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    Since the onset of COVID-19 early this year, grocery retailing has presented immense growth opportunities. Consumer behaviour has quickly shifted to contactless and hassle-free purchase of grocery products, which along with medicines, form the bedrock of human survival.

    Mode of Businesses:

    Offline – Brick & Mortar:  These are traditional grocery businesses which consist of physical stores in one or multiple locations, where customers can browse items and buy in person. Common examples include hypermarkets like Big Bazaar, D Mart, Spencer’s Retail, Star Bazaar, Reliance Fresh and even your local standalone grocery or kirana store. In the initial days of COVID-19, as online groceries struggled to cope up with unprecedented demand due to panic buying, brick & mortar stores selling essential items were exempt from the stringent lockdown and witnessed steady sales.

    Online – Local Grocery App/Webstores : With the grocery business model having undergone a transformation, smaller physical stores are now reinventing themselves to compete with bigger brick & mortar outlets and established online supermarkets like Big Basket, Grofer’s, Amazon Pantry, Flipkart Grocery and Nature’s Basket. Thus, all grocery stores now have

    omnichannel models to service customers online through message and phone call driven personalized deliveries, local grocery apps and live webstores.

    Amidst the backdrop of COVID-19, the online grocery shopping experience has witnessed a paradigm shift. Online shopping, home delivery services, sizeable discounts, mobile checkouts & digital wallet-based payments, buy online pick up in stores (BOPIS) and channel blurring (switching retail formats for product purchases) are now the retail trendsetters.

    Challenges of other product businesses in COVID-19

    Other non-essential product businesses have been affected by the pandemic, however. During the nationwide lockdown, shopping malls were closed due to which hypermarkets with higher inventory levels have been affected. For example, Clothing and Lifestyle stores have been plagued by a deluge of unsold stocks. End-of-season sales and massive discounts haven’t been able to change consumer sentiment, as sales of these high margin products have remained low. This had led to inefficient supply chain management overall.

    Consumer Durables & IT Product stores have also been hit hard. Sales of seasonal products like air-conditioners have been severely affected, with the summer months clashing with the initial days of the pandemic. To make matters worse, manufacturers are facing supply chain bottlenecks due to supply disruptions from Chinese vendors, and this has coincided with pandemic blues. Shoppers are now postponing high-ticket purchases in times of uncertainty and gloom.

    Other significant challenges faced by product businesses during COVID-19 include lesser workforce, delivery delays due to logistical bottlenecks and negligible in-dining numbers, with most food service outlets and restaurants only catering to takeaways which constitute less than 10% of its total earnings.

    Benefits of a Grocery Business

    Steady High-Volume business: Grocery stores generally sell products with lower margins, depending on higher volumes to sustain business profitability. Customers are mostly repeat ones, and tend to stock up items for day-to-day usage. A viable grocery strategy initially entails being a low-margin, low-price high-volume operator and then if successful, evolving into a more conventional retailer offering more services with higher operating costs, margins and higher prices.

    Essentials not requiring a sales push: Grocery stores generally sell essential items for everyday use, i.e. food items like bakery and bread, dairy, cheese, eggs, rice, wheat, edible oils, fruits & vegetables, meat & seafood, disposable products, toiletries, and household cleaning products. Since these items are required for survival, purchases are guaranteed. With no window shopping done by potential buyers, little or no sales push is required. All these lead to low startup and overhead costs.

    Online Advantage: As mentioned earlier, food is a basic necessity and so are grocery stores. Nowadays, people buy groceries online, which are home delivered with payment done through mobile digital wallets. After the online revolution, internet is now easily available and m-commerce is widespread. With work-from-home becoming popular during COVID-19, online grocery shopping has become the norm and an absolute must in every buyer’s to-do list. 

    Digital Groceries – Easy to setup: To start, all you need is to set up a mobile app and mobile-optimized webstore. For this, there are readily available zero coding mobile development apps (compatible for both iOS and Android operating systems, and website creation platforms), with multiple payment checkout options. Instead of a physical store, a warehouse and reliable suppliers are required for a digital grocery. Retail consultants can also serve as useful guides facilitating the entire startup process.  Word-of-mouth references and inexpensive digital marketing campaigns also help in sustaining the promotional momentum. An example of this is advertising on exclusive telegram and WhatsApp groups operating inside multistoried apartments. 

    Opportunities in Grocery Business

    Fluid and Safe Formats embracing the new normal: Even with life returning to a semblance of normalcy worldwide by the year-end and beyond, the fear of COVID-19 will continue to prevail amongst retail customers.  To tackle this, retail grocery formats should be easily adaptable, focusing on consumer needs and preferences. Reallocation of space, downsizing of stores and developing new formats would become the order of the day. Strictly adhering to hygienic sanitization and disinfection practices, social distancing and re-evaluating how people check out and pay by offering self-checkout kiosks and touchless technology will also be in vogue.

    Making your Business Model Tech Enabled and Future Proof:  Business models (in which online sales represent 10% to 15% of revenue) have to be rejigged and made more agile. Stores could be cashless or virtually cashless, with replenishment processes automated. Machine learning could also be used to forecast supply chain anomalies. Other technology enablers could be implemented in merchandising, e-commerce, and the remote digital office workplace.

    Shift from Mass to Targeted Digital Promotions: In order to handle sudden demand changes, targeted promotions tailor-made for online channels and considering specific consumer preferences will be more popular.

    Innovations in the COVID-19 context – ‘Contactless groceries’: The concept of ‘ghost kitchens’ (where pick-ups and deliveries occur without eat-in dining options) could spawn the growth of ‘contactless groceries’, i.e. stores that are contactless pick-up and delivery hubs without letting in customers inside. 30-minute deliveries will also become widely prevalent, with drone deliveries taking care of the ‘disease safety’ aspect.

    Unique Customer (Shopping) Experience fortified by AI: Generation Z today prefers a unique USP-driven shopping experience as it provides better memories. Online groceries would harness the power of AI to personalize the entire customer experience journey. Whether it is the answering of routine questions or store check outs through chatbots, everything will be AI-automated. This would pave the way for more meaningful human interactions, say for complex issues or getting customized product recommendations, thereby striking an optimal balance between the two. 

    Conclusion 

    Omnichannel grocery retailing promising a consistent, seamless shopping experience is here to stay. Now and in the future, brick & mortar stores will continue to coexist with digital groceries, as buyers will still crave for a personalized face-to-face shopping experience, trying out new apparel and ‘touch and feel’ for expensive electronics. As a result, food and beverages, electronics, health and personal care, and general merchandising products will continue to show promising sales.

    Groceries have always been the evergreen business model. They will remain profitable, as long as relevant market research is undertaken to provide a granular view of the local market, employees and customers are protected, and a stable continuity plan and infrastructure maintained. Supply chains also should be diversified to build resilience against shortages, and effective digital marketing strategies embraced, to add more value than ever before.

    To know more about omnichannel grocery retailing, get it touch with Your Retail Coach experts and explore the business growth opportunities.

    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.