How has the Retail Industry acknowledged the pandemic?

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How has the Retail Industry acknowledged the pandemic?

“A good marketing campaign reflects human behaviour or aspirations,” says Mr. Ritesh Ghosal, Chief of Marketing and Business Development, Infiniti Retail Limited, Croma- A Tata Enterprise. 

Astute, enthusiastic, innovative, result-driven, and consumer-centric, Mr. Ritesh Ghosal is an expert in creating new brands / re-invigorating existing brands in adverse circumstances with over 25 years of experience in building businesses and brands around exceptional customer insight.

Mr. Ghoshal has a record of launching companies like Tata Docomo and Minute Maid, reinventing legacy brands like Photon, Thums up, and Mazza, and adapting global brands like Coca-Cola, Fanta, and Sprite to Indian realities.

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Mr. Ghoshal has worked with mammoth companies like Raymond Limited, Bharti Retail, Tata Teleservices Limited, and Coca-Cola India before his alliance with Infiniti Retail Limited, Croma- a Tata Enterprise in 2015.

In the uncertainty of the pandemic, the marketeers from all the industries had to navigate a different landscape.

During the pandemic, the operational side has been challenging for all industries. “Last year in Croma, just as we got ready for the summer season with the inventory of the summer products, we were asked to shut shops; This created huge losses for us,” informs Mr. Ghosal in a recent interview with Icons Behind Brands in their Talk-show series Back To Basics. 

As stores started opening up, Croma had to work with the health SOPs to protect their staff and the customers from infection. The technology was pivoted to focus on safety; The CCTV and the mystery audit were used for customer experience in the stores. 

“On the demand side, the shift in covid time has been to our advantage in electronics whether it is things which help you work from home or enjoy the longer time you are spending at home,” remarks Mr. Ghosal. There was increased demand for televisions OTT and sound systems. Hence, from the demand point of view, it has been a challenge to keep up with the requirements of the customers rather than the challenge of scarcity of demand.

Categories like apparel, grooming, and cosmetics are struggling with demand and are caught up on the other side of the demit. 

“Globally there is a shortage of the components that go into catering the products we sell,” informs Mr. Ghosal. Over the past few months, the supply of chipsets and PS 5, a gaming product has been drastically low. Unless things change in some way, we will have to face prolonged shortages of laptops, smartphones, or anything that utilizes chipsets.

India has started a Make-in-India initiative and many other countries like India, are trying to reduce their dependency on China as the source of components or the finished products. This may lead to disruptions in the supply chain for a few months until the normal supplies resume.

To deal with the challenges, the first thing that any customer-oriented brand should do is to keep the conversation going because consumers like hearing messages of affirmation from their favourite brands through the course of such a crisis. Social media and digital assets can be used to keep the conversation going with the consumers.

The lockdown has had a positive impact on our environment. “Croma always had a conversation in terms of responsible consumption and disposing of e-waste properly; We linked these two together and created a campaign around sustainable consumption,” says Mr. Ghosal. What we are seeing in the environment today, should give us hope that things can turn around if we behave a little more responsibly in terms of how we use all the resources the technology makes available to us. 

When stores start reopening, it is important to assure that the consumers feel safe when they come to visit. It is necessary to reduce the need for people to step out and come to the stores. For doing so, a lot of digital initiatives should be undertaken to easily communicate with the store managers and purchase products from the comfort of one’s home. 

“We started a video store, which allows you to take a demonstration via a video link specially created for the purpose,” informs Mr. Ghosal. Even after the stores opened up, this online accessibility was popular among the consumers. “This is a service we discovered because of the lock down, but it also has relevance in the world where people are hesitant to step out or uncomfortable in spending money without the final look-see of the product,” remarks Mr. Ghosal.

Owing to the pandemic, marketing as an industry has got an opportunity to evolve at a different level altogether. People are going through fundamental changes in their lives and a lot of them are interrogating the work-life balance they enjoy. 

People from all demographics, regions, and cultures have moved drastically to digital space. The world had started going digital in India with the coming of smartphones; The pandemic has only accelerated things and put us into a world where digital is far more important than it was earlier.

In India, per capita income is much smaller and so there have to be retailers like Croma with a vast network and low overheads for people to get a good deal on the latest technology. Croma had started expanding into smaller towns before the pandemic happened.

To keep the consumers engaged: 

“We put stores in places where they will work as the best hoardings in the city because 90% of business happens in the store,” says Mr. Ghosal. 

People who are not traditionally digital-savvy have started looking at either the Croma website or visiting Google’s My Business page of the Croma store to see the whereabouts of the store. Croma has also created a callback module for the store manager. It is important to keep the store open and lit as long as possible. 

Social media marketing in the local language brought appreciation to the market. 

“Brands are not by advertising but by fitting into the customer’s life and solving their problems be it functional or therapeutic,” comments Mr. Ghosal.

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