Imagine being able to tap every customer in a mall, hand them your business card, promotions of the day, discount coupons for their likely purchases, profile them, and track transactions at the same time. Wake up to the reality called mobile advertising; one of the “hot” trends fuelling retail growth in the country.
Organized retail is growing by 25-30% each year; the number of malls in India today is likely to be around 230, up from just 96 in August 2005.
If one is to go by research reports, then by 2012, the dedicated space for retail malls may be 14 times higher than what it is today. This indicates focused and organized consumerism, as also the emergence of new locations of interest with customized convergence of people, brands and entertainment.
While the synergy between retail and media is a known fact, this spells further growth for various media networks boosting retail, including traditional forms, out-of-home advertising and in-store or at-location marketing.
While traditional advertising media such as television and print educate viewers on new products and deals, they lack interactivity and, therefore, are not measurable. Ditto with out-of-home modes such as hoardings, digital displays or simple mobile ‘push’ marketing messages. Though they do gather eyeballs, creating and producing content takes considerable effort. However, the opportunity to produce dynamic deals is reduced considerably.
In contrast to these somewhat typical modes of advertising, in-store promotion through Bluetooth is more effective in retailing. It is as simple as sending users free, permission-based content and promotions via Bluetooth within certain locations.
Such campaigns have been highly successful since these are specifically targeted, highly calculable, time bound, interactive and, most importantly, provide value-based deals to potential customers.
By allowing consumers to scan through deals, compare prices and products, the modern retailer can generate leads to boost his business. As people carry the message with them, it has a viral effect on propagation: marrying retail with social networking.
Today, the size of the mobile marketing business in India may be about Rs40-45 crore. Combined with the retail boom, which has a critical reach among the masses, the overall impact can be greatly quantifiable and can radically turn around the way businesses work.
Also, with cellular penetration reaching deeper into the country, the retail industry can brace itself for exponential growth in the developing sector. The cellular reach in rural India was 20% of the total mobile subscriber base as of March 2007. This is forecast to grow by more than 47% from 2007 to 2010. Clearly, the sky is the limit for the modern retail industry in the country.
Taking the retail trade a step further into rural India, traditional media and mobile messaging can help generate leads, and salesmen with hand-helds can help the local folk book orders. Upon confirmation, goods can be delivered at their doorsteps, with ease of payment and information further enabled by installation of kiosks.
Though a very simplistic model, it could prove beneficial in lowering costs through bulk purchases and reducing distribution charges. Also, such an approach would improve efficiency as it would enable better planning of inventory and reduce wastage. This would impart a sense of ownership to the dealers, who could use the mobility to sell their own goods in addition to representing the retail chain further.
However, it is imperative for today’s modern retailers to look beyond the obvious routes and extend entrepreneurship beyond the saturated cities. A much needed resource is the infrastructure for seamless travel and transportation systems.
As retail growth docks on technological development, it is good news that buyers are willingly accepting technology as a part of their shopping experience.
It is indeed a realization that the retail industry has transformed itself into a network of products, services and content, thereby increasingly impacting our lives and changing the way we shop.
Narasimha Suresh is CEO, TELiBrahma Convergent Communications. The firm provides Bluetooth-based interactive solutions on mobile phones.