NEW DELHI: Offline retailers that have seen footfalls slump at their stores, even as India re-opened for business, are resorting to WhatsApp bookings and assisting shoppers with virtual tours of their stores for ordering goods. A clutch of footwear retailers, jewellery chains and sellers of consumer durables and electronics are taking to alternative channels to push sales of goods as consumers remain wary of visiting stores in view of the pandemic.
Footwear retailer Metro Brands Ltd which has opened 250 of its 500 stores, is using WhatsApp to communicate with its loyal customers. Alisha Malik, vice president, e-commerce at Metro, said: “It’s really like the royal treatment. Customers take a virtual tour of the store, pick their pairs which are then home delivered by the staff at the local stores. The staff also carries additional sizes and designs for their comfort."
Bata had also said earlier it will scale up a pilot run using WhatsApp as a medium of reaching out to shoppers as it moves to bolster its presence across channels. “The WhatsApp shopping service is available to both new and existing Bata Club members. It allows customers to remotely interact and shop from their neighbourhood stores by interacting with store managers, who share catalogues of curated collections and once customer selects, payment and delivery is organized by the store manager locally…." the company said last month.
Several retail brands are already prompting shoppers with links to their own websites and evaluating various hybrid models that will allow them to service shoppers in a given city or neighbourhood. This will also help them build a direct relationship with customers rather than relying on marketplaces to sell their brands. “The post-Covid era will drive acceleration of the hyperlocal model for the lifestyle fashion segment," said Pakhi Saxena, practice head, retail and CPG, Wazir Advisors. “The case for direct to consumer was always strong as it lends to wide portfolio showcasing, direct consumer engagement, shopper analytics, targeted marketing and in the immediate near term, owing to the virus crisis, it has become a channel impossible to ignore," she said.
More retailers are expected to experiment with new channels of consumer engagement especially as bringing shoppers back to stores amid a spike in cases remains a challenge.
Electronics retailer Croma said it too will assist shoppers to place orders via calls to stores near them. It is also helping shoppers book slots online so they can plan their visit to the store. “On croma.com, we have launched a feature called ‘Connect to Croma’ that allows customers to book an appointment at the store to avoid standing in the queue or request for a call-back from our staff to assist in making a purchase without visiting the store. The daily traffic has gone up by almost 4 times compared to pre-Covid period. As per recent trend every week more than 3,500 customers are opting for store visit across the country by booking an appointment online," said Ritesh Ghoshal, chief marketing officer, Croma.
Similarly, branded jewellery chain Orra is also taking orders on WhatsApp from customers who are hesitant to step out of their house.