The din in the malls has gone up a decibel. Advertisers are now tapping organized retail to pitch their wares. So, the bargain hunters at Big Bazaar not only have to push and shove to get past the multitude of shoppers, they now have to outshout the music from the Big 92.7FM radio channel. The supermarket chain from India’s largest listed retailer, Pantaloon Retail India Ltd, has struck a deal with the radio network owned by the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group to air its programmes in stores across the country.
It is not shoppers alone who make up Big Bazaar’s revenues; advertisers chip in with a fair bit. An executive at a Mumbai-based mall estimates that selling ad spacesin stores accounts for 15% of a mall’s revenue. And ad spaces include much more than the odd wall slot.
Big Bazaar has a monthly in-store magazine, My World, store window displays, ads on walls and floors, ceiling-high banners, kiosks to run promotions for advertisers, television screens and, more recently, piped-in radio stations. And there is more in the pipeline: a television channel, Future TV, which will run ads, along with some programming, in malls and shops.
Pantaloon Retail is not alone in spotting this opportunity. Most companies are busy leveraging the advertising potential of their stores. They are just following a global trend. Wal-Mart, in fact, launched its TV network way back in 1997 (see box).
In India, advertising in retail spaces (or retail marketing as some experts call it) is in its infancy, and numbers are few. Advertisers put their spend on retail marketing initiatives at Rs1,000 crore. “It is likely to double in the next three years,” says Prashant Guntey, business head, Percept Retail, a consulting company for brands and retail businesses.
Such optimism seems justified, going by the sheer visibility retail marketing affords. Typically, about 40,000 customers walk in on a weekend at a Big Bazaar outlet. What is also crucial is that marketers are able to ‘catch’ consumers at a point when they are about to make a purchase decision in “the perfect ambience of consumption”, as Partho Dasgupta, chief executive officer, Future Media (India) Ltd, puts it.
With organized retail estimated to be growing at 35% a year, the opportunity for retail marketing is huge. According to estimates from Trammell Crow Meghraj Property Consultants Pvt. Ltd, 51 malls are under construction in Mumbai alone, and 15 are already in operation. This growing tribe of retailers does not mind renting out space to run commercial messages, especially when this adds a tidy sum to revenues.
Advertisers, on their part, are quite excited about the new opportunity. Big FM pays about Rs1 lakh per month for each Big Bazaar store that plays its radio station.
“The idea is to get people to experience the content on our radio stations. Malls and upscale retail spaces with high footfalls are the perfect places for us to be heard,” says Anand Chakravarthy, vice-president, marketing, Big 92.7FM. Through such playouts in stores in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata, Big FM reaches more than three million people each month.
Radio is just one of the many advertisers queuing up for retail marketing. “FMCG companies are the lowest hanging fruit among the top categories advertising on our network,” says P.R. Satheesh, COO, TAG Media Network Pvt. Ltd, which has partnered with retail chains such as Spencers, Trinetra, Fab Malls and Food World to set up in-store television screens.
There is a lot of interest from other categories such as insurance, banking and airlines.
According to experts, consumers are more likely to buy a product whose advertisement they see in a shop because they are already in a “buying frame of mind”. “Communication by a brand, at the point of sale, makes the consumer notice it at a time when he or she is just about to make a purchase decision,” says Hemant Mallik, head of marketing, foods division, ITC Ltd, which makes Bingo! chips and Sunfeast biscuits. Another crucial advantage is that consumers have a convenient touch-and-feel opportunity for the products being advertised.
A recent ACNielsen ORG-MARG Pvt. Ltd survey across Indian metros showed that 56% of all shoppers surveyed were tempted to try skincare products which had advertisements or promotions running in the store. Of the shoppers who were not particular about buying a specific brand, 72% said they were more likely to buy a product that had banners in the store, or had an on-ground discount scheme running.
“Most consumers are sceptical of advertising and are more likely to place emphasis on direct experience. So, in-store advertising goes a long way in establishing that connect as you are catching the consumer in the right frame of mind and any message delivered at that point would have an impact on immediate purchase,” says Anjali Puri, director, client service, ACNielsen ORG-MARG Pvt. Ltd. “So, across categories, it makes more sense to deliver the message on-ground, where the connect is stronger,” she adds.
Now, some companies are building their businesses around creating a range of mediums and advertising content. Pantaloon Retail’s parent, the Future Group, has launched Future Media (India) Ltd, which handles advertising at all Pantaloon Retail stores and malls, and will also manage advertising in other malls and at airports. There are some independent players, too—the 3i Private Equity funded Out-of-Home Media (India) Pvt. Ltd, Matrix Partners India-funded vJive Networks, and TAG Media Inc. has TAG Media Network Pvt. Ltd.
But this medium of advertising is still in a start-up phase. The use of televisions and display screens, for example, is restricted by the lack of content tailored for mall screens.
Experts say ads on mall televisions work best when they are half the usual length, 10-15 seconds rather than 20-30 seconds.
“Nobody is going to watch a 30-second commercial on these in-store networks. You have to ensure that the content is relevant and engaging. You have three seconds to capture the shoppers’ attention,” says Maureen Johnson, chief executive, The Store, which researches trends for retail advertising for the WPP Group. For instance, an advertisement for Unilever deodorant Axe, made for in-store televisions at Wal-Mart, was designed to look like it was from a mall’s security camera footage.
Faced with a growing need to cater to this growing medium, Indian ad agencies are also setting up specialized divisions. Among them are Noshe Oceanic Advertising Pvt. Ltd, Madison Group’s MASH, Percept Out-of Home’s Percept Retail and Group M’s Dialect. “Many clients are beginning to divert a lot of money to communication, in what we call the last mile. So, as I see it, advertising agencies will have no choice but to offer services in this area,” says Anurag Gupta, country head, Ogilvy Action. “We are in the process of launching a retail division under Ogilvy Action very soon,” he adds.
While footfalls at stores such as Big Bazaar run into tens of thousands every day, advertisers say it is hard to commit ad spending without having a metric that indicates what percentage of shoppers actually see television screens hanging above their heads or radio screaming over the din of a crowded store.
“More often than not, advertisers take a call based on the number of people who visit a particular store,” says an advertiser from a Mumbai-based ad agency, who did not want to be named because of company policy.
“This data is gathered from security guards, who use a clicker to keep tab on the number of people entering the store,” says Deepak Jayaram, director, dialect, which handles media buying and planning for retail spaces. Advertisers are now looking beyond the numbers, too. Group M is creating a metric to measure how many of those who see ads in stores actually buy the advertised products.
As new malls and stores open everyday, advertisers are also finding new mediums to reach consumers. Rajesh Jog, chief executive of vJive Networks, is running a pilot on talking store shelves that will recommend products.
“It is a relatively new medium, where the effectiveness of communication is measured in terms of sales. It requires new thinking and international learning from mature markets,” says Gupta.
Despite these opportunities, retail marketing in India still has a long way to go. “As of now, in-store advertising is only attracting below-the-line spends. In the next year or two, however, it could become the fifth most important mass medium, after television, print, radio and outdoor,” says Dasgupta of Future Media. And the growth of organized retail will only help the cause.