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    There is no escaping the reality now. As preventive actions continue to be enforced by governments across the globe, commuting has been abandoned for work from home facilities. This drastic change due to the pandemic has been imbibed into all of our lives last year and to say, one of the many biggest knock-outs, as a consequence, has been that people are now shopping differently. Amidst market disruptions and unprecedented economic slowdown, the role that grocery retailer’s play in our daily lives has been re-clarified. In order to understand the shift in consumer behavior, spending and expectation Mckinsey conducted a survey with more than 5,000 consumers in Asia, across seven countries: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has opened new opportunities – let’s take a look:

    • There has a 30 to 70 percent drop in the preference to dine-out spending and a sharp increase in grocery shopping purchase of ready-made food from grocery stores, as compared to food delivery from restaurants in most countries
    • Online spending on food has increased between 16 and 70 percent across countries and this may not change in the near future.
    • In all countries, consumer preferences lean towards self-check-out over assistance from cashiers

    In short, retail trends such as contactless transactions and in-store automation has accelerated without doubt post Covid-19. The retail industry is set to battle against these unexpected changes in consumer demand and behavior. And the stage is now well and truly set for what needs to be a sweeping response from the retail industry to reinvent them and reimagine the next normal.  With consumers increasingly placing value on convenience, proximity and efficiency and the ability to buy online in the comfort of their homes, retailers need to change from their traditional ways of working. This has led to the rise of dark stores which essentially serve as enablers for online businesses that offer convenience and curated product offerings. Dark stores are non-customer facing mini warehouses full of groceries where ‘pickers’ pick the goods that have been ordered online by customers. These goods are then shipped directly to the customer’s door. The store aisles are laid out almost like a mock supermarket and pickers roll baskets around these aisles almost like how the public goes shopping. What they are enacting essentially, is the manual part of the routine grocery shopping, on behalf of the customer who simply receives the delivery. Most retailers are now turning physical stores into temporary or permanent fulfillment nodes to enable faster delivery. Consequently, dark stores are located at places not optimal for conventional supermarkets yet are accessible for delivery vehicles- ensuring same day or next-day fulfillment of orders.

    As retailers continue to figure out strategies to maintain business continuity while safeguarding the health and safety of both consumers and employees and also align the supply chain capacity  in-order to manage the overwhelming demand- we can now take a look at how APAC retail industry has been affected and their outlook on swimming through the #newnormal.

    Asian grocery e-commerce faces a lot of challenges. Asian consumers particularly like to shop at their local neighbourhood stores mainly due to trust and emotional reasons. Additionally, they like to touch and feel products before purchase, and they think of shopping mostly when the next meal is due.

    With customers locked inside their homes, visits to shopping websites and customer registrations have increased manifold. This has made India conducive to an e-commerce growth.   According to an industry report, the Indian e-commerce industry is set to pivotal growth and appears not far behind the US. In fact, it is expected to surpass the US and become the second-largest e-commerce industry by 2034. The Indian grocery market is expected to present stiff competition with a spam of deep-pocketed new entrants venturing into the field. With consumer preferences for door-step delivering hastening with ongoing state and nation-wide lockdowns, existing players including Amazon, Big Basket and Dunzo have also heightened focus on this category.

    In the need to exercise tighter control over product selection and delivery experience, Swiggy had announced plans to partner with a chain of dark stores enabling it to offer over 2500 items and delivery grocery and household items within 45 minutes. The launch of InstaMart has come amid the entry of Reliance JioMart, expanding its operation to 200 cities across India. Another entry into the market is, Flipkart Quick. With its own independent network of dark stores aka kirana stores, Flipkart can now push to a 90-minute delivery model for an assortment of handpicked products.

    This huge bet on grocery delivery would give opportunities to monetize brands as the model offers a direct gross margin of 15-17% on products, compared to marketplace commissions that round up to 4-5%. As consumers fear stepping out, physical retailing has taken a toll; consequently, brands now prefer to partner with online players.

    Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are fast establishing themselves and gaining traction amid the online shopping boom.  As a scenario, Grab, a South East Asian ride-hailing, payments and delivery app, has also got down in the game and takes a nice shot at online grocery delivery. Announcing the opening of its first dark store in Malaysia’s Klang Valley area, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, the Singapore-based company offers free next-day delivery of more than 2,500 products including freshly sources produce from local farmers to its customers.

