoption of cutting edge technology.

Now, we should also analyze the other factors as advantage or disadvantage for Online and offline retail. If the online platform has an advantage in form of “ease of shopping”, brick and mortar has an even more special advantage- having face to face interaction between customers and its associates, which is rare for other channels. But, even being in this advantageous position, a brick and mortar store has to suffer due to lacking in terms of consumer convenience. Latest age retailing involves even more besides just an enticing design, nicely execution of store fixtures and props. In new age retailing, it’s very essential for a retailer to take care of convenience of the customers and provide them the best shopping experience. Further, it’s not that only physical stores face problems, but online players also suffer due to several implications. In this country of 1.25 Billion population, only 330 Million people have access to Internet, majority of population is still deprived of basic amenities, and people are more attached with local physical stores for their household needs. So looking at all these aspects, although the number of online stores is growing, but after a certain extent the online platform has the limitations, but physical stores don’t.

India is one of the biggest markets in the world; here consumption of products and services is constantly growing, per capita income is gradually increasing, and urbanization is rapidly taking place, hence it has a huge opportunity for a successful retailing. So, in order to make retailing more comfortable, many surveys have been conducted over the last few years, and the data show that Indian consumers are gradually becoming more conscious about ease and convenience during shopping. Hence, it’s a high time for retailers to adopt state of the art technology. They can also enable the integration between online and offline retail with the help of technology to provide a seamless and great shopping experience to the customers. If a customer really feels that ease of click in a brick & mortar, that experience gives a sort of satisfaction and eventually that also gets converted.

Also, the importance of physical stores is so instrumental that many successful online retailers have realized its importance and they are becoming offline as well to touch a consumer base, which was yet untapped by them. In India, there are many such winning Omni-channel players, who are constantly upgrading their functioning and expanding their business day by day, for example- Lenskart, Zivame, Pepperfry, Raymond’s etc are the leading names in new age retailing. Hence, the concept of Omni-channel retail, which is successful in many countries, is also viable in India.

In a nutshell, the future of retail stores is not doomed in India, rather it’s even brighter, with constant innovation and up-gradation.

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