The changing face of the global mobile phone market
The mobile retail market in India
Sanjeev Mehta, CEO at Shopworks India, explained: "In India, phones are sold through many different channels. Traditional mobile stores are competing alongside bigger service providers and phone manufacturers. So it's an increasingly competitive environment.
"Mobiles tend to fall into one of two categories - value handsets at around 10,000 rupees (sub-£200) and premium phones, around 30,000 Rs (in the region of £400). At the lower end of the market, retailers rely on basic presentation, discount schemes and top-of-mind recall to sell the product; but for premium phones, customer experience and quality service are key.
"The Indian market has evolved substantially in recent years. There has always been high demand for cheaper phones. But as in Europe, nowadays more consumers want feature-heavy smartphones that do much more than just calls and text messaging. Growth in this segment has been rapid over the past three years and smartphones are quickly becoming the de-facto device for everything from multimedia to imaging and banking.
"As you might expect, this increased competition and greater demand for phones is impacting upon the retail environment. So over the past year, there has been a big shift towards companies upgrading their outlets, brand signage and opting for a better customer experience. Apple set the benchmark originally in terms of addressing human needs and great product demos; but now everyone is trying their best to present the product to the consumer in a much better way. So the prevalence of ‘experience zones' where people can walk in and test features is becoming much more commonplace."
Case in point: The Mobile Lounge concept
The largest mobile retailer in India - The Mobile Store - is a leader in the mobile phone category and wanted to reinforce its leadership status with a new futuristic concept. The company appointed Shopworks to help it develop a new, iconic ‘Mobile Lounge' store concept, which accentuated the customer experience and created something pioneering within the industry.
Capturing the attention of the ‘savvy smartphone buyer' segment was key to the new store concept succeeding. Himanshu Chakrawarti, CEO of The Mobile Store, explained: "Our USP has always been "with you always" - to be with the customer right from the time of need identification of the handset, to addressing any problems the customer may have. Essentially this remains the same. However, given the fact that the nature of the market has changed in the past couple of years, and to give a proper ‘flavour' to the USP, it was essential to develop the interactivity angle."
In practice, this meant the phone selection process had become more complicated and needed significantly more input from store employees. To achieve this, customers needed to interact with products, feel and experience and thereby transform the nature of engagement.
Mr Chakrawarti continued: "the issue was not to dilute the appeal of the store for other segments, but also how do we enhance the appeal for the smartphone buyers. We have a kiosk in the store where a customer can download any content from the net and copy it onto their phone. We also gave specialized training to the staff in this store, to ensure that the technology and experience which the customer was intended to have, became seamless and enriching."
Apart from the store design and creating the experience itself, the retailer also did a range of tie-ups with major brands such as Samsung, Blackberry and Nokia. There was also a Google partnership, which led to the first ‘Android man' in India being installed in-store.
Design-wise, the new store was uncomplicated, functional and pleasing; Shopworks based the layout on The Mobile Store's vision of the future. The design was simple yet classy and premium. Product displays were presented and positioned for maximum ‘eyeballs' and customer interactivity with the products - a mix of smartphones, tablets, other phones and accessories. Each bay was designed to incorporate the required displays with matching accessories, as well as space for advertising, messaging and storage. The layout facilitates the customer's journey through the store in a relaxed and enlightening manner, with no fuss or pressure to buy. Sales staff are in the background, ready to assist only when needed.
The new store opened in November 2012 and is already proving its worth. Mr Chakrawarti said: "We have seen a good number of smart phone buyers in this store in Pune, but I think it will build up more over a period of time. This will also depend on the location of the store and the profile of customers in the catchment area."
Following the success of the new concept, The Mobile Store is now finalising plans to roll the new concept out to several more Mobile Lounge stores.