Chennai, India, 24 May, 2016: Customers are always king! They expect, if not a royal treatment, a comfortable environment and courteous staff to guide them shop around. These things can make them revisit or recommend others about your store. So, what happens, if more than 80 per cent of a country’s retail outlets are technologically backdated, following age-old business strategies, or denying customers the best shopping experience? They lose customers and experience stagnated growth.
This holds true to the over 12 million retail outlets spread across India, the country which is one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Having congenial business environment and friendly government policies notwithstanding, these outlets, most of them are family-owned, are losing out business to more organized and technologically advanced retail outlets, which are, in real count, far less in number.
Making customers re-visit your store is a daunting task, and more often than not, customers feel the heat at checkouts due to inept handling by store executives which may put-off customers from revisiting or recommending your store. So, in just one stroke, you may lose your present as well as future customers, says Neelam Sharma, a customer relation manager of a retail chain in Chennai.
There are various factors that can make or break customer relationships at your retail outlets, Neelam says, adding, “Employing inhospitable, non-serious, haggard or incompetent staff to handle customers at Point of Sale (POS), poor inventory management, long queues at checkouts, non-adhering to latest technology, haphazard store upkeeping, lack of basic amenities and infrastructure may give customers a nightmare of shopping at your store.”
“Customers these days are very particular about getting the best shopping experience. Apart from opting for organized stores, they also expect smooth and fast transaction at checkouts as they don’t want to waste time in queues or deal with uncourteous or rude staff,” says Bhaskar Venkatraman, a POS technology expert who is one of the early influencers in introducing POS technology products to retail houses in India.
For faster checkouts, technology plays a major role as these days checkouts are invariably filled with POS technology products like barcode scanners, thermal receipt printers and cash registers or computer systems with appropriate billing/retail software. But even though one has the best store set-up with all necessary paraphernalia, untrained store executives can play a spoil-sport and can turn away customers.
"Though it is rather convenient to go to the nearby kirana/departmental store to buy your monthly grocery rather than visiting the far-off super markets, these street-corner shops have their own disadvantages,” feels Bhaskar, who is the director of JusTransact.com, a leading e-commerce portal exclusively for POS technology products.
“From getting items from in-store and making hand-made bills to collect cash, these stores follow traditional means which are outdated, complicated and time-consuming. Moreover, the possibility of making errors is very high compared to modern billing system. Many stores, fearing losing customers, are now digitalizing their stores so as to compete and keep them in pace with established peers,” Bhaskar adds.
With government throwing open foreign direct investments in retail and e-commerce sectors, the small and medium businesses in India have to really pull up socks to be organized if they want to take heads on with the established and larger retail peers.
So, it is at the checkouts you need to concentrate more apart from offering excellent shopping experience to make customers visit again and recommend to others, feels Bhaskar.
In other words, 'watch out’ your check-outs!
K Ramanathan (firstname.lastname@example.org)