    “Our ambition is to be able to offer the widest selection of groceries at the best prices, maximum freshness, and zero delivery fees to every Malaysian household. In addition, we hope that Grab supermarket will create even more income opportunities for all our drivers,” said managing director of Grab Malaysia in a statement published. Grab soon plans to open further dark store facilities in different parts of Malaysia.

    FoodPanda, a Singapore based food delivery service, has forayed into the on-demand grocery delivery service in Malaysia featuring 3,500 daily essentials including groceries, household items and fresh produce delivered to its customers within 20 minutes. Pandmart, officially opened its first dark store in July and there are currently 25 Pandamart dark stores across Malaysia. In a statement published recently in a virtual press conference, Foodpanda Malaysia’s Dark Stores director Ashutosh Gandhi claimed that over 100 local and international brands source products to Pandmart facilities and expiry checks are done on a daily basis tracking the perishability of these items.

    Tapping out the potential of the Chinese market, the second largest e-commerce platform, Walmart launched its online operations in China with the largest hi-tech AI(Artificial Intelligence) automation and drones delivery system in the world, in collaboration with e-commerce giant JD aka JingDong. Fresh produce is considered one of the benchmarks for China’s e-commerce, yet loaded with challenges around freshness, produce and price. However, Walmart’s fresh produce system has turned around these challenges. The key success factor driving Walmart’s strategy is the dark store facilities located more than 3 miles from Walmart to respond to customer orders as soon as possible. The store admin prints out the customer orders, picks items according from the respective aisles, and bags the items which are then received by the delivery driver. The entire process including delivery time to the customer’s door is completed in around 1 hour. With the automated system, the picking agents handle customer orders in the dark stores with drones speeding up the process.

    Other mega cities like Bangkok and Jakarta also saw a proliferation of dark stores. In cities with congestion issues, such as these, ‘last-mile delivery’ has been a major roadblock.  The one way is to set up as many dark stores in the cities, as close to customers as possible, reducing the impact on the last mile and hence speeding up the product delivery.

    This unique and innovative model emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will remain one of the key focus areas for retail industry leaders, not only to achieve operation efficiency and maintain business continuity, but also future proof the supply chain model. Understanding these insights, retail consulting firm, Your Retail Coach (YRC) is working with retail businesses to set up dark stores across the region to further optimize their supply chain and operations, as the world steps into the next normal. Your Retail Coach (YRC) helps retail businesses with their web store and online marketplace sales management strategies and practices with a focus on developing brand awareness.

    Your Retail Coach (YRC) assists retail businesses in managing their supply chain via retail management consulting services in warehouse management, procurement, inventory management, dispatch and team management riding on proven models of logistics and use of technology across every process, making it system-dependant and less person-dependant.

    PROCESS AUTOMATION

    The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

    In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

    Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

    Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

    YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

    VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

    No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

    Photography includes the following steps:

    • Cataloguing your products
    • Cataloguing your images
    • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
    • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

    DIGITAL MARKETING

    Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

    Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

    These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

    Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

    This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

    IT INTEGRATION

    Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

    YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

    IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

    This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

    Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

    WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

    • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
    • Where should your Warehouse be located?
    • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
    • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
    • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
    • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
    • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
    • How much space do I require for warehouse?
    • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

     

    At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

    We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

    Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

    UI & UX DESIGNING

    This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

    Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

    From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

    Part 2: UX Designing:

    “UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

    UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

    “As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

    An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

    Part 3: UI Designing:

    UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

    A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

    The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

    If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

    At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

    SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

    This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

    In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

    Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

    Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

    Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

    Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

    Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

    Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

    PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

    Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

    Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

    • In-house Design Team
    • Freelance Designers
    • Outsourced Design Team
    • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

    At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

    These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

    If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

    Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

    BRANDING

    Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

    Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

    It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

    ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

    Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

    SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

    At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

    CRITICAL PATHWAY

    Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

    CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

    CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

    At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

    BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

    Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

    Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

    Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

    YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

    MARKET RESEARCH

    Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.