The Future of Shopping Lands in Pakistan – Omnichannel Retailing

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November 20, 2014
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And while some may like to point out the rate of growth of e-commerce in Pakistan as a harbinger of great technological strides to come, one Pakistani company has already decided to leapfrog much further. Shopistan, an E-commerce Services Provider founded by the veterans of Amazon & eBay, is making rounds by redefining retailing in Pakistan with its latest product called the ‘Omni-channel Engine‘. Under this model, the brick-and-mortar channel of a business is closely synchronized with its online channel, so that the product inventories and marketing dollars once allocated separately to each are now shared.

One of the greatest anathemas of online marketers is the quick depletion of inventory dedicated to a store’s online channel and the resultant time lag in its replenishment. Omni-channel Retailing would ensure that the online marketers can continue spending their budget on advertising, as any online order now can simply processed and delivered from the physical outlet nearest to the customer.

Such flexible shopping experience will ensure huge growth in retail in the future years to come and will intrigue more brands to join the e-commerce bandwagon. Moreover, Omni-channel Retailing in Pakistan will allow us to tap the burgeoning growth of smartphone users which is still a largely unexplored avenue in Pakistan even with mobile networks like Pring consistently increasing its user base. A customer can be searching about a product on Google via his smartphone as he is passing by a retailer’s store, and the search ads show that he can get a certain discount on the product if he shops right now at the physical store. Similarly, a customer shopping online on his mobile device will be able to pick up his order from the physical store immediately if he is near it. Such an integration of online and offline inventories will ensure that a customer does not cancel his order due to delayed shipment.

The idea behind modern retailing is that customers are constantly connected and are using several sources of information while shopping for a product. This includes websites, online reviews and marketplaces, social media channels as well as in-store displays. For such customers, the need for a multi-channel strategy is a no brainer. Yet many retailers devise their online and offline marketing strategies in isolation, so much so that there is no coordination or consistency between inbound and outbound marketing plans. According to the Guardian, awareness generated through websites, apps, online marketplaces and ads, delivers a positive effect across all sales channels, not just online, which is what many retailers in Pakistan fail to understand.

Almost every other retailer measures the marketing success of its online marketing via the sales it generates from its online store, but fails to take into account the in-store traffic online marketing drives. Similarly, offline communications drive online sales as well but there is hardly a measure in Pakistan to seamlessly integrate all these metrics. Shopistan’s Omni-Channel Engine is a totally new innovation in Pakistan, but its success will depend upon how cleverly it is able to utilize data science to deliver results. It has already sold its Omni-channel Engine to leading fashion brands/companies in the industry like Elan and Sefam along with the popular electronics store Ruba. The coming months are exciting times to see and actualize the possibilities.

The writer is a Digital Media Scientist, a Technology Buff and a Culture Critic. She tweets @mehreen_omer

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