New Delhi: Once big on personal assistance and in-store experience, sports goods retailer Decathlon has stopped product trials and turned to ‘phygital stores’ amid the covid-19 pandemic. The retailer is providing a mix of physical retail and digital touch points featuring virtual reality, digital payments and self-checkouts.
The Indian arm of German sports brands Adidas and Puma have also trained staff and transformed stores to provide similar contactless retail experience as customers gradually return to stores as part of government's Unlock 1.0 drive. Trials are allowed at both these brands and unsold products are being sanitised and kept in a quarantine box for minimum 24 hours. Thorough sanitisation of trial rooms has become a norm and Puma said it is providing trial socks to customers which are discarded after use.
Noting that this is the way forward, Ankur Bisen, senior vice president, retail and consumer, at Technopak, a management consulting firm said contactless checkout and technology enabled self-service stores are already present in Europe and US at Amazon and Walmart Express.
“For the post-covid consumer these initiatives are important to assure them of safety and hygiene. I also feel they also improve visualization and re-purpose the store for the consumer with respect to online," he said.
Decathlon has started providing on call assistance to shoppers to help them pick suitable products, apart from offering virtual assistance to install and service big sports equipment. The retailer has launched a zero-contact shopping initiative where customers can place an online order and collect their merchandise through newly introduced formats under ‘Reserve and Collect’ at existing stores. This includes a Drive-Thru zero contact pickup option across certain stores with designated pickup areas marked at car-parking facilities. The convenience of contactless pickups has further been boosted with two ‘Connect stores’ in Bengaluru where customers can only pickup their pre-placed online orders.
It has also introduced Scan and Pay in-store initiative across 55 stores where customers can scan a barcode by using the Decathlon app or website and pay on their phone.
“In over 50% of these stores, 25-50% of the customers are using scan and pay as a safe mode of payment. In certain cities like Baroda and Kolkata the share further goes to over 70%," said a Decathlon spokesperson.
Adidas India has also installed a self-service booth at its Bengaluru store where customers can complete their purchase on their own using a virtual system. All they have to do is pick a product, scan it, make payment and pick up a carry bag at the booth before walking out.
“We are planning to expand it more stores. This technology can be extended to small cities because consumer is actively using digital wallets and UPI platforms which has democratised contactless payment in all parts of the country," said Manish Sapra, senior marketing director, Adidas India
Coronavirus has made digital the core of retail experience through automation, virtual assistance and focus on digital payments.
Agreed Abhishek Ganguly, general manager, Puma India and Southeast Asia who further added, “We encourage customers to pay via UPI and we have stopped issuing physical bill copies as a part of our contactless payment initiative."
However, contactless shopping can pose a threat of stolen goods especially at big stores. Technopak’s Bisen said stolen goods (termed as shrinkage) have been accounted for at around 1-1.5%.
“It is a risk in India, but with technical surveillance (CCTVs) and digital payments traceability surely brands would have accounted for it," he added.