Day two of India Retail Forum (IRF) 2012 at the Hotel Renaissance, Mumbai, saw retailers of the nation rise and shine to a bright morning of discussion and debates on the future road map of the business that is growing at rapid pace. The first insightful session for the day was on ‘Customer Centric Retailing’. Addressing the session Dr. Simon Jury, Country Head, Dunnhumby a global consultancy that uses transactional data to understand consumer behavior spoke of loyalty schemes as something that lives and breathes within the organization. He questioned retailers, “Should I be rethinking my loyalty scheme? Schemes become mechanical, they become operational, they stop being natural. They are no more something that breathes and lives within the organization. In this case you go back to the basics of the customer loyalty scheme.” In the course of the session the masters of the game explored the various facets of customer behavior and loyalty patterns in the present scenario where the two major challenges are – low costs of switching and reduced brand loyalty.

Professor Piyush Sinha was of the belief that customer loyalty is 1:1 equation. He says, “The retailer needs to think from a micro perspective, from an individual’s point of view. For the consumer it is 1:1 equation and not a 1: many equations that is perceived at a macro level, to them that is flirting and the consumer doesn’t flirt.” Vinay Bhatia, CCA & VP, Marketing and Loyalty, Shoppers Stop while sharing some light on their practices, said, “We discovered in our Malad store that when women purchase salwar kurta dupatta (SKD) they prefer to purchase the footwear along with it. But the footwear section is far from the SKD section which required them to walk. So we placed the two next to each other and there was 120 crore incremental turnover.” As the session moved along more knowledge and queer practices of consumers and how they are used to boost revenues by retailers were uncovered.

The session ‘Capitalizing on Retail Growth through Innovations in Technology’ discussed how technology in both hardware and software can make an immense difference to big and small retailers. R Jayaraman, VP – Retail, Asia Pacific, Tyco states, “As per the retail industry analysis done by Tyco, 80.3 per cent of retailers believe that technology enhancement is the key to tackle challenges in the business. It helps retailers improve profitability through innovation in technology and proper store management solutions.” Technology helps retailers achieve top-line growth and bottom-line profits by enabling loss prevention, minimizing retail shrinkage, increasing operational efficiency, and facilitating best practices in retail excellence through everyday solutions to business challenges. For retail leaders and technology heads, this session was a practical tool-kit for optimizing technology investments that would enhance their business.

Crystal Gazing: The retail world of the future found retailers paint a futuristic image as they made bold predictions about the dynamic environment, consumer needs and expectations from the industry 20 years down the line. Shailesh Chaturvedi, CEO, Tommy Hilfiger spoke of global launches for products like it was done for iPhone 5 recently and considering space travel as a possibility, he spoke of the need for space travel garments. The hopeful note of his addresses was intonated by the other speakers as well who emphasized on the accelerated speed at which of e-commerce is likely to grow.

As increasing number of retailers accept the importance of e-commerce in retailing the transition from brick and mortar outlets to e-tailing is a long and arduous journey that has created much apprehension. This was addressed in the session ‘Adding Clicks to Bricks’ where the giants of the e-commerce trade shared their secrets and showed the ropes to hopeful retailers who would want to make this journey. Abhishek Lal, Co-founder and Director of in his attempt to illustrate the transition said, “Retailers look into e-tailing with the glass of brick and mortar but it is a paradigm shift. Anything that is bought will be online too.” The various facets he highlighted were the consumers individualistic outlook, consumer is the new brand ambassador and social tech the new sales force, the screen the new store front and ultimately e-tailing is a service and not a sales business. The concerns and preconceived notions were clarified by the panel as Samarjeet Singh, Co-founder and Director, Iksula said, “All retailers start thinking of e-commerce as ‘1 more store’. None of the retailers realise the influence of online sales. Since there is no supply, there is no discovery and hence awareness of the product available on the site is less. We need to understand how powerful this medium is. Retailers should change their mindset that this is just not a store but it is driving sales”. In conclusion Singh said, “The world’s information was arranged by Google 12 years back, the world’s social lives changed by Facebook 6 years ago, entrepreneurs created by eBay some 13 years back and if you don’t make the jump now you will only keep hearing these stories.”

The IRF Excellence series saw a panel of retailers share their experiences and learning on best practices in initiatives taken by shopping centre to support retailers. Arjun Sharma, Directror, Select City Walk, New Delhi shared his experience in taking retailer experience to a whole new level. He shared his views on how to make a mall successful in terms of revenue generation and footfall. He emphasized on the fact that Mall developers should look at making retail experience rich and work as a team to serve consumers and retailers both. Shailesh Chaturvedi, MD and CEO, Tommy Hilfiger India stood tall as he claimed, “Our stores at Select City are doing great business and they are the highest earning stores in Asia.”

Mark Ashman, CEO, Hypercity has been in India since the last five years and in the sesson ‘The Expert Expat Experience’ he very famously said, “If I am selling tomatoes here or anywhere else, it is still tomatoes.” Yet the dynamics of the Indian market is different and often proves challenging for expats. The panel of this session comprised of those who have over time braved these challenges and comprehended the needs of the Indian consumer. Mark Ladham, President, Home Business, Future Group agreed with Ashman as he gave his take on FDI, “Differentiation is made by change. It keeps moving, it is what gives longevity. As Mark said a tomato will always be a tomato the task is how you sell it and that is our job.”

The bright morning of the second day at IRF 2012 found retailers in an introspective mode analyzing their practices and looking forward to a promising future as they readied themselves for the second half of this two day retail convention.

About India Retail Forum:

India Retail Forum (IRF) is a congregation of the most innovative and successful retail brands, companies and minds from across the globe and the entire retail support universe, including retail real estate, design & architecture, merchandise & services, visual merchandising, security and technology, Jewellery and Mobile Store.