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Of Grumpy Consumers and Geeky Grocers

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Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, Professor, Marketing Management, IBS Business School, Bangalore

Smitha Sarma Ranganathan, Professor, Marketing Management, IBS Business School, Bangalore

With increasing competition in grocery e-tailing, Smart Analytics will pave the way to gain new ground

The Grumpy Consumer
A 30-something working woman reminisces amidst a super-packed work noon of supplies in her kitchen hitting critical quantity – levels, wherein a run to the local store is but inevitable to manage a decent dinner. Unarguably an overwhelming moment for any lady who has walked this path before to procure supplies, process the ingredients and prepare the dish, all after a super hectic work day! On a bad hair day, she almost gives up, reluctantly deciding to order take away yet again from the fulla-oil-round-the-corner-restaurant! Ask a young working mommie attempting the rope trick of balancing work, parenting and family priorities; or that of a working couple grudgingly putting away grocery shopping to end of every week, only to realise most of the weekend went past in a jiffy guarding the picked up groceries and running the trolley race at hypermarket aisles.

The Geeky Grocers
Given the increasing grumpiness of our urban existence coupled with acute time poverty, it does seem the momentous moment for geeky online e-tailers to spin their merchandise net on the web! Furthermore, in a generation that has taken to ‘flip-karting’ like never before, it’s not surprising that online grocers such as Bigbasket, Localbanya, Ekstop are gyrating with activity. A quick check on the online grocery e-tailer websites gives out interesting pointers. Besides the need-to-have quality parameters, width and depth of merchandise on offer, and same day delivery slots, these grocery e-tailing platforms allow for formulating order catalogues that can be classified as being weekly, fortnightly or monthly shopping lists. This small yet smart functionality rids the redundancy in repeated recall associated with routine purchases. Furthermore, grocery etailers currently limit operations to tier 1 cities, understandably owing to buying behavior characteristic to urban contexts.

There seems to be increasing buzz by brick-n-mortar retail grocery chains too to vie for their portion in the precious pie by positioning themselves on the convenience platform. Opting for the franchise mode with local kirana stores and enabling them with order-cataloguing tablet devices, this category of retail too will compete stiffly with online e-tailers. Big Bazaar Direct is an initiative in that very direction, and will see increased penetration in tier 2 cities as well.

Grab that Byte
Undoubtedly grocery e-tailers have had an encouraging start, primarily owing to Convenience, Cost and Customer service value propositions. However, they need to get on quickly with their game plan to take these 3Cs to the next level so as to thrive and do so profitably. In this context, picking nuances of digital consumer behaviour will hold the key to craft segment specific strategies. For instance, the simplest demographic variable relating to gender and age of the customer continues to be a blind spot to most etailers. While most shopper account names created appear to be male (reflective of men creating most accounts for use by their spouses/family), the key consumption influencer and order placer seems to be women! Further, considering the generic nature of the buy, there are very little pointers that enable customer profiling. Hence, besides laying emphasis on achieving operational efficiencies, time is perhaps ripe to embrace smart data analytics so as to engage meaningfully with the customer group. Remember, grocery e-tailers are fundamentally dealing with service conscious and time-starved customers who will soon get used to all the convenience associated with online buying and will have limited tolerance to inefficiencies.

For instance, if data points towards more women getting on to the online carting model, and many of these woman are stay at home ladies who use their smart phones to browse and order, it may be useful to develop touch points at apartment communities similar to the Tesco Virtual Shopping Wall, wherein customers can scan the QR code and place orders. And this could only one small possibility to bring in novelty to customer shopping experience. With customers on board, it’s critical to map and manage their expectations well, and to achieve this sound data capturing and smart analytics is the need of the hour!

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