Offline methods for customers not going online

There’s no secret about selling online. It’s a simple three step formula: lure more users to your website, hook them on to your site and see profits soar. It’s all about being able to drive more traffic creating better user experience. Then when these new users finally show up, retain their interest and finally convert their interest into a sale.

But how do you get the traffic in the first place?

Interestingly online retailers are looking beyond traditional online advertising methods like search engines, banner ads and email marketing to lure online consumers. Many online entrepreneurs these days are finding gold elsewhere — offline marketing is what’s helping them boost their online sales.

If one happens to notice the huddle around this tiny kiosk right in front of Future Bazaar at Lower Parel, Mumbai on January 26 this year, you’d know exactly what we are talking about. This was one of the first few offline experiments that Future Bazaar, the online arm of the Future Group tried and it was a runaway success.

A normal retail outlet such as Big Bazaar has an annualized sales ratio of Rs 8,000 per square foot, while on sale days their annualized sales ratio can touch Rs 20,000 – Rs 25,000 per square foot. But the kiosk did about 20 times more sales per unit of area as compared to the sale a normal retail outlet does even on sale days. Thanks to this success. Future Group is planning to make these kiosks a permanent fixture at various locations in suburbs of metros and tire 2 cities.

What prompted Future Bazaar to try this experiment? There are many facets to this, and the biggest factor is about location. As with brick and mortar retail, finding the right location is the most important factor for online sale too. Metros are important of course, but the real test comes when you are trying to attract non-metro customers. These customers are neither as tech savvy as their metro counterparts nor do they have easy access to the internet.

Take for instance a city like Asansol which is a three hour drive away from Kolkata. Here the population is rich enough to be able to buy expensive brands, but they don’t want to drive all the way to Kolkata to buy it. Nor they are comfortable about logging on to the internet on their own to buy products. This is the kind of population these offline marketing plans target. And these strategically placed kiosks do exactly this.

Interestingly these kiosks helped us attract a very different kind of customer. For instance, a much larger percentage of women came to the kiosks than come online. We also saw people from different walks of life from senior professionals to daily wage earners wanting to take advantage of the offers available through this format.

Ironically these offline initiatives have been very successful in the metros too. Future Bazaar’s experiment at the Lower Parel Big Bazaar for instance, saw large number of customer who had just finished shopping in the store come and pick up more products at the kiosk. This is because the same customer will buy different things at different times inside a Big Bazaar and for home delivery.

Players like eBay have given a slightly different twist to the kiosk strategy. They are tapping internet cafes around India.

We have partnered with Reliance Web World in 100 Web Worlds in 16 cities with plans of scaling up this quarter to 140 Web Worlds in 24 cities, says COM, eBay India. It works almost similar to the kiosks, the only difference being that the consumer goes to an internet café instead, where the café owner handholds her though the entire process of buying online.